Bachchan — 564 (i) & 565

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“A thinking that perhaps never did expect such attention, then I can safely pay gratitude to all my extended family and proudly state that ‘you are family’. You have given me reason to fly, to elevate, to dream and imagine and to live in a state that defies everything that is normal.”
“You have but seen or been witness to merely 60 seconds of my creativity and such is your love and passion that you have perhaps broken the record of all response since we began. Thank you and multiply that with eternity to get to a figure that would still fall short of my acknowledgement towards all.”

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“It has been gratifying to read the trade papers talk rapturously of the promo of PAA and to observe the kind of interest and comment that the 60 seconder has generated. I have not seen this happen often enough to me, but I do believe that there still exists in our fraternity of dedicated creative people, a sense of joy when they see something of value.”
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“A grim grey London at 6 in the morning, as the flight tears through the soft umbrella of clouds protecting as it were the luminous glaze of the ochre lights of the city, about to open its eyes to another day.”

9 Responses to “Bachchan — 564 (i) & 565”

  1. [First off congrats on yet another lifetime achievement award at MAMI. Isn’t it boring to collect so many, especially since there is so much you are nonetheless going to do and so the awards seem premature?! Then again these awards could actually have been given by the end of the 70s since you’d achieved by then what is not possible for others in several lifetimes! At any rate I think in another ten years they will have to design new ones for you!

    “Just look at the way you have all rallied behind this old structure in his 40th year of existence in a fraternity that gave me everything that I possess today.”

    If history was only about ‘old structures’ then we would forget all the illustrious figures in the world the moment they grew older (for one grows ‘older’ and not ‘old’ just as one is ‘younger’ and never ‘young’). But this does not happen because we are left with their ‘work’, their legacies. The latter is of the nature of an ‘inheritance’ to those who come after, it is then a question of whether an age is worthy enough to accept that inheritance and build on it. Therefore there are also questions of responsibility attached to these. Whether at the level of politics or in the arts how is a legacy to be nurtured? If it is considered valuable how is the charge to be retained? In what manner does an age and then individuals remain vigilant to be able to replenish that inheritance? The point I am trying to make is that one cannot have a passive approach to all of this. Take your screen idol Dilip Kumar who no longer is as immediate a presence for Bombay cinema the way he was let’s say 30 years ago. Times change of course, nothing is permanent. At the same time the current system is also not one that has much ‘traffic’ with history. Yes those old classics are shown from time to time on TV and older generations engage in nostalgia trips and that’s about it. What might one do to rescue the great works of the past from oblivion? so there is a paradox involved in matters of legacy — on the one hand it is a body of work which keeps emitting a charge from a remove of decades or hundreds of years or even millennia. On the other hand sometimes we are not able to receive that signal because we have not tuned out frequencies appropriately. Some very great legacies have vanished from human memory for a long period of time and then restored. But one cannot always count on the latter.

    All of this is not unconnected to what I started out with here even if as always I am very fond of these ‘detours’! You have amazed with these Paa trailers (I have seen each one many times), you have also shown yourself to be worthy yet again of reinvigorating your own extraordinary legacy. Not that the latter is exactly a surprise, as I stated just now one could not even begin to exhaust the riches of some of your great films let alone a 40 year history. But there are times in very star’s life and career, even a great one such as yourself when the history stands dangerously close to the precipice of deconstruction. These decisions might be emotional ones, these might reflect improper judgment, any number of things but at the end of the day there is a final ‘product’ that detracts from the history. Or at the very least does not embellish it. When this happens repeatedly a certain despondency does entail for those who are obsessed with these questions! It goes far beyond simple disappointment as a fan. I will not dwell on the negative yet again but suffice it to say that when there is a Paa or a Black or a Khakee or a Dev (to pick some examples) newer vistas are opened up onto a career. One might prefer one phase or the other within that career and have different perspectives on it but at the end of the day the sheer enormity and authenticity of even the less valued gestures would be undeniable.

    Fatima the other day (not here) rightly mentioned the moment at the end of the second preview when Abhishek addresses you and you respond with diffidence and affection. The gesture is inimitable. Absolutely glorious because it is an example of the purest performance. Each time I have seen the trailers I have blinked in amazement at my inability to spot any bit of you in it. or any bit of what one has seen from you for so many decades. But beyond this and in this particular scene I am remarkably moved everytime I see it. Much as Abhishek carrying you on his back is more than a little touching. Or even your ‘dancing’ in the rain with Vidya Balan, splashing the water around (reminds me a little bit of that Manzil moment — rim jhim gire — from all those decades ago where in a moment of romantic abandon you are similarly splashing away through puddles of water.. not because one is like the other in any obvious sense.. memory yet links them..).

    If one delights in such sublime pleasures when it comes to your performances one also has to take a harder line when it comes to the opposite. Fans can be very demanding at times. And yet this is more than that. It is about never losing sight of what you have meant as a star, what your movies have meant, what your constant presence in Indian cultural has signified for so long. Even today I am always moved to hear stories and anecdotes in different contexts about people who have such a deep emotional bond with your person and films. Perhaps one protests a bit too much. A star is human like anyone else and is allowed to make mistakes. Yes! Absolutely! But if there is this heightened degree of vigilance and this extraordinary ‘care’ for your oeuvre it is so because the history demands it. One could not measure up to it any other way. This is probably exasperating for you at times, certainly a great deal of pressure even 40 years into the game but this is a signature called ‘Amitabh Bachchan’. Ordinary aspirations and ambitions should never be associated with it. And when you do a film like Paa you prove exactly everything I’ve said here and enable the vigilance perhaps more than you would like. You are responsible Sir! You continue to astonish. And I cannot accept from you what cannot astonish me.

    I do not consider any of this to be a hyperbolic reaction to a short preview or two. It is much more because one sometimes waits very long for these moments from you. That history no one ought to lose sight of — not the fans, not the interpreters of popular culture, not yourself. Your career has been a gift to cinephiles. I am one of those and a very greedy one at that — I want the gift to keep on giving… thanks so much for Paa..]

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    • [I should have added something else. This post is extremely moving. Profoundly so. Much as your happiness at the responses generated by Paa have been equally so.]

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  2. [The impression that the Paa promos have created so far has been extraordinary and this also applies to the images from the film. Where I will agree with you is that despite this age of hype when every other film and every other actor is praised in terms completely disproportionate to the work on display there is nonetheless space for the authentic and this seeps through from time to time. The kinds of reviews you got for Black or Abhishek got for Guru were something more than the kind lavished every Friday on those actors who also become thespians every Friday. Much as there a film like Rang De Basanti had a level of buzz and appreciation that has been rarely replicated since despite so many other attempts to manufacture this element. With the Paa previews it is precisely this that comes through. The labor of love that this film seems to be for all concerned but also the sheer quality of the product whether in terms of the prosthetics on display or the shot selection and so forth. The film stands out for sure and I think is currently ‘the film’ of the moment which is to say the one that lingers longest in the mind once one has seen the previews. This is incidentally why the authentic and the genuine must always be risked. One often fails going down this path but the failures are often glorious ones and when one does manage to get success out of it the moment is truly special. Not one can be replicated, not one that can be forgotten.]

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  3. Satyam one feels authenticity and genuineness to your reactions and responses.

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  4. CNN-IBN reported that the release date of Saat Hindustani also happens to be Kamal’s birthday…

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  5. [I’ve been meaning to say this before but I love the countdown you’re doing on the blog for Paa.

    To add to something I said about Paa on yesterday’s the reasons why many including myself have been so excited with the film I’d like to be a bit schematic:

    Inasmuch as you are a screen legend with an enormous history of films and central roles and as someone who continues to get these opportunities (despite your ongoing protestations!) your supporters wish to see you do roles that are worthy of you. This does not mean box office success nor does it entail the expectation that you will adhere to an older screen image, just that you will do something that genuinely moves your audience or impresses it or both.

    Since such is not possible with every film perhaps there should at the very least be central roles that even if not path-breaking satisfy those of us who basically go to see an Amitabh Bachchan film in the theater for Amitabh Bachchan, as long as this has been promised us. One might go to a Karan Johar film not expecting it to be a ‘Bachchan show’. One might therefore go for other reasons, that’s a different matter. But attached to this is still a question: why does Amitabh Bachchan see the need to do inconsequential roles in films like KANK or what have you when at that very same moment and at every other such moment he is also able to do interesting leads in interesting films? It would be one thing if you had as you always insist no choice in the matter. But what explains all those leads in countless films this decade?

    But even if you cannot always do such quality work as a commercial actor why not do a lead in a relatively mediocre film where the audience sees nothing ‘new’ but not a deconstruction either? Allow me to be a little impolite, and more than a little blunt here. Because the likes of Karan Johar appreciate you so much and revere you so much in films like Black and now Paa that they offer you roles in KANK?! Does this make any sense whatsoever? How many of these directors have ever made films commensurate with what they claim to believe of you? I will grant Aditya Chopra this. Your character in Mohabbatein was grandly constructed and was the point of the film in many ways. Even Johar’s K3G I can sort of accept (it’s on the border line!). But not KANK. And I don’t mean to zero in on some of these names. The others aren’t much better. Because Farhan Akhtar was such a massive fan of Don he decided to remake it in the most unworthy way possible. Because he has idolized you all his life he thought that a 10 min guest appearance in Lakhya was really a valuable use of your presence. I wouldn’t be against every such guest role by the way. Yash Chopra, when he still used to be a director once upon a time, had Sanjeev Kumar for one scene in Kaala Pathar and it was a fine fine scene. So it’s not just about the footage. These roles don’t justify your talents or your history or your continuing (and I hope everlasting) relevance in any way imaginable. But these directors nonetheless claim to be huge fans of yours. Well if so you deserve better fans. There is no other way to say this.

    So your audience could live with a relatively mediocre film in which you nonetheless had a central role. Because this what many film-makers haven’t understood, what you too have not been able to fathom if one takes all your utterances seriously in this regard (and I sometimes have my doubts) — no one, NO ONE, goes to see an Amitabh Bachchan film with the expectation of NOT seeing Amitabh Bachchan! In other words no one is that absurd. If they didn’t want to see you they wouldn’t show up for your films. But in many cases they show up and they’re disappointed because the film isn’t interesting but to add insult to injury you have a short role in it. Sometimes you might have a longer role, even a central role but this role and the film overall are so deconstructive to your place as a star and an actor and certainly the elevated position in which your audience always places you on both scores, that people just don’t dislike the film, they are deeply depressed with it. I can assure you I am not being hyperbolic in the slightest here. People are dismayed and depressed with certain choices. Yes commercial stars always have box office disappointments and bad films, that’s the name of the game. But what they cannot comprehend why certain films come about at all. A Lal Badshah does not dismay people because they get some of your iconic history here, they don’t like the film but there are saving features. With a Black they might not get ‘Vijay’ but they see a great actor attempting a great role. With Waqt they at least have the solace of knowing that you have been central to a somewhat decent film even. The proof here is the different sorts of films you have been successful in this decade from Aankhen to K3G to Baghban to Khakee to Black to what have you. Paa looks now to add to this list. Ironically this is a film where paradoxically there will NOT be Amitabh Bachchan on screen at all, in any recognizable sense of the word. Not in terms of gesturality, not in terms of even the slightest physical resemblance. And yet this short promo has created such buzz, such unprecedented interest. Why? Because people again can spot a great star, a great actor attempting a role proportionate to his abilities. People are impressed by what they’ve seen, they’re moved by what they’ve seen.

    If I translated these into ‘Abhishek language’ (somewhat appropriate given the subject is Paa!) there is no problem at all when a D6 does not work as its expected to. One Drona like failure is also allowed. The problem would be if we kept seeing Drona-like projects from Abhishek or too many films like Laaga Chunari mein Daag (though I like this film) where he wasn’t central to the proceedings. So a certain mean can be found especially so when one is indulging in a certain volume. Certain roles even on paper can be instantly rejected for these reasons. It’s not a good or a bad film even. Certain roles even from the get go seem like bad ideas.

    If all this were not true what would be the reason to celebrate Paa. If one cannot sense the distinction to be made between Paa and Aladdin why is one even excited with the former? I have this quarrel with many fans also. I don’t doubt their sincerity but why does such come at the cost of thought? Why cannot one be a fan without being totally blind? If one is going to praise and get excited about Aladdin and Paa in the very same ways using the very same language hasn’t one deconstructed the authentic film completely? Would one praise Deewar and Besharam the same way? Would one have equal regard for Khuddaar and Trishul? So on and so forth. To be true to the authentic one has to reject the inauthentic. There is nothing revolutionary about what I’m stating here. Bhootnath (which I saw in the theater) is deconstructive to your legacy even when it works. Because it renders your larger than life image, your extraordinary screen presence and most importantly your seminal history and legacy into something non-serious. It converts ‘Vijay’ into a ‘Disney-esque’ character. No one could endorse this attempt and I pity those who do in the name of loyalty or as I would see it misplaced notions of such. I can watch Anupam Kher do roles that I cannot accept from you even though I know you can do anything better than he does. That isn’t the point!

    So I celebrate Paa. I am thrilled about this role. Utterly thrilled. Totally excited about the reception and what I think are its box office prospects. I am delighted that you will have another authentic moment in the sun and one that will extend your signature. I wish you to do this more often than not and if anything your age allows you to do this today far more than might have been possible ever before.]

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