For the fun of it

For the fun of it

Bollywood buzz

For the fun of it

He is in the 17th year of his career, which has had highs like the Dhoom franchise, Bluffmaster!, Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Guru, Dostana, Dum Maaro Dum, Bol Bachchan and on the histrionic front Yuva and that brilliant cameo in Salaam Namaste. Sensitive turns in Sharaarat and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna are also in Abhishek Bachchan’s cap.

Set to tickle ribs with Housefull 3, the underrated but versatile actor is in voluble and witty mode when we meet for a chat on the eve of release.

Abhishek candidly says that he signed Housefull 3 because the story and script “were mad”. “Farhad-Sajid had written my Bol Bachchan, so it all added up and my reply to their offer was an instinctive ‘Yes’. So it took a while before it dawned on me that Housefull 3 was an established brand and a huge responsibility.”

Choice of comedy

After his brilliant turns in Bol Bachchan and Happy New Year as well as his cameo in Salaam Namaste, does he find comedy his favourite genre? His reply is candid: “If it is the right script, I will keep doing comedies, but otherwise, comedy is difficult and demanding.”

He explains, “I guess for me it is also a matter of moods. After films like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and Dum Maaro Dum, I had had my fill of dark, intense spaces and I wanted to do something brighter and happier, like Bol Bachchan and Happy New Year. There was also the fact that there was less stress as I was sharing these films with other big heroes. You see, Housefull 3 was slapstick yet situational comedy, a mix I never did before because Bol Bachchan and Happy New Year were situational while Salaam Namaste was slapstick comedy. Here, I also had Akshay Kumar and Riteish Deshmukh, 2 of our finest comedy talents, who excel in physical comedy that is so difficult. They enriched me.”

He goes on, “But right now, I want to change gears again and do something else. It is easy for us actors to get comfortable in a space, and it’s important to be uncomfortable at work and to extricate yourself from a comfort zone and push yourself into something that gives you sleepless nights. I am at that cusp now.”

In the last 5 years, Abhishek has not made films as a solo hero, and done only ensemble cast, multi-hero films. Why is that? “A film does well because of everyone’s contribution, from behind the scenes technicians to the smallest actor. I am allergic to the term ‘solo hero’ — it suggests there is no one else responsible for a film’s success. Having said that, I understand what you say and I always choose from what is available.”

He grimly smiles and goes on, “You do the work that you get, or wait, or you create a script that falls within your parameters. You also have to understand that this is your profession and livelihood, so, although it sounds wonderfully romantic to state ‘I sat for 3 years waiting for the right script!’ I would love to see how those 3 years went! It can be tough, and so you have to balance it off somewhere.”

Abhishek has never produced a film for himself (besides doing the key title role in Paa, his production revolving around father Amitabh Bachchan), so when is that going to happen? “Not right now,” he answers calmly. “There is a script but I am not too happy with it, so it is being reworked. But as producer, last year, I co-produced Shamitabh and Piku. Right now, we just completed the shooting of Pink.”

Will Dhoom:4 be made, as the buzz goes, with Salman Khan? “I have no clue!” he answers. “If and when Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) is ready, he will call and tell me his plans. And since I am emotionally attached to that role, I can never outgrow it. It is an eternal bond as Dhoom was my first hit. John Abraham, Uday Chopra and I were quite new and struggling for success when Adi took a gamble with this small film. Not many know that he had always visualised Dhoom as a franchise — a stylish cop-and-robber story with a linear format that has been followed in every film in the series.”

Daddy dearest

Why have his father and he not worked together for so many years now? “Yes, I have not worked with my father since Paa after doing so many films with him. C’mon, we need a script that can fit and needs both of us. If we do something for the sake of coming together, critics only will pile on to us.”

Abhishek makes light about comparisons with his father, which seem to be a permanent albatross around his neck. “In 16 years, I have never thought that way,” he assures us. “Media is the only one comparing us all the time. You know there is someone out there who is the gold standard, so you do not even try to meet that. If something’s not possible, you just do not do it. And that applies to every actor who has come after him.”

What does Abhishek think of current trends in movies of 6-packs? “I do not subscribe to the craze because I can act,” he replies sternly. “This may sound bitter, but it is not. It’s sad if a 6-pack becomes a prerequisite for an actor above his skills at acting. I find so many newcomers with this wrong obsession spending more time in the gym than in honing up their acting skills. Yes, if a role demands it, you must get a 6-pack. Like my character of Jai Dixit in the Dhoom series is all business, least worried about what he wears. He would look ridiculous showing off 6-packs. But Aamir Khan in Dhoom:3 had to show off his body as he was an acrobat.”

The actor feels that fitting a role is a must. “I put on 20 kilos for Guru, and agreed to Mani Rathnam’s vision of my character with pock marks on my face in Raavan. I never thought of telling him that I was a handsome young man who could not disfigure his face.”

Does he have any favourites from his pre-success or post-success flop films? Candidly, he counter-questions, “When you revisit articles you wrote a decade ago, are you really happy with them? No, you poke holes into them and feel you could have done them so much better. And that’s good because that shows you have grown in the interim period. So, sadly because I watch my films regularly, I cannot have favourites among them.”

Abhishek has, early on, also decided to interpret even harsh criticism constructively. “I was always taken to the cleaners, and for a while I would find it tough to get out of bed on a Friday when my film was releasing,” he recalls. “Harsh terminology like ‘Abhishek is teakwood’ was used. But then I decided to look upon all that as free advice. What were they actually saying? That I should learn how to convey more, express better, right? So I put in that effort.”

So can we say that the ‘Angry Young Man’s’ son is a ‘Wise Young Man’?