Abhishek Bachchan: Public humiliation is a tough pill to swallow
Abhishek Bachchan in his characteristic candid style speaks out about cherishing bad reviews, taking on Twitter trolls and a few more uncomfortable truths
Contrary to what one would like to believe, Abhishek Bachchan has not had an easy life. He is used to facing criticism in form of negative reviews early on in his career, and continues to do so in form of trolls on Twitter (Read more). He has admirably let his wisdom and sense of humour act as his armour in such situations. He knew — partly, thanks to his dad's advice and partly, due to his own clear sense of self — that criticism is not to be swept below the carpet; instead, cherished and looked at as valid advice.
Abhishek Bachchan. Pic/Sameer Abedi
He says, "Initially, when I was not doing well in my career and I got all sorts of negative reviews, I would paste them all and read them again and again. This is something that my father taught me. I used the negative things written about me to help me. I would make a checklist of things of what critics saw wrong in me and tried getting better. I have always given the media and critics a huge amount of credit. I don't understand why there is always this cold war between the media and actors. If the media is giving you free advice, why aren't you taking it? Media largely represents the audience and what better feedback than theirs? Yes, negative things written about you upsets and hurts you. I have been up all night worrying about things written about me. Bad reviews are a humiliation that you face publicly and it is difficult to digest that."
Does his sense of humour make it easier for him to get by? "Having the ability to laugh at yourself is lovely. Even though laughing off something is a healthy approach, one needs to take the job seriously. You are as good as your last Friday's collections and if that fails, you are not going to get a job. That's a really serious thing. Sometimes, though, it is wonderful to outwardly laugh things off, even though it is a make or break situation, you wouldn't want the world to let on to it. When you are making a film like 'Housefull', people think it is such a frivolous film, so what's the big deal? The fact is we really work hard on such films, the energy spent on slapstick and physical comedy is much more than what you do generally. But, despite all this, when you are put in a particular situation, you have to laugh it off, because you are after all public property," he explains.
Tell him it is a tough call in this ego-driven industry, and he protests vehemently, "I don't think this industry is ego -driven. All that is more of a defence mechanism. We can't afford to be egoistic by virtue of the job that we do. You are baring your soul on a daily basis. There are emotional scenes which make you break down; no actor is truly an actor, he's just reacting to the situation. If he had ego, it would stop him from reacting. This ego and bravado is generally to shield oneself because one doesn't want to get hurt. It is my defence mechanism which makes me want to brush aside all criticism and act as nothing will affect me. It is human nature that when you have worked hard at something and then people reject it as bad work, you will act as if you are not affected by that. You start building walls around you. Inside, each of us is like a child, worrying that if people don't like my work, nobody is going to cast me and what do I do then."
Then what makes him think so clearly even though he has been through the whole process? "I guess one just has to be a realist in life. We survive in this world of make believe. Honesty is very important to hold on to — honesty about the world and honesty about yourself. Let me tell you something. Many actors might not agree to this truth, but each of us knows if we have given our best shot or not. An actor is the first person to know if his film is going to do well or not, even when he's in the midst of being part of it. So, when a film doesn't do well, it doesn't really come as a surprise. Ninety nine per cent of actors don't like bad reviews because they themselves know that they were not good enough in the film. Even then it is a bitter pill to swallow when you are being criticised, because you are being humiliated on public platform with your flaws being highlighted and that's never going to be easy," says AB Jr.
Talking about public platform, he's trolled often on Twitter and he chooses to respond to most of them. "I think these trolls love me more than my fans do," he says with a laugh and continues, "They dedicate so much time to me. I thank them because they keep me current. These things don't upset me. I understand that this is a platform which is a faceless medium and it empowers people to say what they want. Some of them are genuinely funny. If I am there, dishing out stuff, I should also be able to take it. If someone is nasty, I don't respond. If you don't like trolling, don't be on Twitter."
Abhishek's next is a comedy, 'Housefull 3'. "It has been a blast working with Akshay (Kumar) and Riteish (Deshmukh). And it reflects on screen. You can't fake the fun you are having and that's important for a comedy film. I have had a long association with Sajid (Nadiadwala, producer of the film). It has always been a pleasure working with him," he says. However, Abhishek adds he has done his fair share of comedy and wants to look at different horizons. "It is time for me to do something else, but what is that I don't know yet. In today's time and age, there is so much that's being done and the audience is demanding more and more of an actor."
Also, Bollywood filmmakers are getting interested in content-driven regional films. To think his mother Jaya Bachchan was among the first to produce a Marathi film, 'Vihir' back in 2010. Why didn't she invest in more Marathi films? "Yes," he says proudly, "Regional films are very exciting. Marathi films are just brilliant; there is such a wonderful talent pool out there. We will be happy to produce a film if the script is right. We haven't managed to pinpoint anything."
Aishwarya and he have completed nine years of marriage. Have things changed for the better or worse over the years? "We were comfortable with each other. We have always been good friends, and we continue to be so. I have always been able to tell her about anything and everything, and I think friendship is the most important thing," he signs off.