'What's the big deal about turning 70?
The whole of Bollywood is gearing up for Amitabh Bachchan's birthday. But the man himself prefers to stay nonchalant. As he turns a year older, Bachchan talks to us about his health, family, work, granddaughter and above all, the D-day
At his office — Janak — in Juhu, Amitabh Bachchan has been giving interviews in the build up to his 70th birthday. The place is full of his snapshots over the decades as well as a plethora of awards, apart from numerous art works. The Big B is nursing a cold and there is a cricket match on. It’s the last few overs and he is keen to catch the action till the end, considering that he has missed the previous match due to a prior commitment. Attired in his characteristic kurta-pyjama-shawl outfit, Big B has three cell phones within reach! So we begin with the most obvious question...
What happens when all the three cell phones start ringing together?
They are always on silent mode… actually I have more. But I carry only three, as it is very embarrassing to be seen with so many cell phones. They are all diversified according to my needs and I answer accordingly. There is so much new stuff nowadays. Whenever I am stuck, I call my grandson (Agastya) and within seconds he tells me what to do.
Is turning 70 a big deal for you?
I really can’t understand why there is this big deal about turning 70. Why not 69? Why not 71? I shy away from birthday celebrations. When you are in school, there is this thing of looking forward to getting gifts. It is like “Kya laaye ho mere liye?” Now I feel awkward of celebrations but sometimes you have to go with the family and what they want to do for you. To me, it is another day. Anyway now there are so many special days – there is a Vegetarian Day, Non-vegetarian Day, Brothers Day, Friendship Day. Why have these special days? Every day is special.
What would you ideally like to do?
Spend time with the family. I don’t like going out much.
With your granddaughter Araadhya around, things on the homefront must be certainly different?
We do everything centred around her. Everything goes according to her. It’s great having a baby in the house. She puts a smile on everyone’s face.
So, why this need to keep her away from cameras all this while?
She’s a 10-month-old baby. Imagine having 40 cameras being thrusted at her at the airport! She’s like any other baby.
What would you wish for a birthday gift?
I would wish for good health for the family.
Any early memories of celebrating your birthdays with your family?
New clothes, like most children, it was a joy to look forward to wearing new clothes and more importantly deciding what to buy. But what was most special to me as a child were the poems my father (Harivanshrai Bachchan) used to write for me. Every birthday he would pen a new poem in honour of my birthday. He did it for the rest of the family as well. So it was a family event to hear him recite what he had written especially for me.
It’s been a while since you have been seen in a film...
I had to have two surgeries so I had kept six months free. I was committed to Kaun Banega Crorepati. As it is telecast twice weekly, it is not vigorous but is still time-consuming. By December-January I will begin shooting for Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha. Then there is Sudhir Mishra’s Mehrunissa. There are also two more projects but they have not been confirmed up yet. Balki and Sujoy Ghosh want me in their projects. Sujoy says I must be there in his films — he even made me sing a song in Kahaani.
Whatever happened to Shirish Kunder’s The Common Man?
Shirsh met and discussed the idea and it was announced. But I don’t know what’s happening to it after that. I guess he got busy with Joker.
And your Hollywood project The Great Gatsby?
I have done my bit and due to contractual obligations I can’t reveal more about it.
Kaun Banega Crorepati remains an enrichning experience...
The kind of contestants I interact with now is different. There is an effort to do that. When we started in 2000, the focus was more on the questions. But after Sony took over we tried to concentrate on the lives and backgrounds of the participants. There are people from the interiors of India who survive only on Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per month. They live on the hope that they can be on KBC and win money. For some it is a personal victory against their own family… it’s like ‘you told me I am a good for nothing but I won KBC’. There are sad stories too. A woman having eight daughters as her husband and his family wanted a male child… Ultimately she committed suicide and her brother is looking after the eight girls. He came on the show to improve his financial standing to look after them.
You have been blogging uninterrupted?
I enjoy it as it keeps me attached to the respondents and followers. I have been writing every day. It started off on a lark but once the responses started coming up there was a great sense of attachment. I don’t moderate my blog. I listen to what they have to say — some are belligerent and some want attention. They inform you about things you may not know. There are somebrilliant writers who tell me what’s happening around the world. Ever since I started referring to them as Extended Family, they now ask me Where the heck are you?’ or ‘You should be sleeping. It’s 2 am!’
How many hours of sleep do you manage?
I don’t need much sleep. Three or fours hours of sleep is enough for me.
Do you ever plan to slow down?
As long as my body is responding favourably, I will continue working.