Christian Bale: I have chosen not to learn too much about camera lenses
On his maiden trip to Mumbai, Christian Bale tells mid-day that there's no escaping Batman for him, but he doesn't mind it at all!
Batman, as it were, entered Mumbai — possibly India's very own Gotham City — without making much of a show about it; and he quietly left last night, after attending the global premiere of Andy Serkis's Mowgli, set to stream on Netflix on December 7. We're referring to Christopher Nolan's Batman from the Dark Knight trilogy — actor Christian Bale, of course. And if we did initiate that tiring Delhi-Mumbai debate, about which surely Bale has no clue, the national capital would definitely win in his books.
For, he admits, as we meet for a brief one-on-chat at the JW Marriott, Juhu: "I've had no opportunity to be up and about [in Mumbai] at all. But I did bring over my family, and landed in Delhi five days ago. We did the 'golden triangle' — Jaipur, Agra. We had been to Rajasthan before — Jodhpur, in 2011 — when we came here for The Dark Knight Rises."
It is however Mumbai, showbiz-central, where the impact of his immeasurably wide body of work is most likely to be felt. We bring up one of Bollywood's youngest super-stars, Varun Dhawan, as an instance. Dhawan had revealed to us not long ago that a moment of epiphany — when he felt wholly drawn towards seriously taking up acting as a profession — occurred to him, during college, when he was first blown away by Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000).
Christian Bale in The Dark Knight
Does he receive these sorts of compliments in unlikeliest corners, when he travels especially? "I have to say, it's one of the first times I've heard that (laughs). I hope that he [Dhawan] is enjoying himself. I hope I'm not responsible for [something he] regrets." Touching upon another indelible influence of his work in B-Town, we bring up Dhoom 3 (2013) — one of the biggest, local box-office successes of all time — which was undoubtedly a nod to (if not partly plagiarised from) the Bale-starrer, Prestige (2006). Has he at least come across such instances before? "No, it's lovely to hear that, though. Maybe I'm just oblivious to it. But it sounds rewarding," Bale says.
You can sense that this calm/casual indifference towards public appeal is very much part of Bale's intrinsic personality, rather than a put-on for the press. Delving deeper into this aspect, and how that seamlessly flows into his craft, he says, "I definitely find that staying somewhat oblivious helps me as an actor. One inanimate example of that is I've chosen not to learn too much about camera lenses. Many actors I work with, and respect immensely, will always ask [about lenses] to understand how close the camera is. I never ask any of that. I don't care. To me, film acting is the same, regardless. You perform truthfully."
A still from Andy Serkis's Mowgli
He adds, "What [checking out the frame] would do is actually make me too aware of the incredible job the camera-people are doing, which could be intimidating [during a performance]. So, being in denial [of camera, lights, crew] is very much a part of what acting is about." Bale's latest release though, live-action wizard Serkis's Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle, would've had him dig into an altogether another skill-set, given it's a motion-capture pic that, unlike simply voicing for animation, merges an actor's face and performance, with the computer-generated image, so the black panther on screen is as much as Bagheera, as it is Bale himself!
Over a career spanning 32 years, Bale, 44, who's been nominated for the Oscars thrice (for American Hustle, The Big Short), won once (for The Fighter), has been rightly lauded as a strikingly strong exponent of the 'method' school of acting — in line with Robert De Niro in the '70s—physically, mentally, wholly transforming himself into rather intense roles. Did playing Bagheera in Mowgli seem a relatively more relaxed, down-time for him then? "It's a different level of intensity, because it's sporadic. Usually with a feature film, [once] you start, you know you're going to perform the character for months, and then it would finish. With this [Mowgli], we started it when my son was two months old. He's now four. We would revisit [the role], go back once a year in the room, re-do portions after the principal photography in the actual locations was done."
Given that Bagheera roams around jungles with an Indian village settlement nearby (in keeping with Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book), to mercilessly push the analogy, the role of the desi leopard might be the closest Bale's come to playing a desi character, if you may. Either way, if there's a part that he's likely to be associated with, regardless of where he's in the world, Bale admits, "It'll always be Batman. And I'm proud of that. It'll always be the most iconic, and probably the most successful series of films, that I'll ever make. I recognise that. Chris [Nolan] and I are fortunate to have gone on to make three of them. Therefore, it's lovely when people do talk about it. But it's also equally rewarding, when people mention [my] other films."
Of course, there's a whole lot more!
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