Exclusive excerpt from author Virender Kapoor’s book ‘Excellence: The Amitabh Bachchan Way’.
Appreciation for His Co-stars:
When Amitabh Bachchan was struggling to be noticed, Rajesh Khanna was already a superstar. But later, in a way, he replaced Rajesh Khanna. In an interview, however, Bachchan confessed that he had never expected to play lead roles. He always thought he was not conventionally good-looking and felt that he would never look as good as Rajesh Khanna. He revealed that once when he had seen a photograph of Rajesh Khanna in Filmfare, he had thought, ‘Yaar, ye aadmi kya khaata hai? Iske gaal itne lal kaise hain?’ (What does this man eat? How are his cheeks so red?)
In a rare interview, Amitabh Bachchan clarified that whether it was on the sets of Anand or Namak Haraam, Rajesh Khanna and him never bickered, argued or tried to upstage one another in any manner. On the contrary, when he was working in Calcutta and was keen to join films, his inspiration was Mr Khanna. He recalled how happy he had been when Hrishikesh Mukherjee asked him to work with Rajesh Khanna in Anand. It was a dream come true for him. He mentioned modestly that he got famous purely because he was working with Khanna. People came and asked him questions like ‘How does he look?’ and ‘What does he do?’ He has always had the greatest respect for Rajesh Khanna.
Accepting the same, Rajesh Khanna admitted that when he saw Namak Haraam at a trial at Liberty cinema, he knew his time was up. ‘Here is the superstar of tomorrow,’ he had told Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Reflecting on the younger film actors, he is of the opinion that one needs to give them more time. He has maintained that it is a little harsh to put them aside as they are working in a much more competitive climate than the actors before them. The audiences too, are not as tolerant as they were before. He admitted that the audience gave him a lot of breathing space and allowed him to make mistakes and rectify them film after film. But now it was the turn of the younger actors because today’s audience lay between 18 and 30. He narrated an incident to prove his point. When he was shooting with Govinda for Hum, a group of young kids came up to him asking for an autograph. Govinda was standing next to him. There was a young cute girl who poked him and said, ‘Woh nahin, ye. Govinda ka autograph lo.’ (Not him, but this guy. Take Govinda’s autograph.)
The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.’
In an interview with Ranbir Kapoor where he praised his work immensely, Bachchan admitted that he could hardly dance and in fact hated it. He thought it was incredible that people could move different parts of their bodies in different directions with such ease.
He is all praises for the youngsters of today, always encouraging them to do better. He has mentioned on various occasions that professionally, he is fond of Deepika Padukone. He admires her work, ethics, composure and determined efforts to improve. She was on cloud nine when he sent her a handwritten note. The note appreciated her efforts and congratulated her for her performance in Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013).
In an interview, Deepika revealed that she would cherish it forever. She didn’t get into the details but she was highly appreciative of the gesture as people don’t often send a handwritten note and a huge bouquet of flowers nowadays. Richa Chaddha who played Deepika’s sister-in-law in the film Ram-Leela also received a note from Big B. Richa was overjoyed and admitted that it was a huge deal to receive it from him.
He is full of appreciation for the upcoming actors and from a legend like him; the praises can be highly motivating. All those who do well in life and are in some position of power must do this. I, as the director of a management institute, started a ‘Directors Debut Award’ for the most promising student of the incoming batch. This became such a sought- after award that the first year students worked very hard to get it. It encouraged them to excel. I also started giving books as prizes to the topper of each subject. There could be only one topper in a class but there were a dozen toppers in total, one in each subject! This made for a number of heroes every semester and was a big morale booster.
Rajnikanth and Big B started their careers in 1970 but Amitabh has been extremely appreciative of Rajnikanth as well. In a recent interview, he was quoted praising him. He said that Rajnikanth was phenomenal—the largest, the best and truly the boss of Indian cinema. He added that he was terrific company on the sets and a fine gentleman. He admitted that they were friends and even made an exception for him by labelling him with an epithet—a practice he usually abhors. He praised Rajnikanth’s hard work, talent and belief and admired his determination that had raised him to this stature. Despite his extraordinary career and incomparable adulation, he was a simple and down-to-earth person and that is something Big B appreciates a lot. He even revealed that a Fiat car Rajnikanth had bought when he had attained his early success remained with him till recently, providing an evidence of his simplicity.
For Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar has been his idol and an actor who gave something new to every take he shot. He also added that he appreciated every performance of Waheeda Rehman and considered her a true Indian beauty. For him, she was the ultimate personification of the Indian woman. Apart from the grace of her presence, he always found her mischievous quality most endearing. Al Pacino and Marlon Brando are his all-time favourite Hollywood actors and he immensely appreciates their performances as well.
‘Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.’
Though one cannot downplay the importance of story, script and dialogue writing, the director is the captain of the ship in the film industry. Big B is a director’s actor. He believes that a film is a director’s vision and an actor must help him achieve that. He might give suggestions but if the director wants something, he does it without an argument. He has worked with almost every director in the film industry and has always been appreciative of them. This shows his humility. Instead of taking all the credit for himself, he believes in the value of teamwork.
Excerpted with permission of Rupa Publications India....