With great powers come great responsibilities, and Amitabh Bachchan is no stranger to the fact that everything stars do can lead to people following their path. On top of his game for over three decades now, the Big B tells us about the charity he’s done in life. Dressed in a white kurta, sitting in his office, the legendary actor finishes a call and is all ears to our conversation. Curious about his charitable work, we question him about the moment he realised he must reach out to the needy. Ever thoughtful, the septuagenarian superstar pauses and says, “It’s not because you’re a professional that you think of that (charity). You think of doing that even when you’re a kid and it’s something that’s inherent in you. You see your parents going out and doing things; then you do it on your own. There are limitations, and you can’t single-handedly wipe out poverty in the country. But, if you can become an example, there’s no harm in doing it.”
Amitabh has been the face of many charitable causes over the years, joining hands with the government to impart social messages too. “If I’m working for awareness about tuberculosis or Hepatitis B, I’m able to give my own example,” he explains. “I’m a TB survivor, I did suffer from it. It’s going to set an example of making people aware, because it’s very important. Even when it comes to Swachh Bharat — if I can go clean a street and the photographs inspire people, I’m happy to be an example. If my voice and face can help remove polio from the country, I’m happy doing it. They say if celebrities say something, people believe in it.”
With movies, endorsements, social causes, the actor’s schedule is chock-a-block with requests — there’s someone waiting for an appointment with him every second of the day. With everyone wanting a piece of Amitabh Bachchan’s life, how does the actor live with the pressures of handling so many requests? “I’m just a normal person,” he sighs with a faint smile. “We lead a normal life. We get up in the morning and go to work; that’s it. People want to meet, and if it’s possible we do. We find ways and moments of structuring where I can meet people.” Despite his allusions of living a normal life, any Mumbaikar will tell you about the perennial crowd outside Jalsa, the superstar’s home — the place that’s a landmark of sorts in the Bollywood city. For the Big B, the house is much more than just a landmark, it’s a piece of memory.
“Having your own house is a big deal in anyone’s life,” he says slowly. “My grandparents had their own house, my parent’s didn’t. So, when I got the house, they were the first people I invited to come and live in it. As the man of the house, you want to stand on your own feet as soon as possible. To be able to look after your parents as they age, give them the confidence and belief that they’re not alone.” Amitabh adds that he takes pride in the fact that he could do this for his parents. “It’s very typical of Indian culture, unlike the western one, where children at the age of 18 say ‘I’m off. You’re on your own and I’m on my own.’ I’m very proud of that. I think it’s exciting to move into your own house — it’s your own little kingdom. No matter where you travel or whatever the circumstances may be, you always want to come back to your own space. I may go out and be invited to events outside the country, be made to live in elegant hotels that are extravagant and huge, but they’re not my home. I may not even have a per cent of what those grand hotels provide me with, but I’m still comfortable in my home,” he smiles.
Back in the day, the Big B was the epitome of the Angry Young Man, but with his characters in Paa, Cheeni Kum, Piku, and more recently, Pink becoming popular, he’s forged a new path for actors who won’t dance around trees anymore. So, which version of his actor self was more satisfying for him? He quips, “I don’t want to make too much of it. I think it’s more upon the actor, as to how he wants to treat his career. At some point in time, you will have to come to the understanding that you’re not young anymore. Somebody younger, somebody better than you is going to take your place. If you still want to be working here, please work under the condition that you’re not the star any longer. You must accept that.”
Does Amitabh not feel like a hero or a leading star today? “I can’t compare myself to the big stars today,” he says earnestly. “They’re bigger in value and have more mass following and I think all of us go through that. Whether someone wants to continue working or not is their personal decision. Why I want to continue working is my own personal decision. But yes, I will have to be content with the fact that I’m not in the same category, or the same bracket as all the big stars are in,” he signs off....