There is an indefinable frisson of tension when Amitabh
Bachchan talks about the challenger though he will never
admit to any rivalry between himself and Shah Rukh Khan.
On the eve of receiving the highest French civilian
honour, the Legion d'Honneur, Bachchan let his mind roam
— to his forthcoming films, his career, his son and
even the state of the nation. In true Bachchanesque
fashion, he said competition only propelled him to
greater heights so Shah Rukh could "copy" him.
Touching upon everything from his role in Nishabd and
Sholay to his belief that India was on the threshold of
excellence, the Big B epitomised what the French
government recognised as well — a Legion d'Honneur.
You were recently voted the Man of the Year by The Times
of India poll. Why do you think your charisma endures
I am honoured and humbled by people of this country, the
love and affection that they continue to shower on me,
although I believe I am undeserving of this honour. I
fail to understand why people put me in this exalted
position. I don't feel comfortable assessing myself; I
leave that to those wonderful polls that you conduct
from time to time.
How does it feel to get the Legion d'Honneur, after
Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar?
I don't think I am worthy of being in the distinguished
company of Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar. I am greatly
honoured that the French government thinks I deserve it.
I still believe I am undeserving, but nevertheless, I am
deeply grateful. But, I am happy because this is an
honour for the Indian film industry.
How do you evaluate the Big B brand...recent estimates
say that with Aishwarya Rai in the family, the B brand
is worth no less than Rs 700 crore. How do you see the
brand evolving and do you think the brand is enhanced
with Aishwarya joining it?
As an economic assessment, I think the value is too
less. What you are doing is putting a price on an
individual. Human beings cannot be valued in money
terms, whether it’s Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek,
Aishwarya or anyone. I don't understand the word
"brand" though I understand it's the new
commercial lingo. My value is with my family I look at
Amitabh, Jaya, Abhishek, Aishwarya and Amar Singh as
family I don't believe in the "brand."
You faced competition from a 40-year-old Shah Rukh Khan.
With the success of Guru, the competition is said to be
coming closer home, from 30-year-old Abhishek?
I would love to compete with Abhishek. And when we are
in front of a camera both Abhishek and I are actors so,
in a sense we are competitors. Competition propels and
provokes you that somebody is around the corner. I would
like to see Shah Rukh as an inspiration. I want to do
better, make better films, so he can copy me.
Have you seen Shah Rukh's KBC? Can you tell the story
behind your exit?
I chose to be out of it. I felt I was becoming
mechanical. As an artiste, I needed to have the
butterflies in my stomach that had stopped and I have
yet to see Shah Rukh in KBC.
Is there a rivalry between you and Shah Rukh?
No, what rivalry? He is 25 years younger than me. Why do
they talk of such competition?
Do you get to say Gabbar's famous words, Ab tera kya
I'm not telling you but I can tell you that what we do
in this film may become the byword for future Sholays. I
am looking forward equally to all my films — Eklavya,
Nishabd and Chini Kam, which I can best describe as a
sugarless romance. Nishabd it is an 18-year-old's
attraction for a much older man.
move to Abhishek, many said the script was loaded in
favour of Hrithik in Dhoom II. Do you regret Abhishek
doing the role?
I am happy and proud he did it. It showed his commitment
to the script, the film, his relationship with Adi
Chopra who had asked him to do the film. Even knowing
that his role was miniscule, he did the role to keep the
brand Dhoom alive for future episodes. What I did not
like was director Sanjay Gadhvi's criticism after the
film that Abhishek was finished, a spent force. I found
it very lowly that a director should denigrate his own
artiste, his family. If you do not like him, don't work
with him. Criticising Abhishek despite knowing that
Hrithik had a bigger role was what I did not approve of.
What I appreciate is Abhishek stuck around and proved
wrong all those cynical about him. That is what he did
How do you rate Guru?
It's a great film. There's a technical side and an
emotional side. It's an uplifting experience and that is
its success. My son-in-law has booked seats for all his
staff at Escorts and he reported that afterwards their
approach to problems became different. "We can do
it, boss," became the refrain. That's good.
has been doing many diverse roles lately. Would have
have liked to do as many...
I would say I was not as adventurous when I was that
age. The decision-making process was very tough you
don't know what, where will be appreciated and suddenly
Zanjeer happened and then all started designing films
around it because we all fear commercial failure. Also
because I was going away from what my family did, I was
a sort of pioneer in my field. So I took fewer risks.
Abhishek, on the other hand, is taking more risks
normally he should be just doing Bunty aur Babli and
When is the Abhishek-Ash wedding?
We have no dates yet. The families will decide then we
will let you know.
You have repeatedly ruled out your return to politics.
You are endorsing SP advertisements albeit indirectly?
First, I will not make it formal. I stick to what I said
when I left politics, that I will not come back. I have
never campaigned for a political party and never said
anything political. Yes, I have done a campaign for UP.
It's my home state and I am its brand ambassador
appointed by the UP Development Council. Today,
Samajwadi Party is in power, but tomorrow if another
party came in and asked me to do this, I will.
Despite your humility, surely you realize you are the
uncrowned king of the Indian film industry...
What uncrowned king? I don't realise that and don't make
me realise it.
How do you see the Indian entertainment industry in
future and your role in it?
I hope I can be part of this fraternity and our film
industry grows like it is. It is unbelievable. It shows
that somewhere we are hitting the right chords. There
was great cynicism about the Indian film industry. What
is valuable is that we have been able to change cinema
without changing anything everything remains the same,
even the language. That is not what Hollywood does. It
becomes German in Germany and Italian in Italy. But
wherever we go, our language remains Hindi, our format
remains the same. Yet we score. We are touching
countries that we never did before.
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