The leading man of Tollywood has always looked up to AB
There isn’t any emotion, any role, any genre that you have not played on screen. I would like to know what makes you tick that you don’t get bored of your job because every time I see you on screen, I see your commitment to your profession.
AB: I think the moment of getting bored is the moment before you get in front of the camera. If you don’t like the script or are not happy with the circumstances of the work you are going to be doing, showing your displeasure in front of the camera is not correct. You have your disagreements before that or you can decline that work. But once a commitment has been made then you should be giving it the absolute 100 per cent that the director needs. If that is showing intensity then I look upon it as an achievement irrespective of whether the project is a success or not.
He shared screen space with The Man in Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear (2007)
After so many years, what keeps you going and how do you give your 200 per cent to every role you are offered? What do you look for in a role before saying yes?
AB: What keeps me going is my desire to be in front of the camera as long as I can be there. I love the idea of being there and enacting different roles. In the early part of my career, there was very little as far as diversity of roles was concerned. Leading men had fairly limited scope. In my present state I get the opportunity to play many kinds of roles. I am not the leading man any more, so I don’t have the burden of playing the righteous, correct person. So, I have had greater opportunities to play diverse characters. I appreciate that.
He made Aladin (left) with AB and got him to sing Ekla cholo re in Kahaani
What gave you the confidence to pursue a career in acting? What did you see in yourself, given that you were totally against the type (of heroes in those times)?
I couldn’t see myself continue to work in Calcutta where I was working as an executive in a firm. I never had the intelligence to be able to decipher that. I never thought about what kind of a future I am going to have because I was ignorant about things like that. So when an alternative came my way through a talent contest, I thought that perhaps this could be something that I could pursue. That’s what I did. So, I quit my job in Calcutta. I went home and told my parents that I wanted to become an actor. My parents were very understanding and said that if I wanted to pursue something I should. And that’s how I became an actor. Once I became an actor, my whole life changed.
I never expected to become a leading man. The earlier roles I had weren’t leading roles. It was others — writers, directors and producers — who thought that I should be doing leading roles. Once they had put me in that category, I felt obliged to live up to that and to work in a manner which convinced them that I was a leading actor. It wasn’t something that I chose. I still don’t have the intelligence to pick what I should be doing. I could rather that someone comes and tells me what to do. Sometimes it works but most of the times it doesn’t.
She got him to lend his voice to Chirantan, a dance drama
When are you going to watch Chirantan? I am still waiting! I will always be grateful to you for being a part of this work but I will be elated the day you get to see the production!
I did a part of the commentary for Chirantan and she has been very keen that I see it. But I haven’t had the opportunity to. I shall certainly see it soon.
YOUNG FANS FROM CALCUTTA ASK...
You are making your Hollywood debut with The Great Gatsby. How do you feel exploring the world marketů so many years down the line?
Roshni Ali, St. Xavier’s College
Firstly, it’s not a debut. It’s a gesture on my part to Baz Luhrmann. It’s not even a cameo; it’s a meo (laughs).... We are never going to be able to adapt to their culture, language and style. So, I have never been hopeful of getting some work there. When I was younger, I have to admit that there were a few people who came to meet me. All they had in mind was a Maharaja who sits in Jaipur and has a retinue of people around him. And that’s all he does; he just sits there. I didn’t think that had any potential, so I never did those movies.
Now I think there has been a greater recognition of Indian films and actors. Our films are now being re-screened abroad in very large numbers. Hopefully, at some point, there will be a great exodus from here towards Hollywood and vice-versa. But at the moment, I am just happy with where I am. However if there is an opportunity with an appropriate role that I think I will be able to justify what I want to do, I will have a look at it.
How different was the competition in the film industry when you were starting out?
Shrestha Saha, Presidency University
I wouldn’t call it competition. There was healthy rivalry. We didn’t have any anger or angst towards our colleagues. We appreciated their work as much as they appreciated ours. I don’t think there has been any difference with today’s generation. They are equally fond of their colleagues and appreciate their work. We are all a very close-knit family.
Some of your films like Agneepath and Don have been remade and Zanjeer’s remake is under production. What is your opinion on remakes?
Disha Roychaudhuri, Jadavpur University
I have watched a few of the remakes and they have been good. I personally feel that when I am asked to be a part of a remake, it doesn’t make sense. So, I have declined those films. However, if someone comes with an idea of a remake that I think is suitable then I will consider it. I would prefer those films to be left alone. They had their own meaning and purpose in their own time. But some of the greatest films the world over have been remade. Here we have the example of Devdas that was done with Dilip saab (Khan), KL Saigal, Shah Rukh (Khan) and Abhay (Deol). There are some stories that have the potential to be remade. Seven Samurai was remade into The Magnificent Seven and Sholay was inspired from that.
Is there any recent movie you wished you were a part of?
Shounak Majumder, Asutosh College
Some of the more recent films that the new generation is making are such wonderful examples, whether it is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar or Gangs of Wasseypur, Barfi!, Kahaani, Vicky Donor. I wish I could have been a part of any of these films. But I am happy that makers are keen to make films like these and I hope that they would consider me in the future. I would love to work with these directors. They are creating new standards in the Indian film industry. There is a huge change taking place and it’s wonderful to be a part of that change.