He comes from a renowned showbiz family of actors with parents like Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan. But as a kid, he says he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to get into acting. However, the junior Bachchan completes 10-years as an actor in this industry and says he never thought he would be able to survive this long in the Hindi film industry.
With his recent release Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, he has proved that he has matured as an actor. In conversation with Businessofcinema.com, he speaks about his experience of working in his first historical film.
You were sent to boarding school abroad at a very early age. How much did you know about Indian history?
Yes, I was sent to boarding school in Europe when I was around 8 or 9 so I did not really know much about Indian history. But I love history. It was one of my favorite subjects and I like learning about culture and past lives, similarly I enjoyed learning about Indian history while making this film. I did not know anything about the Chittagong Uprising till I did this film. Ashu told me about it and I felt that the story should be told and people like Surjyo Sen should be spoken about.
Was it challenging to play a historical character? How did you prepare yourself to play Surjyo Sen?
It was not really challenging to do a historical film. It was easy because you know basically what the character is like. The film is a biopic. It’s not about just one character-Surjyoda or Kalpana Dutta (played by Deepika Padukone).
So, Ashu was okay if we took very little creative liberty in our portrayal of these characters. It was like doing any other film. The film is based on a novel called Do or Die, which only had a detailed account of Chittagong Uprising but there were not many photography evidence of Surjo da and we had no reference so we had to build it ourselves. We researched the entire era. Also the responsibility was huge because it being a historical film, I did not want it to be disrespectful since the current generation does not know much about him. This film would be like a reference. Yes it would have been good if we could have some sort of video footage. That would have helped us to study Surjyo Sen’s body language.
A freedom fighter is known for his sacrifices. Did you sacrifice anything for this film?
I made a very big sacrifice. (Laughs) I shaved my stubble, which I feel very naked without. But I did it all for the cause of cinema and after being pressed by my director.
How did you feel while doing the film?
The patriotic feel that comes out during this film, I’ve never felt it more. It moves us and awakens a huge patriotic sense in us.
Given a choice, which other historical character would you like to play?
Now that I’ve done KHJJS, I’ve tasted blood and would love to do more such characters. I would love to play Chandrashekhar Azad because I like what he stood up for. My grand father met him a few times and he would tell me about him. His heroism attracted me.
The film deals with boys as young as 13 – 14 year olds fighting the revolution. How focused were you when you were that age? What did you take back after playing the character?
Those kids were so focused and also very patriotic, they were fighting a revolution against the British at that age. I don’t think I was really focused when I was 13 or 14, I was just a school kid having fun, busy with the usual stuff like sports, drama etc.
As an actor you always take back a lot from the character you play. Surjo da’s focus and passion for what he wanted, is probably what I will always remember.
You were playing a Bengali character in the film and since your mother Jaya Bachchan is a Bengali what was her reaction when you signed the film?
She was very happy and she said, “You better do a good job!”
How was it working with Deepika Padukone?
It was a good experience working with Deepika. She is very professional. We did a lot of workshops, readings and movement rehearsals. Everybody was fully prepared on the sets. We shot without Deepika as she was busy doing another film and we had a lot of work without her. She came in only about a month into the shooting. She had to pick up half way through but she was very well prepared too. It is commendable that at such a young stage and age in her career, she has decided to take on a role like this and has done it with great élan and a lot of dignity.
What about Ashutosh Gowariker as a director?
I’ve known Ashutosh since the late 1980s. My friend Goldie’s father and my father were producing a film together, Mr Indrajeet. I had come back from the boarding school for my holidays and they were shooting a song. I went on the sets to meet my father along with Goldie. We saw this really tall guy with an awkward mop of hair and a knife sticking into his neck and coming out from the other. He looked cool with a knife sticking and walking. That was my first memory of Ashutosh. We’ve wanted to work with each other since long and thankfully we both got the opportunity. He is among one of India’s best directors.
You are completing 10 years in the industry. How has your journey been and what changes do you see in yourself over the years?
The journey has been good. I would like to believe that I learnt a lot. I can definitely say I am a better actor today than I was in Refugee. I never thought I would make it through 10 years. I didn’t think they would give me a chance.
Like your father Amitabh Bachchan, you are also an avid tweeter.
Yes I think tweeting is very enriching. Also I get a very unbiased and a fresh perspective when I tweet. People have direct access to you and vice-versa.
Now that the year is coming to an end, how would you sum it up?
It has been a very eventful year and a busy year too. The year has kept me on my toes. I have had very little time for family. However, I am glad I got to be part of some wonderful films. Now I am looking forward to the coming year when I start my film with Aneez Bazmee called Players and also Hera Pheri 4.