And yet he has never lost faith in humankind.
I remember during my first meeting with him, AB hardly spoke. He was attentive and warm. But there was no real verbal interaction from him. The next morning on the sets of a film he was a different person. “I hope I was talking sense yesterday. Because I was heavily medicated for a health problem,” he told me.
I didn’t tell him that there was hardly any talk to talk about.
It takes him a while to find a comfort zone even with the people he trusts. Once there, he’s all there. Whether it’s Anil Ambani or a simple non-celebrity journalist from Patna, AB is equally proud of his association with all his true friends. He doesn’t measure their value in his life by their social standing or their bank accounts.
It’s a slow and cautious process but if he gives you his friendship, it is unconditional and also irrevocable, unless you happen to do something to hurt him radically. People very close to him have done him immense damage. These betrayals haven’t made him bitter or cautious in his dealings with human-beings. They’ve just left him a bit baffled and bruised.
But his attitude to human contact remains supremely positive. Amitji loves to reach out to people, make new friends… He loves to connect with his son Abhishek’s generation. “Whenever I shoot with the younger generation I want to socialize with them, go out to a discotheque, freak out… But they seem uncomfortable with me,” he was crestfallen.
Not too many people know about the fun side of Amitji. He’s a great one for SMS, our mega-star is. The messages can be pithy or funny or both.
But they make their point tellingly. I’m not at liberty to share some of his naughtier messages here. But I will say one thing. At 70, AB remains the youngest person in the Bachchan household. When he’s at home with family or with close friends he’s completely relaxed. And often wickedly humorous.
All the 4 Bachchans, AB, Jaya, Aishwarya and Abhishek are great hosts. One of the things that I look forward to in Mumbai is my evening at Jalsa, the Bachchan residence. Each time I’m invited for a meal Jaya and Abhishek make sure I’ve a perfect evening. And if for some reason the head of the family is unable to be home he makes sure to call to say he hopes I enjoy myself in his absence.
You’ve heard reams about AB’s professionalism. But you still haven’t heard enough. I’ve known this astounding workaholic to sweat it out under worst possible circumstances without a word of complaint.
In Los Angeles for Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante, Amitji had a severe back problem and a tooth that felt like labour pains in the mouth. He not only bore all the pain he shot action sequences and made sure the shooting didn’t suffer on his account. While shooting for Gaurang Doshi’s Deewaar Amitji was ensconced for hours together in a set depicting a cave which was barely 5 feet in height. At the end of the day he couldn’t stand straight. But there wasn’t a word of complain.
It’s because he voluntarily bends down to fulfill his professional commitments that he can stand so tall, so above all, where his colleagues and contemporaries in the film industry have to look up to him with binoculars.
Most important of all, Amitji is a man of tremendous integrity. If you’re a friend he’ll go out of his way to accommodate you. The number of films he has done recently just to bail out old friends from financial troubles, is legion.
Once a non-Hindi actor needed Amitji to put in a flash guest appearance. Since I knew exactly how crowded his schedule was I was hesitant to ask. But since this was a really close friend who genuinely needed AB’s presence in his film, I sent him an SMS.
The response was immediate. And positive. Of course he would do it!
If I ever make a film (which is doubtful) I know one star who will unquestioningly support my endeavor, and that’s Amitji. I can’t say the same about any one else in the industry. I only have to see that unflinching look of warm acceptance in his eyes to know that this man means business. Or rather, he means a lot more than just business.