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Still the BUSY B

Amitabh Bachchan in a free-wheeling chat with SREEDHAR PILLAI


AMITABH BACHCHAN, at 62, is arguably the most popular film star in the history of Indian cinema. He has become part of Indian movie folklore and his mass appeal cuts across barriers of region, age, gender and class. The icon whose screen image was that of "an angry young man" with his fiery dialogue and baritone voice is still a major draw at the box-office. Almost every week this summer there has been a new Bachchan release and added to that his endorsements and public causes have made him a mega brand. Last week, he was in Chennai dubbing at director Priyadarshan's state-of-the-art "Four Frames" studio for veteran producer director S. Ramanathan's "Zamanat." Excerpts from an interview...

This summer you had a release every Friday!

I have switched to doing character roles, which give me ample scope to do more films.

Don't you feel there is a possibility of over-exposure?

Throughout my career I have been doing three to four films at the same time. Now that I am into character roles I need to give only about 20 to 25 days for a film. And the length of the character that I play is much smaller than that of the hero. So there is no question of over-exposure.

How come you are in Chennai to dub for "Zamanat" when you could have done it in Mumbai?

Ramnathji is the first director who gave me that big break in "Bombay To Goa" which made me acceptable as a hero in commercial cinema. So when he asked me to come down to Chennai to dub for the film I readily agreed. And the facilities here are on a par with any studio in Mumbai.

How do you rate the south Indian film industry?

The work culture in Kollywood is thoroughly professional. See, I completed the dubbing for this film in just two days. And there is an added advantage... as I am a vegetarian I love the food here, especially the `dosas'(laughs).

You once denounced politics. But now you are closely associated with the Samajwadi Party and Jayaji has also become a Rajya Sabha member. Why this change of mind?

I have always kept my promise not to enter politics. In the past, I made some mistakes which I tried to rectify. Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party is a close friend whom I respect a lot. There is nothing more to it.

Your son Abhishek has been getting a lot of accolades for his role in "Yuva".

I saw "Yuva" at the IAFA Awards in Singapore and was impressed with his performance. As a father, I am really proud of him. He worked hard on the role and it has paid off.

What are your forthcoming films?

My next release will be "Kyon Ho Gaya Na" where I play Aishwarya's uncle who unites her with her lover played by Vivek Oberoi. Then there is "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiya" directed by Anil Sharma in which I play an Army general. After that it is "Black" directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali where I play teacher to Rani Mukherjee who dons the role of a hearing impaired and visually challenged person. Then comes Yash Chopra's yet-to-be-titled film set in Amritsar featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Rani and Preity. More films are in the pipeline.

Why are you doing so many endorsements?

I agree I am brand ambassador to quite a few products. But I go through the endorsement script with a fine-tooth comb and do only those that give me creative satisfaction. Do you know that I recently refused to endorse a popular brand of flashlight? The 40 seconds was to show a bridegroom walk away from a `pandal' when the bride's father was unable to give him a particular brand of torch as dowry! I declined as it seemed to encourage the dowry system. I have also refused coffee and tea ads mainly because I don't drink either and would not like to be featured in a caffeine beverage ad.

Is Indian commercial cinema growing?

It is booming, especially overseas. A British store like Selfridges recently decorated its windows in Hindi film style to attract buyers! I always believe that when a country progresses economically it is noticed.

Suddenly Indian food, fashion, television and cinema are popular worldwide.

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