'I don't have many friends'
Amitabh Bachchan continues his chat with Vir Sanghvi.
I find it hard to believe that somebody will say that Amitabh Bachchan does not live up to the high standards of Mrityudata. But more seriously, does the criticism get to you? Does it hurt you?
What about you? You've come out of retirement and suddenly after Mrityudata, everybody's writing your professional obituary.
In some respects, it is not wrong. The film has bombed. Yes, I am ageing. But, as I said, what has age got to do with acting?
But does the criticism hurt?
How do you react to some of the abuse and ridicule in the Press?
I think it's difficult to speak freely about such moments. But I think one just keeps quiet and sits back and allows these things to go over you. What else can you do? You are helpless.
Has it affected your morale?
No, it hasn't
You never feel like giving up?
As long as I have the strength inside me to fight, I will fight.
Can I ask you a question that people always ask, though probably not to your face? Are you shy and reserved? Or are you just arrogant?
Neither, I'm scared. (Laughs.) By temperament, I am quiet and a lot of times this attitude is misconstrued. I am shy. I am distant from any normal given situation. It takes me a long time to get accustomed to people. New situations are very disturbing to me. I'm awkward at socialising.
I've seen you at parties. You clutch a soft drink and hang around in a corner.
I stay in the background. But if there is an environment where friends are around, then I am happy.
Even when other people are dancing at parties, you are awkward to dance to the songs that made you famous.
Ah, but that's because that was work. When I have to shake a leg at work, it's part of the job. Real life is different. But if people are insistent, then I do it just to make them happy.
So it's a performance?
Do you have many friends?
Could you count them on the fingers of one hand?
Oh gosh, that sounds terrible. No, I don't have many friends.
Why is that? Is that because you don't trust people?
It's not got anything to do with that. I find the whole process of meeting, of introductions, of getting close to each other, the whole process of friendship -- I just don't fall in place there.
And the friends you have, are they all from the industry?
Some are, and some are not. And I think that we're friends because they are able to understand this aspect of me. So they never impose themselves or their friendship on me. And I like that.
Would you say that Rajiv Gandhi (the former prime minister who was assassinated) was your best friend?
Was it a very great shock to you when he died?
Yes, it was.
Tell us about it.
I was in London to fight a case on the Bofors issue. As you know, I decided to fight to clear my name and everything but also for the sake of posterity. I was going to leave my reputation behind for my children, and I needed to tell them what the truth was. Not just my children, but the whole nation. So I single-handedly took on a prime minister and his entire government to prove them wrong. So I was in London. There was a break in the case for a day, and when I got back in the afternoon, I got the news. It was shocking to say the least. I made preparations to get back to Delhi as soon as possible.
What was your first reaction when you heard the news?
You forget how you react in moments like this. But you go through a sense of numbness. I tried to contact his family -- which was my first reaction. I tried to contact my own family -- which was my second reaction. Then, the next thing was to gather everybody and to go back home.
Tell me about Rajiv. What is your most lasting memory of him?
His commitment was more resolute and one admired him for it. But basically he was a good human being, and I don't think that politics is really a good place for good human beings.
There is a constant rumour that there is now some kind of rift between you and the Gandhis.
No, we have always been friends. And we will continue to be friends.
But as far as you're concerned, decent people shouldn't go into politics.
For myself, yes, definitely. Politics is completely out. I was a misfit. I do not understand politics, but apart from that I don't think that I'm temperamentally suited to the game.
Read the Bachchan interview from beginning:
The Big B Interview, Part I: 'I have never been confident about my career'
The Big B Interview, Part II: 'What has age got to do with acting?'
The Big B Interview, Part III: 'Beggars can't be choosers'
The Big B Interview, Part IV: 'I don't have many friends'
The Big B Interview, Part V: 'I will leave when I feel that people don't want me'