Interview/Amitabh Bachchan

'If we had said no to Miss World, it would have been interpreted as India saying we didn't have the capability of doing it'

The superstar defends his decision to hold the Miss World contest, in an interview with Sunday editor Vir Sanghvi

How will the contest benefit India?

Amitabh Bachchan In several ways. The most obvious one is that people will that we're not a primitive country that is incapable of hosting a mega event. They will realise that we can do it better than a Western country.

For me, that was the prime consideration. If we had said no to Miss World, it would have been interpreted as India saying that we didn't have the capability of doing it.

The live telecast will bring us to the forefront of the consciousness of so many viewers in 151 countries. That alone is a major achievement.

I know what the prejudice can be like. In 1990, I held a concert at Wembley Stadium in London, a venue that is only used by major rock groups and big stars. I did it because I wanted to prove that an Indian music, dance, language and costumes. Foreigners have no idea of the diversity of India and its culture. We hope to be able to give them a glimpse of that diversity.

Who's going to be doing the show?

We have some of the most talented people in India participating. Ilayaraja has specially composed the music and both Mallika Sarabhai and Prabhu Deva will dance. Alisha Chinai will sing Made In India and we hope to have one Indian compere, probably a girl.

I'm not going to reveal too much. But I think it is fair to say that there has never been a spectacle that provides a taste of Indian culture with this level of sophistication, professionalism and quality.

See the show. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

How much of the controversy is because of you, personally?

In what sense?

In the sense that you seem to have a way of attracting controversy. Nobody objects to other people's beauty contests. But the moment Amitabh Bachchan gets involved, it becomes controversial.

I can't answer that question. I see what you're getting at. But it's up to the media to answer that question.

It must get a little tiring, shuttling from one controversy to another.

I've got used to it. That seems to be my destiny (smiles).

But I feel sorry for the people who work for me. Their effort and dedication gets lost in the needless controversies.

But it is not something that takes them by surprise. My opening words to anybody I hire are: I'm an extremely vulnerable person. This is what has happened to me in the past. I don't know about the future. But you've got to decide if you can cope with the controversies.'

You have been involved in so many different controversies that one sometimes forgets that you're essentially a movie star. What is the return to the studios like?

It's funny but the moment I put on the make-up and went back before the cameras, it was like I had never been away. After five years, I though it would feel strange. But it was not at all awkward.

How many movies are you making at the moment?

Amitabh Bachchan in Mrityudata Two films are on the floor. Mrityudata is about 60 per cent complete -- perhaps more. We're aiming for a February release.

Another, as yet untitled film with S Ramanathan is also progressing.

Then, I am about to start K C Bokadia's movie and I start shooting Tinnu Anand's Major Saab with Ajay Devgan.

We've finally found a script we like for Indra Kumar's movie with Madhuri and Amir and that'll go on the floor soon.

That's quite a lot. But it isn't very different from what you've done before.

Well, a lot of it is quite different. I'm trying to play my age which is not something they've let me do very often before (laughs).

And yes, I'm very keen to make an offbeat movie. I've had several meetings with Govind Nihalani and we're quite optimistic that the project we've discussed will come off.

Do you find that the industry has changed?

Yes, I do I find that co-workers are much more impersonal and detached than they used to be ten years ago. Of course, there is still a great sense of camaraderie but perhaps it is because techniques have changed or whatever. For whatever reason, I find the industry a more impersonal place.

The only qualification I would make is that people of my age always say that (laughs). When I was young, all the older actors and actresses would complain about how things had changed and it was very impersonal. So I'm just following in their footsteps.

How long do you see yourself doing this?

Oh, a couple of years at the most.

That's two years. You can't be serious.

I don't think I have a choice. Age takes its toll. It may be physically impossible for me to keep up this pace any longer.

You sound very concerned about age.

Miss World '96 Logo Yes, I've always been very anxious about it.

Oddly enough, as your physical capacity decreases with age, the expectations go up.

That's the most frightening part. People's expectations are so high that its scares me. And it's almost impossible to live up to it.