AB baby's day out
By : Khalid Mohamed

My task at hand is to snatch a conversation with Amitabh Bachchan. Conscious that I've to pack in as many questions as I humanly can before my subject hastens off chorewards, I ask right off:

Why are you working your pants off?

No, I'm not. I'm just working to the extent that is required of me for my films. I'm doing four to five films... some more are being discussed, but there's no confirmation on them yet.

So are we going to see a new you?

I'm going to be 55. Audiences remember seeing me in my 30s and 40s. There has been quite a time gap.

Are you enjoying your return to the camera, lights and studios?

I'm happy that I'm working again. It's been fine so far, not disorienting at all. But maybe my body doesn't respond to the demands the way it used to. All said and done, I'm working to the extent that it is medically permissible.

Are you at peace with yourself and your career?

I've never been at peace with myself or my career. There is always an anxiety and apprehension. The question--whether I'm doing the right thing?--always remains with me. I have to address this question today to many other spheres besides films--to the (ABCL) corporation and to my other activities. I guess I've always been a worrier. I worry about everything--will my film work out?...the corporation... is all well with my family?... how am I going to be looking?... and of course, where the press is going to hit me next.

What is the nicest thing that has been said about you?

Gosh, I'll have to dig that cutting out from my attic.

So many stories circulate about ABCL...

So what else is new? It was envisaged as a corporation which would be successful and keep its share-holders happy. And we have met with success--as in the distribution of the films Bombay, Bandit Queen and Saajan Chale Sasural. Sazaa-e-Kaalapaani and Tere Mere Sapne haven't been losing propositions either.

Then the Big B audio company was launched at the Filmfare Awards show last year. And many of our cassettes have figured in the Top Ten hit parade. In terms of event management, we gave a new grand and elaborate structure to the dandiya functions. We set new standards there and also at the Miss World show, despite all the criticism.

Do you see yourself as an actor, a corporate man or an entrepreneur today?

None of these. I see myself as a very normal, confused and apprehensive 55-year-old human being. And now, of course, also as the father of a bride.

What kind of feelings did you go through when Shweta announced, "Father, I'm going to get married"?

Oh, that is indeed a very peculiar moment in every father's life. Your whole life suddenly flashes before you, right from the moment she was born to today. Suddenly, there you are saying to yourself, "Hey, she's going away from me." Did you also go through the feeling that you'll be a grandfather some day? That's the next logical step... that'll happen.

You talk about the body... what about the mind?

They go together. The mind takes longer to get damaged. (Deadpan) But my family thinks I've already gone cuckoo.

Have you undergone hair-weaving?

(Bemused) No, I haven't. I just add a little bit of colour to my hair, cover up the empty spaces and hit the floor. My chin, of course, is held up because I've stapled it. I tuck in my stomach and keep smiling.

Okay, now how has Mrityudaata shaped up?

That's not for me to say. I'm not comfortable talking about my projects.

What do you wish for then?

I wish I was more decisive. I take too long to make up my mind. Most of the time, I'm not sure of myself.

What would you buy if I were to give you a million bucks to spend in a day?

Are you serious about giving me money? Please do.

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

Two--both black.

Do you think you are a special actor?

Not at all. For me, Dilipsaab, Waheedaji and Naseeruddin Shah are special. Among today's lot of actors, I have the highest regard for Shah Rukh Khan, Govinda, Ajay Devgan, Aamir Khan, Jackie Shroff... and Salman Khan who stands out even in roles that aren't meaty.

Do you want to act forever?

I don't know. As long as my face and body are acceptable... the day they aren't, I'll stop.

Now a question on your current leading ladies. Do you think they are right for you?

I'm extremely fortunate to have been teamed with Manisha Koirala and Shilpa Shetty in Lal Badshah... though they may regret the decision later, because I'm not in their age group. I'm having a great time, though. And I've been teamed in two films with Dimple Kapadia who's looking lovely. Then I'm doing a film with Vijayashanti and there's Major Saab with Nafisa Ali. In Lal Badshah, there's a portion in which I've to be younger... and therefore, the younger ladies.

Have you ever thought about the last shot you'd like to do before going?

Why are we talking about my last shot? Are you keen for me to leave?

Well, I wanted to know if you have any great ambitions that you'd like to realise.

To answer this, I will have to resort to the cliched line, "My best is yet to come." I've been talking with Govind (Nihalani) and others. I hope these projects materialise because they sound good. They're different from escapist fare.

Would you like to direct some day?

I'm hesitant to make a comment on this. I'm not accomplished enough. But who can say about tomorrow?

Has Jaya ever told you about the sort of films she'd like to see you in?

She excelled herself in a particular genre of films, with Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar. Ideally, she'd like to see me in those kind of films.

So what's holding you back?

One doesn't have to obey one's wife. In domestic give-and-take, that's not part of the deal.