Star of the week: Abhishek Bachchan
I've seen Abhishek Bachchan being mobbed. In Kolkata, where he's currently shooting for Rituparno Ghosh's "Antar Mahal", shrieking girls greeted his appearance at a studio.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
"Now I feel some of what dad goes through all the time," Abhishek said as he smiled and waved back.
As I saw this, I cut through the appreciative screams to a flashback eight years ago at a function to felicitate Anup Jalota where I saw Abhishek for the first time. He was with his mother, the ever-attentive son listening closely to every word she said. Abhishek sat a row behind where I was seated along with one of my magazine editors.
To say that Abhishek was the cynosure of all eyes would be no exaggeration. Everyone at the function was whispering about his debut in films and his association with Karisma Kapoor.
I asked my editor-friend for an introduction. But to my puzzlement he ignored the request. It took me years to realise that journalists guard their star contacts in Mumbai more fiercely than women protect their recipes.
Today I'm proud and happy to say I'm very close to the Bachchans, and Abhishek is a like a sibling.
Abhishek is naturally and irreversibly gregarious. There isn't a vain bone in his body. He gets annoyed when I call him the male Rani Mukherjee just as he calls me "Uncle" to annoy me.
We are more chums than two guys separated by a generation. Unlike some other stars who try oh-so-hard to be friendly, Abhishek needs to make no effort in that direction. Of all the youngsters I know in the film industry, Abhishek is by far the most affable. He reaches out instinctively.
He makes it a point to be friendly even to those whom he hardly knows. My friend Sanjeev Kohli, the CEO of Yashraj Films, says: "The Bachchans have many huge achievements to their credit. But I feel Abhishek is their greatest achievement. Today when 'Dhoom' is successful, everyone feels happy for him. He generates only goodwill."
Anyone who tells you that Abhishek is vain or arrogant about being a Bachchan is a liar. Neither proud nor modest about his tremendous pedigree, Abhishek would have been who he is regardless of his surname.
That mischievous glint in his eye often manifests itself in harmless pranks.
"I am terribly upset with you," he called to say recently. The voice was serious. For a split second I got taken in... and then a loud hyena-like laugher. Another time, he said: "My mother doesn't wish to speak to you. She has asked me to convey this message..." And then Jaya Bachchan's voice in the background: "Oh, shut up, Abhishek!"
Abhishek can make you squirm with his jokes. Once in front of his dad, he suddenly turned to me to ask: "Who's a better actor, Amitabh Bachchan or Naseeruddin Shah?"
It was my turn to tell him to shut up. Over the years that I've known this Bachchan junior, we've established a comfort level that goes way beyond an ordinary journalist-actor relationship.
I've been with him through his most trying period after his break-up with Kareena Kapoor. I know the true facts about what happened between them. All I can say is: hats off to Abhishek for having endured, suffered and borne whatever pain he did.
Today that experience has made him so wary that Abhishek doesn't allow himself to get into any other relationship. Nor is he a frivolous person to get into flings and one-night stands.
He loves the company of his friends, men and women alike, of whom he has quite an impressive roster. You can often catch him with either a bunch of them or with one of them at home or at a restaurant having a ball.
But there's a bleeding heart under that prankish, mischievous front that understands a friend's predicament immediately. Once, when at 2.30 a.m., a very drunk, very badly behaved male superstar was giving me major grief, I ran into Abhishek in a hotel lobby.
"What happened to you?" he asked immediately. I told him. In no time at all, Abhishek led the sizzled, bratty superstar away from me. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I don't think being a Bachchan was a problem for Abhishek even when he didn't have a big success like "Dhoom" or hugely lauded performances like "Yuva" and "Phir Milenge" to his credit. It was people around him who presumed Abhishek would've tonnes of attitude because of his surname.
But I know better. There's no better son, grandson or friend in Bollywood... I've seen him being equally attentive and gentle in all three roles and I'm sure there can be no better spouse either.