Abhishek - sensitive to the bone, rough on the surface
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The first time I spoke to Abhishek Bachchan, who turns 31 Monday, was also the first time he spoke to the press.
"You're the one person dad (Amitabh) has asked me to speak to," he told me. There was no trace of nervousness in his voice, no tentativeness and certainly no fear of the unknown.
This was a week before the release of J.P. Dutta's "Refugee" (2000), his debut vehicle. Much water has flown under the bridge since then.
Abhishek and I share a very special bond.
Chronologically I come right in the middle of Abhishek and his dad. So, I am able to share a warm bonding with both.
Abhishek is hard to beat in arguments. He talks you down with such intense velocity that you are left looking helplessly around for help. The last time it happened, I looked pleadingly at his dad for help. Amitabh smiled and shrugged, like a referee who had left the fighters to their own devices.
Here's the test for how much Abhishek cares for you. If he takes you on verbally any time anywhere, he's a buddy.
The gentler side is kept for critical occasions. I remember being stuck in my hotel room with a drunk, badly behaved enfant-terrible actor who refused to leave. I had met Abhishek in the lobby of the hotel earlier in the evening.
"Help me!" I had SMS-ed from my room to Abhishek down below. Within seconds Abhishek rescued me from my misery by calling up the sozzled superstar, and sat with him in the hotel's coffee shop till the wee hours of the morning, hearing the blather of an inebriated brat.
To this day I wonder if Abhishek endured that night's verbal assault only because of me?
This young scion of the Bachchan household does go out on his limb. Extremely attuned to the other person's sensitivities, Abhishek outwardly seems to be constantly sardonic.
His sensitive side isn't there for everyone to see. I've seen him at the start of his career being pushed around and ridiculed by self-styled movie critics who predicted Abhishek would never make it.
He held his own admirably. But sometimes the hurt and confusion of trying to live up to his parents' reputation shone through.
As the flops poured out Abhishek once told me, "I think people are very confused about what they want from me. It's a two-way sword, which will hang on my head for the rest of my life. I think it will take time for people to understand what I am all about and what they want from me.
"In the meanwhile I'll just carry on doing what I want to do and what I believe in doing. If I falter, then there's no point in being an actor. Sometimes I feel people don't understand what I'm doing on screen."
I remember a colleague warning me that I am making myself look ridiculous with my constant support for Abhishek. Two years later he was spotted waiting for two hours outside Abhishek's van at a studio.
I've seen Abhishek go through the worst emotional hurt of his life. Not that he ever speaks too much about his personal life. But during that time I saw his raw hurt.
It was a heartbreaking moment. And I wondered when he'd get out of it. But Abhishek snapped out of his pain before friends had the chance to get overly concerned.
Today, Abhishek is at his peak, sharing shoes and success with his iconic father. The prolonged period of struggle has done Abhishek a world of good. He's cautious about stardom, adulation and appellations such as 'sexy' and 'iconic'.
It's amazing how much Abhishek sounds like his father when he speaks about success. They both believe one must respect success, but not be a slave to it. They both have a penchant for picking the proper words in their interviews without sounding rehearsed or laboured.
Of course, Abhishek is far less guarded off the record. But even with his closest friends he keeps a certain distance.
You can't step into the very private enclave in Abhishek's heart, no matter who you are.
Leave that bit aside and you're welcome into his world. The warmth that you see in his personality on screen connects so instantaneously with audiences because it isn't faked.
Abhishek can never harm because he doesn't know how to...