At 75, Big B just keeps on going
In case people haven't noticed, Amitabh Bachchan has stopped giving interviews since the second half of 2017. Even when his 75th birthday arrived, he was steadfast in his resolve to stay mum.
When he makes up his mind to do something, no mountain can move Mr B to change his mind. And no one had better try either.
This year, Mr B has decided to train for his role as a football coach in Nagraj Manjule's JHUND, although he is not required to play much football on camera for the film.
Mr B's logic: "I know I don't play football. But the audience doesn't know that."
Every year, the cynics think he will wear himself out. Each time, Mr B surprises his fans and dismays the cynics by re-inventing himself without seeming to.
In 2017, Mr B was heard more than seen. While he was seen in only one film last year, namely Ram Gopal Varma's SARKAR 3, Mr B did voiceovers for as many as three - Srijit Mukherjee's BEGUM JAAN, new director Sankalp Reddy's THE GHAZI ATTACK and Rajiev Dhingra's FIRANGI.
Among the many monumental achievements of his career, the multitude of narrations and voiceovers form a peculiar place in Mr B's oeuvre.
Once I asked him why is the profusion of voice performances and he said, "Bhai, kya karen? They are all friends who want me to do this for them. How can I say no to them? Tomorrow if you direct a film and ask me to be part of it, would I be able to say no?"
Mr B doesn't say no to friends. Years ago, a desperate filmmaker needed Mr B to make a guest appearance in a Kannada film about a man who must fulfil his wife's dying wish to meet her favourite actor. When I requested Mr B, he not only did the needful but refused to accept a single penny.
This happened 10 years ago. That spirit of must-do remains. Last year, a friend's daughter from the US wanted to meet Mr B. As usual, the request was followed up from his office by his incredibly efficient secretary Rosy and an appointment fixed with a request that the guest reach the venue five minutes before the appointed time.
Mr B doesn't pause to congratulate himself or to introspect. He just moves on. In 2018, he has huge plans. Besides brushing up his footballing skills to play the football coach, there is a very hush-hush plan by R. Balki - and I don't know whether I should be talking about this, but what the hell - to bring Mr B and Sridevi together in an autumnal love story on the lines of "Bridges Of Madison County".
Then, of course, there is director Vijay Krishna Acharya's THUGS OF HINDOSTAN, where Mr B is doing the most daring stunts ever. For the last 20 years, his family, especially wife Jaya, has been imploring him to give up the dangerous stuff.
"But does he listen? He will just say Okay to our pleas and then do as he pleases," grumbles Jaya.
Sure enough, Mr B has landed up with an arm in a sling. When I asked him how it happened, he shot back testily: "My arm is in a sling only so that you can ask me how it happened."
Physical discomfort is nothing new to him.
"What does one do? One just bears with it, goes on working as best as possible," says the man who inspires us all to hope that 75 is actually the new 40.
The most annoying question you can ask him is how do you go on so tirelessly? I've got a range of responses to that from him.
Stubbornly, I ask the question again, and he says, "You make it sound like an accusation. How do I go on? I go on because my body allows me to, until it allows me to. I am just glad I am not sitting in a corner in a wheelchair."
Moral of the Bachchan story: When you are rocking, why think about the rocking chair?
[By Subhash K Jha]