Bachchan family bonds as book reprint released in Singapore

There was lots of family bonding when the third reprint of the biography of Indian cinema icon Amitabh Bachchan was released Saturday, with a promise that proceeds from its sale will go to those in need in the film industry.

Seeking permission from the people attending the launch of the book "To Be or Not to Be", compiled by journalist Khalid Mohammed and Jaya Bachchan, the wife of the screen legend said: "I'd like to begin on a little family note."

"Since the last four years, the press (and) people kept asking me about the family and especially my son Abhishek. I have not been able to make public statements, but I would like to take the opportunity this evening after seeing your work (to say): 'My son, you were brilliant! I love you!'"

Jaya was referring to the release the previous night of Abhishek's latest film, "Yuva", as the premiere film at this year's IIFA Weekend being held here.

Although critics have generally panned the film by renowned south Indian filmmaker Mani Ratnam as a whole, Abhishek has been lauded for his performance as one of the central characters in the film.

"Our support in the family has been family, with some very, very good friends whom we have depended on always. Khalid is one of them.

"This book would not have been possible without the support of my children. Unfortunately my daughter is not here but my son is."

As Abhishek looked on somewhat embarrassedly from his seat in the second row, his mother exhorted him: "Would you like to come and join us, baby?"

As Abhishek joined his father on a sofa, Jaya said: "It's a very proud moment for me to see the father and son together, sharing a chair."

Jaya explained how the book came about.

"One was working so hard and there was no record, except with the family which kept the press clippings. I wanted to do something special for him on his 50th birthday. I thought of the book. Some of our friends encouraged me, spoke to the family and the kids said: 'Go ahead, Mom', promising to contribute in writing.

"It was a tough task, easier said than done. Khalid was there like a little soldier, on time, very disciplined because of his 27 years at the Times of India."

The book was released on Amitabh's 60th birthday.

Because the book had not been released in Singapore, Jaya decided to make it available here because IIFA, of which Amitabh is the Brand Ambassador, was taking place.

Abhishek added: "When ma (mother) asked my sister and me to write something on our father, we felt it was about time we stepped up and officially said something about him, because we felt he was reaching a milestone in his life, which was his 60th birthday."

Jaya said she had decided with Khalid to upgrade the book and do a paperback version as well.

"It will take us a while, because I think we have to change a lot of it. We want to make it available to a larger number of people.

"A lot of people found this book a little heavy to carry, a little difficult to read, and a little expensive. I don't think it is that expensive, because it was an expensive book to make."

Before signing copies of the book for local buyers, Amitabh handed a copy to the chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, Lim Neo Chian. The book was printed in Singapore.

Describing the ceremony as "embarrassing" to him because "your own product is being introduced by your own family members", Amitabh said it was more the cause for which it had been done. Proceeds will go to IIFA Foundation.

Recalling the mutual banning of communication between him and the press for almost 18 years, Amitabh said Khalid Mohammed had been the one journalist he had spoken to regularly during that period.

"What do you say about your wife, who decides to write a book on her husband?"

Turning to Jaya, Amitabh said: "Thank you wife, we'll talk about it later tonight. The same goes for my son, Abhishek, who's been more a friend than a son.

"I think this is something I had decided even before he was born - that if I ever had a son, I would treat him like a friend, and I hope that I have been a good friend to him and will continue to be one."