You have collaborated with Amitabh Bachchan after 27 years, how was the chemistry different and has it changed over the years?
Yes, that was 27 years ago. We did five films together KABHI KABHIE (1976), AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY (1977), NASEEB (1981), COOLIE (1983), AJOOBA (1991). All of them were successful, however AJOOBA wasn’t as successful, but today it clicks with children.
You made a name for yourself as a romantic hero. The late 1980s saw the three Khans emerge. At any point did you feel disappointed and decided to step back?
I worked as a romantic hero for the first 25 years of my life. The first was BOBBY (1973), and the last film was KAROBAAR (2000). I had started to put on weight, I wasn’t getting roles. I was only wearing sweaters, singing songs, I was making money, but I wasn’t doing any good work. My wife Neetu Singh told me that if you are getting bored, then you should take a break. The emerging Khans became better choices for romantic films than me. I voluntarily returned the money to the producers [films that he signed but opted out of]. Issey pehle public mujhe joote maarke, publicly bezati karke niklade [before they insult and kick me out], I realised I had to take a break and then work as a character actor.
Do you think actors of your age get such character roles back then in 80’s and 90’s this wasn’t prevalent?
The audience was not such. I remember doing some films in which I too wasn’t convinced but audience would like it, nowadays audiences are smart they are educated and learned. They demand because they are ready to spend that much.
In a world that is obsessed with youth, it is refreshing to see a film where the two leading characters are over 70 years old.
I’m happy that today these kind of films are being welcomed. Hindi cinema is very youth-oriented. That image is breaking. Indian audiences also are improving. With the advent of multiplexes, where tickets are highly priced, compared to the single screens audiences, where tickets would be priced Rs 60-70. Their sensibilities will never match. Films like BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN (2015), DANGAL (2016) would work everywhere, but most content-oriented films will only work in a multiplex. The multiplex audiences only want to see good films.
Besides, our films are now doing well overseas. I was in New York 10 days ago. I went to a multiplex that was playing four Indian films there was BLACKMAIL, BAAGHI 2, SUBEDAR JOGINDER SINGH and there was one Telugu film. You can’t make a crap film like we did in the 1970’s.
You along with Amitabh Bachchan have sung the Badumba song, were you comfortable singing?
Amitabh composed and crooned the track. It's my character who is crooning. Is it sung in the right tone is immaterial, all that doesn’t matter. I was told to sing and initially I wasn’t convinced but then when I was asked its not me but the character sings I am all okay with it. This song is a promotional song and is not there in the film.
What is that one quality of your character in the film which really pulled you towards it?
I feel the respect that he has for his father, although he is old, grumpy and always cribbing he fights and argues with his father but he listens and respects him a lot. this essence of the character is what I liked about him. there are instances wherein his father drags him to court he still doesn’t lose his calm.
Which is your favorite film with him?
AMAR AKBAR ANONTHY is still fresh in the minds of the people.