Abhishek Bachchan on Manmarziyaan: Done being comfortable, want to do films that scare me

Abhishek Bachchan has a spring in his step. He can’t stop talking about his upcoming release, Anurag Kashyap-directed Manmarziyaan alongside Taapsee Pannu and Vicky KaushalReleasing 14 September, it marks Bachchan’s return after a two-year hiatus. Housefull 3 was Abhishek’s last outing in 2016. Armed with his wit, panache and an awareness, he seems to have stepped out of his comfort zone and wants to be with the times when it comes to content. “Why justify my love for Taapsee’s character in the film? He just loves her. I may have been part of some good films in the past but this is a very exciting time for the industry,” he says. Dressed in a T-shirt, blue jeans and blue jacket, he’s raring to go with about five films in his kitty, one of which he plans to start sometime end of this month.

Abhishek Bachchan. Image via Twitter/ @ErosNow

“What attracted me to Manmarziyaan was that it’s Anurag’s first love story. I was very keen to know what this guy would do with it. A lot of people might think that it’s a deterrent but that is what attracted me to it,” says Abhishek in an exclusive chat with Firstpost. And as his voice drowns in the din of loud music, he doesn’t care, he continues, “That dark, gritty tone that we usually see in Anurag’s films is missing in Manmarziyaan. Isn’t that fun? Anurag and love story are not the two things we see together very often. It’s interesting to see how he has interpreted the story.”

Karan (Johar) was very excited for me when I told him I was doing this film. He told me that Anurag gives the best notes in between takes and the way he briefs. I asked Karan that how did he know, and he said because he has acted for him (laughs out loud). After the first day of the shoot I called Karan and told him that he was absolutely right. Because Anurag is also an actor himself, because he is such a good writer and director he understands an actor’s approach, so the kind of pointers he gives you are just fantastic. I was so pleasantly surprised working with him,” says Abhishek.

For Abhishek, calling Manmarziyaan his comeback film is a trivial matter. “I have been around for too long to think about it. I took that decision of going on a sabbatical because I wanted to change things. I felt I was becoming very complacent towards my approach towards work. And now I am back to work. Now whether you want to call it as a comeback or not is your choice. I am just happy to be making movies again. More than refreshed, I feel re-focussed. I was becoming very complacent. It wasn’t the kind of work that I was doing, it was the way I was doing it. Today, if I feel comfortable in any particular film or genre, I will never do it. I am done being comfortable. That was one of the main problems I was having. When you are too comfortable then you start switching off. It doesn’t matter to you anymore. I don’t want to do something I can do with my eyes closed. I want to do films that really scare me, I want to do work that challenges me and makes me uncomfortable,” he says.

“The prep and preamble to getting back on the set was terrifying. But once I was on set it was back to business. That something fortunately didn’t throw me off. And the credit for that goes to Anurag. He made me just so comfortable. Somewhere he also understood what I was going through and the expectations I had of myself,” he adds.

Abhishek plays Robbie, an investment banker from London, who comes to Amritsar to get married. He falls in love with Taapsee’s character, Rumy, to discover that she is in love with somebody else. “I play a very quiet, introverted, strong character and that is what I like. He doesn’t have the usual tropes of what you would probably expect in a love triangle. There is subtlety to him, there is dignity to him,” says the actor, further adding, “I have worked very deeply with Anurag in Yuva. And when he told me my character arc in the film, I have never felt so excited. It’s a very unique love story and it isn’t easy to classify it. It is just beautiful to work with Anurag. He is so wonderful, such a generous and loving director that will come through when you see the film. You will feel that he just loves his actors. Both, Vicky and Taapsee are great actors. This film is written for these two to be cast.”

Abhishek says that his dad, Amitabh Bachchan was his biggest critic and further reveals that it was his dad and Kashyap, who had not liked his performance in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004). “With my dad you get pure honesty. If you do good work he will tell you that. If you haven’t done good work he will tell you what you have done wrong. My dad felt my performance in Yuva was very efforted. That time I didn’t understand but today when I see the film I agree with him. But he liked my performance in Guru,” says Abhishek, who never seemed to mind being compared to his dad. “Even if they are comparing, they are doing it with the greatest. So it is fine. I accepted that long back,” says the actor, who now seems to be more prepared for the industry’s ruthless behaviour. “People’s reactions change. Tomorrow if 10 films of mine are hit, then they are all over you, wanting to sign you. But if three films flop then they won’t even take your calls anymore. I have seen it happen to the biggest of the stars. But you can’t take that personally. It is business,” he says.

J P Dutta’s Paltan that released last week was supposed to be a comeback for Abhishek but the actor pulled out of the film two days before the shooting commenced. It was with Dutta that Abhishek made his debut opposite Kareena Kapoor in the veteran director’s Refugee back in 2000. He later collaborated with the director again on the films LOC Kargil and Umrao Jaan.Without delving into the matter much, the actor merely said, “I was doing Paltan but there were certain situations and personal reasons that I couldn’t end up doing the film. But it was heartbreaking for me because he launched me, he is family for me and it was very difficult for me to not be on this journey with him. But certain relations go beyond work.”

Last seen together in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan (2010), Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai will soon be seen sharing screen space, after eight long years in Sarvesh Mewara’s Gulab Jamun (produced by Anurag Kashyap). “I love working with Aishwarya. She is an unbelievable professional and a wonderful actor. I have enjoyed every film done with her. I also want our home production to start making films again. But I will take about a year-and-a-half to do that,” said Abhishek.

Lastly, we move on to the topic of nepotism, the debate that doesn’t seem to die down and Abhishek says, “Let’s call a spade a spade, let’s be honest. Is it an advantage? Yes. Is that something I am aware of, Yes. Is that something that I have respect for, absolutely, and I don’t undervalue it ever.” “But”, he continues, “I will never forget something that Yash (Chopra) uncle told me at the premiere of Refugee. He said, ‘Child, your father has brought you till the premiere. Tomorrow is your first show but after that it is going to be you because after that if they don’t like your work they will not go to the second show.’ In fact, this industry has far many more examples of industry kids who have not made it than outsiders who have.”

However, Abhishek also points out that how the media was also responsible for “making it exciting for people to go to see somebody’s child”. “For example, the talking point when I was being launched, it was Mr and Mrs Amitabh Bachchan’s son who is coming. You all end up taking pictures of actors’ children. I wish that wouldn’t happen but that is the way it is. But again, that interest in movie star kids is going to last till the first show,” signs off Abhishek.

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