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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

‘Rekha was ego trip for Amitabh’

Susmita Dasgupta finds Amitabh Bachchan an interesting subject to study. Here, she decodes the superstar, the subject of her PhD and a book
Is there an Amitabh ‘before’ and ‘after’ ABCL?  
There is definitely a before and after ABCL Amitabh. The ABCL tragedy, like all stupendous failures have split Amitabh into a before and after image. The trauma of having failed appears to have drastically changed the person whose image was that of the invincible.

What is Amitabh, the husband, like?
As I could observe, and at that point of time I was nearly 20 years younger, that Amitabh and Jaya were ideologically apart. For Jaya, there was a distress about why Amitabh did the films that he did. Jaya would have loved it were Amitabh to remain in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee camp and graduated later to Satyajit Ray (Manik Kaku for her; Jaya is exceptionally well-connected). But Amitabh went into rather "cheap stuff" with which she was not comfortable. To the best of my mind, this was the basic reason for a kind of stand-off. Jaya and Amitabh were dutifully husband and wife but I felt that the romance in the marriage was lacking. Also Jaya is a ‘Bong’ woman, the oldest among three sisters, and most probably the brightest, daughter to a doting father and that too an important one. She is Bhaduri, an upper caste Barendri Brahmin, who are very proud people. But slowly as Amitabh got involved in his career, he himself became the centre of all attention which was very difficult for Jaya to swallow. After all, at the time of their marriage she was the star and he the also-ran. The change in the power position within the marriage as Amitabh became successful also changed the soft, intense and emotional romance which Jaya and Amitabh had.

How is the superstar with his kids? Is his rapport different with Abhishek and Shweta?
With his children, Amitabh is doting, pampering, blind with affection and only pretending to be firm, but very interested to be a part of their lives and eager to go to any lengths for their well-being. The daughter is interesting, I am not so sure that she feels the same way towards her parents as they feel towards her. I get this strange feeling that Shweta is seeking to move out of her parents’ very doting shadow and that marriage helped her have some independence that her extra protective parents robbed her of. Abhishek loves and would love to continue to be under the parents’ protection.

What about the Rekha episode? Is there reason to believe the affair happened, despite Amitabh’s denials?
Yes, it is a matter of great speculation for me as well. I always sided with Amitabh when he denied all on Rekha. But, only recently, I saw this television footage in which Amitabh suddenly got up and moved away as Rekha came near where he was seated. This makes me believe that yes, they did have an affair. The sudden getting up and moving away was a giveaway. It was almost a pose of fleeing from Rekha... why would a man want to do that if he is not guilty of something? I believe Amitabh knew from day one that he wasn’t serious about Rekha. Also, he’s very, very class conscious... Rekha was perhaps an ego trip.

How do you think Abhishek fares, being Amitabh and Jaya's son, and now Aishwarya’s husband?
Abhishek reminds me of Prince Salim and he has the Prince Salim syndrome. In today’s world, Abhishek’s appeal lies in a certain sense of being chaperoned, someone who seeks and has security and, on the basis of an assured lifestyle, can afford to be nice to one and all. Just as Amitabh’s image crashed with failure, Abhishek's image can crash if the shadows of persons chaperoning him are taken away. The image contains the shadows of the biggies that he nests among.

Was he behind Abhishek joining films?
Yes, he was totally behind Abhishek's joining films and if I were to have my opinion, then to push him to cinema. That’s why I say that Abhishek is prince Salim, the reluctant heir of Akbar when his heart was away in Venice, Rome and even Spain.

Amitabh is projected today as the loyal friend... what drives his friendships with the Anil Ambani and Amar Singh?
I feel that Amitabh has never been a loyal friend. Loyalty has never been his characteristic trait. Anwar Ali and Amjad Khan are at least two who Amitabh never even acknowledged. I have seen him rather stand-offish with Javed, Salim, Prakash Mehra, the persons who made him. Amitabh never attended Hrishida’s funeral. He refuses to acknowledge Desh Mukherjee or Tinnu Anand. So, he looks for friends as far as he has something to gain from them.

The Amar Singh episode is strange. He must be really gaining something out of Anil Ambani and Amar Singh and that “gain” has some connection with the “loss” in terms of money.

Why do you think he is still working? Is it insecurity, to consolidate a space for Abhishek or love of acting?
Amitabh is still working, yes, what you suggest to consolidate Abhishek’s career, but to the best of my understanding, Amitabh is Bhishma, he wishes to prove that he is immortal as a star. I think that Amitabh is seeking immortality by constantly reinventing his image to suit each new age that he lives in.
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