It’s not everyday you get to see a living legend, especially when they reside thousands of miles away. So when the opportunity to have an audience with Amitabh Bachchan and the cast of the upcoming release Shamitabh came my way, I thought it would be criminal not to go.
For those that don’t know, Shamitabh is Mr. Bachchan’s latest film set to release on February 6th and is a major first for Bollywood in that the entire film is an ode to the veteran’s voice. A voice that has graced more than 180 films and which has become synonymous with Indian cinema.
Press and photographers gathered at the St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel on a crisp Tuesday morning, eager to get a glance and a picture of the respected actor that most have grown up watching. Along with Mr. Bachchan were Danush and Akshara Haasan, who also star alongside him in the latest offering from Bollywood.
The synopsis, a refreshing change from the classic boy-meets-girl and falls in love, centres around a film-crazy boy from a small village wanting to become a superstar. With the help of an alcoholic’s deep, baritone voice, the story explores this team of the face and the voice. Two different people who become one for a cause and then allow their egos to get the better of them.
Written and directed by R Balki, Shamitabh tackles new ground in Indian cinema with the stark message of how it is impossible for anyone to be successful all by himself and is essentially an ode to teamwork. Balki also happened to create the gripping story as a gift for Mr. Bachchan on his 70th birthday and has worked tirelessly bringing his vision to life.
Once introductions had been made and the floor was open to questions, I had to put my degree to good use and ask Mr. Bachchan about his opinion on the Indian film industry. His response, as you will read below, not only shows a man who is very much aware of the ever changing environment around him, but a constant beacon for knowledge and inspiration throughout his years in this industry.
“How do you think the film industry has changed for newcomers today compared to when you made your debut?”
AB: “I think with each decade, life changes, society changes, a country changes, people’s thinking changes and I think cinema is no different – it also makes these changes. From the late 60s when I came into the film industry right until now, I’ve had the good fortune to work with each generation. I find technically we’ve made a lot of progress, we never had the facilities early on with the kind of technology the West had as far as camera equipment, editing and lights because we had restrictions on whether we could import them. But ever since the economy opened up, we’ve had these facilities now and I see most of the equipment that is being used in the West now being deployed in India.
“As far as the younger generation is concerned I have great admiration for them because they are extremely talented and very aggressive and very determined to achieve their goals. They’re absolutely perfect in their very first appearance which is something that our generation never insisted on. They know exactly what they have to do. They’re very converse with what is going on in the world. I’m marvelled at their confidence and their approach to film making. I love their company. I get to meet them, spend time with them and I learn so much from them.
“Cinema in a sense, reflects society. So if India has changed over the years then you will find those differences. I know there are many criticisms on the content so I will defend that. I think perhaps this is what the audiences want. The cinema flourishes because of what the audiences go and see. If a particular film does very, it well means it had the patronage of the audiences so I have to give credit to them. They have become more receptive to wanting to see better content, better performances, better technology, but mainly better content. In that respect, I feel that some of the experimentation that has been done with stories is a lot better.
“Having said that I feel that the writing, perhaps in the lyrics for songs have taken a beating. I know that younger generations are going to beat me for that! We had a lot more time and there weren’t so many avenues of entertainment at that time. So we would appreciate a song’s lyrical value and taking its time to be expressed. It took time for the leading man and the leading lady to express their love for each other. It took almost half the film before you found out they were in love. Today’s generation says ‘okay, hurry up and say what you have to say and get on with it’, and it finishes in the first reel and the story goes on. It’s just the speed of communication that’s increased and that’s come about with many other factors. It’s the way we’re communicating with each other today. There’s mobile phones, internet, computers. It’s become so rapid, so fast that it reflects in the way we connect ourselves. This generation speaks really fast and are very cryptic in all their expressions. ‘Cool’, ‘rockin’ – these are expressions we use to use and deploy at least four or five sentences before we could express what cool meant. But I think this part of the generation has decided this is how they want to live, so that will be reflected in our films.”
Shamitabh will be released worldwide on February 6th, 2015.