“Waking up in the morning and going to work gives me such a kick. I always wanted to become an actor and it’s like I’m living my dream.”
~ Abhishek Bachchan
An actor not only has to portray a character when he speaks, he also has to be that character in the stillness and act only with his body and his eyes, and Abhishek Bachchan is one of those actors. He can look into the camera and without saying a word; you know what he’s feeling. After only eight years in the film industry, he has shown his talent in all genres of film, including drama, action, comedy, and, of course, romance. With that mischievous smile, he has made many hearts flutter (heroines and fans alike), and has only gotten better looking with time. This Friday, we will see him reprise one of his best performances, that of Shankar Nagre (a character first seen in Sarkar) in the new film Sarkar Raj. With the release of Sarkar Raj, we thought we would shine the spotlight on some of the highlights of Abhishek’s career.
As you may know, Abhishek Bachchan was born into a very filmi family. His parents are two of the best-known and well-respected superstars in Bollywood: Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan. At first, following in his parents footsteps was not in his plan: he went to the University of Boston to get a degree in Business. Acting, however, was in his blood, and half way through his degree, he returned to Mumbai to try his luck in the industry.
His debut film Refugee (2000) was directed by J.P. Dutta, and though the film was not a box office bonanza, the young actor won awards for the Most Promising Newcomer at both the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) and the Screen Weekly awards. In his review Taran Adarsh wrote, “On a scale of 10, Abhishek’s performance deserves 7 marks, dialogue delivery 8 and overall personality 9. There is certain awkwardness in the boy that is so likable [sic]. He may not be possessing great looks or a physique which would be the envy of all the heroes, but the youngster has all it takes to emerge a competent actor in times to come. Even in his debut-making film, Abhishek comes across as a fine actor and lives up to his family name.” Praise, indeed!
His career had begun, but sadly the box-office was not kind to him over the next several years. From 2000 – 2003, he starred in many movies but none brought him success. Abhishek began to get discouraged: “And there was a point of time where I actually questioned myself. I remember going up to my dad and saying, ‘Do you think I made a mistake?’ He said, ‘I haven’t brought you up to give in. So keep acting, do as many films as you can, do not sit at home because if you sit at home, it’s just going to fester. Get out there and work and if that means, you know, falling down every time a movie releases, fair enough.’ So that’s just what I did, I just dived into my work; I did multiple films at the same time. I mean, there were days when I was shooting three films on the same day, doing three shifts a day, shooting 76 hours straight. You just dive into your work and go out there and try and learn on the job and improve.”
Amitabh’s advice certainly worked, because in 2004, Abhishek showed that he could really act, and not only in one film, but in four. His breakthrough performance was in Mani Ratman’s Yuva. With a star-studded cast of Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor and Esha Deol, Abhishek’s turn as Lallan Singh was singled out. Abhishek said, “I play Lallan Singh who belongs to the streets of Kolkata. He is a very interesting and complex kind of person. It was enjoyable to portray this character.” Adding, “The whole film was creatively very satisfying. There is no particular day that I can remember. The entire making [of Yuva] is memorable for me.” Subhash K. Jha said in his review, “But the film belongs to Abhishek. As the impetuous hit man who loves his wife to death, Abhishek’s eyes and smile rattle us with their sincerity. His Lallan is obnoxious and violent, and yet never anything but a child of an obnoxious and violent social order. This film marks the coming of age for the actor.” The film was a moderate success, but for his role as Lallan, Abhishek was showered with awards. He won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Aspara, Filmfare, IIFA, Screen Weekly, and Bollywood Awards. Zee Cine nominated him in the category of Best Performance in a Villainous Role, and he took home the trophy for that at the Bollywood Awards. He and co-star Rani Mukerji were nominated for a special award at the Screen Weekly awards as Jodi No. 1, and Stardust named him Star of the Year.
His next film would again prove his acting chops. Phir Milenge starred Shilpa Shetty and Salman Khan and was directed by Revathy. The Hollywood film Philadelphia, inspired the script with Abhishek playing the lawyer, and he was praised for his work: “Abhishek Bachchan as her well-meaning but forever-flurried lawyer provides unexpected strength, power and energy to the plot. For those who thought he was a revelation in the recent Yuva, this performance is further antidote to cynicism. Abhishek’s eyes and smile have always been the window to his soul. It took a woman director of Revathy’s sensitivity to realize his true potential.” Abhi won the Zee Cine Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in the film.
He was on a roll, but with Dhoom he would finally achieve huge box-office success. Dhoom, co-starring Uday Chopra, John Abraham, Esha Deol and Rimi Sen, was an action-packed film that thrilled audiences. Abhishek recalled what happened when he heard Dhoom was a hit: “I remember I was in Canada filming for a movie called Dus and the movie Dhoom was releasing on the 27th of August. And I got back on the 27th early morning, and at 2 o’clock Adi had called us to the house, and in his house I finally asked him, I say I can’t take this, tell me, how’s the film done? And he said, ‘Congratulations, you have your first hit’. And I think I went out into his garden and started screaming and shouting and I was jumping up and down for about a half an hour. I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. And then I remember calling my sister and telling her that you know, it’s a hit. And I was just so overcome by emotion because at that point of time, you know, after 17 films, you have no self confidence left. Suddenly, somebody comes and tells you, yeah, it’s a hit, it’s a huge hit. You’re very overcome with emotion, because you don’t expect it, because at that point, you’re ready to accept it as a failure, because that’s what you’re attuned to. So yeah, it was very emotional for me.”
Also in 2004 was Ram Gopal Verma’s film Naach. It was in this film I first noticed what an amazing actor he is. (I had not yet seen Yuva). The last scene when he tells her he can’t live without her is BRILLIANT! Subtle and so powerful at the same time.
2004 was a good year but 2005 was a banner one that firmly established him as a bone-fide star! In fact, for all his incredible work, in 2005, Abhishek won the Entertainer of the Year at the CNN-IBN Awards.
Co-starring with Papa Bachchan and Rani Mukerji in Bunty Aur Babli, Abhishek got to put on his comedic avatar, and boy, did he shine! The film was a Bonnie-and-Clyde-with-hearts-of-gold comedy that has disguises, cons, music, a cool, neck-cracking cop, one of the best item numbers ever done, and, of course, love. Rani said she felt they share great chemistry, and that “I’ve watched his growth as an actor. And I feel very proud of where he has come. We’re very similar in our working style. Then we had Shaad to direct us in Bunty Aur Babli. It was a great team.” The film was a hit and critics yet again admired his performance: “Abhishek Bachchan is wonderful. The actor is getting better with every release. He handles the light moments with the same sincerity with which he handles the emotional ones.” He was nominated for Best Actor at the Filmfare and Zee Cine Awards, and he and Rani were given the Screen Weekly Jodi No. 1 statue. He also took home the Best Actor in a Comic Role trophy at the Star Screen Awards.
Abhishek said about 2005, “The highlight was getting to work with dad. And the success of Bunty Aur Babli was icing on the cake. Sarkar will hopefully take me further.” It did, and his role as Shankar Nagre in Sarkar is considered to be one of his best. Directed by Ram Gopal Verma, it also starred Amitabh Bachchan. RGV actually said that Abhishek was better than Big B in the film, to which Abhishek replied, “Ramu saying I’m better than dad has got to be the biggest joke of the century. You have to see dad in Sarkar to know how outstanding he is.” He got rave reviews for his portrayal with one review saying, “ A challenging role indeed and Abhishek shines through it. The simmering anger that resonates through his facial expressions and his blood-shot eyes is too credible.” While another said, “Abhishek’s delicately balanced facial expressions, his projection of the characters’ fierce unquestioning loyalty towards his father’s politics, is done with such rare care and sensitivity that you cease to look at the actor. The son is all you see. Varma makes sure that the characters, big or small, emerge out of the actors in a pyramid of power-play and familial bonding. The delicately drawn relationship between father and son never needs underscoring. There is an unstated lyricism between the Bachchans, a bonding we’ve never seen before, and never shall see again.” Like Yuva, the star was honored with many awards including the Best Supporting Actor from Filmfare, IIFA, and Zee Cine.
Dus was another action film that boasted an all-star cast, including Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Zayed Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Esha Deol, Dia Mirza, Raima Sen, and Pankaj Kapur. Taran Adarsh said, “Abhishek Bachchan, who is now a rock star after the super-success of Bunty Aur Babli and the positive opening of Sarkar that is steadily marching towards another successful outing for the father-son jodi. Yuva, Dhoom, Phir Milenge, BAB, Sarkar and now Dus – the world couldn’t have been a better place for a star called Abhishek Bachchan who is slowly stopped being called ‘Chota B’ after managing to create an identity of his own.”
He also wowed his fans with Bluffmaster. Directed by childhood friend Rohan Sippy, the film according to Abhi: “It’s a contemporary, refreshing and fun film meant for all age groups. It’s about a con man, his life and relationships. I’d call it a comedy full of surprises. You don’t know what to expect next. It keeps you guessing and that is among its strong points.” Abhishek again put on the con artist avatar but for this role he had to take it in a different vein than BAB, “ Roy is a good talker and knows how to find his way out of any untoward situation. Isn’t that a formidable trait to have? The character has been very interestingly written and etched. It is quite complex as well. It’s the first of a kind for me.” Co-star Priyanka Chopra said, “Abhishek is a fantastic actor. He knows exactly what to do and how the film will turn out. When he was acting, I realised how intelligent he is as an actor.”
In 2006, Abhishek played a betrayed husband, a role in a classic period film, and reprised his role from Dhoom – quite the myriad of characters. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna was directed by Karan Johar and, along with Abhishek, the film starred 5 of the biggest names in Bollywood; Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta and Kirron Kher. His performance was astounding and was again singled out even among the stellar cast. Preity said, “Abhishek is going to shock you. His expressions, his interpretation of his character have to be seen to be believed. I truly believe Abhishek is the star of tomorrow.” When asked what his favorite scene was, he answered, “Well, I have not seen the entire film so I don’t know about other actors’ scenes, but from the scenes that I have seen and I have been a part of, there is a scene between Rani and me wherein we meet after a long period of time where we try to put our past demons to rest and I think that’s a wonderfully written scene. It is one of Karan’s best written scenes, very touching and honest. It must have taken lots of guts for Karan to write this scene. It is very close to his heart and now it has become very close to my heart, too. I just loved the honesty of the emotions and the simplicity and the innocence of the scene, though it was a tough scene to perform.” That scene and his magnificent acting where he finds out about the affair was one of the main reasons he won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role at Filmfare, Global Indian Film and Stardust Awards.
Umrao Jaan, with Aishwarya Rai, was a remake of the 1981 version that starred Rekha and Farooq Shaikh. The film was set in 1850 India, and it was challenge to go from modern day to a period film. “It’s only after I did my first period film Umrao Jaan that I realised how modern we tend to be in our everyday conduct as individuals. I had to try and forget my natural body language and demeanor and re-acclimatise myself. That was a challenge. Then again, when you’ve a director like J.P Dutta saab, he guides you through any complexity.” The film, however, was not a success critically or commercially.
Also in 2006: Dhoom 2. With a new bad guy played by Hrithik Roshan and the addition of Aishwarya’s “are you like checking me out” Sunehri, Dhoom 2 was another modern stylish cop-chasing-robber film. Abhishek: “ One of the plus points of doing a sequel is you already know the character. I play the same character. Then there’s an equation already built with the crew. So, you automatically get into the groove. The exciting part is to build a new mood in the given parameters. We can’t serve the same thing to the audience. It’s a new cast and a new plot. Hopefully, it will be much better and bigger than the first Dhoom.” It was and went on to be one the highest grossing films of 2006.
However, the best was yet to come, and in 2007, Abhishek took the role of a lifetime and made it into something extraordinary. In an interview, he talked about Guru saying, “Guru is a film, which has been very demanding, very complex, but a film that has been very rewarding eventually. I don’t think actors work for vanity; I think we work to enact an interesting character. We do what the character demands from us. We don’t go with a certain thinking, at least I never think that, ‘my God, I shouldn’t put on weight’ or ‘I shouldn’t look old’ or any such other conceptions because I think that the audience won’t like it. The audience comes in to watch a film, to see the performance and to get entertained. So you have to do whatever needs to be done in order to achieve that. In a film like Guru, the physical aspect of the way he looked is very important to the narrative of the story. Hence you do what it takes.” He certainly did become Gurukant Desai and every review was a rave! Taran Adarsh: “Mani’s choice of the protagonist — Abhishek Bachchan — is equally worthy. You ought to be enormously talented to understand the nuances of the character and Abhishek deserves the highest praise for reliving a complex role. You smile when he smiles, you cry when he cries, you relive every single emotion that the character experiences. Only goes to show that the actor involves you at every step with a stupendous performance.” Another wrote, “And full credit goes to Abhishek Bachchan who has given the best performance of his career so far. His Guru is full of energy, vivacity and optimism. What’s commendable is the conviction with which Abhi gets into the skin of his character. His bulky frame moves with a swagger, his penetrating gaze reflects his shrewd business acumen and yet there is a vulnerable side to Guru that shines through now and then. Abhi’s performance is particularly excellent in the second half, when his business begins to sink and he is paralyzed. His monologue in the courtroom (with his lip twitched and his one arm incapacitated) makes him truly deserving of an award. The actor not just surprises you, he shocks you with his extraordinary performance.”
2007 also saw him in Jhoom Barbar Jhoom and a special appearance in both Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Om Shanti Om. I have to mention how great he was in his priceless scene from Om Shanti Om when was nominated for a Filmfare award for Dhoom 5! Hysterical!
Friday, we will see him again as Shankar Nagre. Sarkar Raj stars Amitabh yet again, and is the first film with Aishwarya after their marriage last year. Director Ram Gopal Verma has nothing but praise for the actor’s performance, “There were a few vital close-ups of Abhishek that I wanted to add to the film, so before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I re-shot my film, let me quickly clear the air. I think Abhishek excels in silent close-ups. Not too many actors of his generation know how to hold silences on camera. I made him do that in Naach. And I just thought a few tight close-ups would add to the drama in Sarkar Raj.” He went on to say that this performance would rival the original and that of Guru. “I wouldn’t even compare the two performances on any level except that intensity that Abhishek brings to both the roles. Abhishek and Aishwarya in Sarkar Raj will be very different from Guru. And if you ask me, he has gone far beyond what he did in Sarkar.”
Abhishek once said, “I would like to believe all my films are different from each other. I have not consciously gone out to see whether I should experiment with this film or not. I just got the films I did. I agreed to do those films because the script or the director inspired me. I have never looked into details. I never felt ‘Oh, this is a safe script’ or ‘That is a risky script’. I never thought about it that way before accepting a film.” From his incredible body of work, you can see that he has been inspired and has given us some wonderful funny, dramatic and romantic characters. We applaud the work he has done in his short career and are sure he is only going to get better. We can’t wait to see him in Sarkar Raj and then in his upcoming films, including the 3 D’s Dostana, Drona, Dilli 6, plus Mani Ratnam’s next with wife Aishwarya, and hopefully in two new rumored projects with Big B, R. Balakrishnan’s Pa and Ram Madhvani’s Talisman.
His name is really Abhishek Amitabh Srivastav. His grandfather Harivansh Rai Srivastav, who was a very famous Hindu and Urdu poet, used the pen name of Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Amitabh also used Bachchan for his stage name and so Abhishek did as well.
His sister Shweta has two children, and he once said in response to a quiz: “My Heart Skips A Beat With Every Time: I See My Niece Navya Naveli And My Nephew Agastya.”
He was engaged to Karisma Kapoor, but they broke it off after just 3 months.
Abhishek married Aishwarya Rai on April 20th, 2007, in what many called the Bollywood Wedding of the Century.
Rohan Sippy revealed that: “A dream birthday gift for Abhishek would be an iPod with all of the world’s music in it. Every song ever. But in the size of a Nano.”
He missed the call from Mani Ratnam about the role in Yuva because he did not recognize the phone number. His friend Shaad Ali called him, explained, and set up a meeting between the two, and the rest is history.
Naach also had an interesting casting story. “Though the movie came my way very strangely. Ramu saw Sooraj Barjatiya’s Main Prem ki Deewani Hoon and Mani Ratnam’s Yuva and then he called me saying that he wants to make a love story with me. So I went on the sets without knowing anything about the film.”
When asked, “What gives you sleepless nights?”, he answered, “Tough scenes. They play on my mind all night.”
He was a playback singer for Bluffmaster and Dhoom. He also lent his voice to the song ‘Hollywood Meets Bollywood’. The track appears on Wyclef Jean’s album Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant.
He is left-handed.
According to Abhi, “Love is unconditional, lust is temporary, when a man loves a woman she’s in big trouble and I get turned on by a good movie and a beautiful woman by my side”.
He hates to electronically chat because he can’t type.
Once a lady came up to him and said, “That’s a really cute ass.” He said, “I almost fainted. I thought she was not talking to me and I turned and looked around.”
Philosophy of Life: Whatever you do, do it from the heart.
He can speak English, Hindi, and French.
Dream Role: Agneepath.
As a child, he had dyslexia, a learning disability.
His message to his fans: “There is just one message always — Thank you for all your love and your belief. And all I can do is to try and repay them, but that is not possible, because we are truly very indebted to the audience. The only thing that I can do, is to try and entertain the audience and keep acting, if you’ll allow me, and say thank you for all the support that you have extended towards me.”