Today, as Abhishek Bachchan grows a year older and pretends to be much older than he really is, I think back to the day almost two years in April 2011 when he came to my home in Patna. At around 6 pm when Abhishek taken off his shoes and had plonked himself comfortably on the floor in our house and we were all bitching about the whole industry, a neatly dressed man walked straight in and requested for a picture.I presumed he was part of Abhishek’s extended entourage of security guards, publicity co-ordinators and photographers. It turned out to be a man from the street who had slipped past the tight security,walked confidently up the four flights of stairs to our top floor, got his picture and walked out.
By this time the crowd that was around 500-people strong when Abhishek had arrive at 5.30 pm had swollen to approximately 2,000 shouting screaming frenzied furious youngsters(all male) upset that the star in our house was not giving them a darshan.
Our road was completely jammed from start to end. Members of Abhishek, Rohan Sippy and Rana Daggubati’s team who had stayed back in their vehicles on the streets below our house were struck inside their cars. There was no space for them to open their car doors and come out in the open for breather!
As news spread in and around our neighbourhood of Abhishek’s visit the street began to get even more jam-packed. It was quite impossible for anyone to get in or out of our house.For all practical purposes, Abhishek was stuck inside our house . Abhishek showed no sign of worry let alone panic. “Let them be.I’m in no mood to leave,” declared Abhishek nonchalantly.
My wife suggested he use our guest room for the night.
“But they’d have to leave in the morning to catch their flight,no? These people out there are going to stay put all night if they have to,” Abhishek’s painfully young PR girl was about to burst into tears.
This was Amitabh Bachchan’s son’s first visit to Patna. No one was in the mood to let this visit be anything short of memorable for Abhishek.
“Abhishek! Abhishek!” They chanted and roared. I am sure the chant was heard all across Patna right into Nitish Kumar’s residence. Soon messages to cops accompanying Abhishek began to come from the CM house asking for a meeting with ‘Bachchan Saab Ka Suputra’
After a while a senior police officer rushed in to our home to request Abhishek to come out on the terrace of our house every 15 minutes and wave to the crowds.This was to prevent mob fury, we were told.Abhishek did even better. He smiled waved blew kisses at the crowds.
The roar, I am sure, could be heard all across Bihar by now.
At around 8.30 Abhishek’s security service began to get enormously jittery. “If we don’t leave now we won’t be able to get out of here.”
“Okay we will make our movies from here only. We’ve a director,a star of today and a star of tomorrow,” Abhishek quipped. Rana, a stranger to the crowds in Bihar, grinned in concurrence.
We wondered why Abhishek was so cool about the imminent collapse of his elaborate police bandobast.
We soon found out.
When it was time to leave Abhishek walked coolly to the terrace as the roar on the road reached a crescendo. Like Anna Hazare he waved to them to quieten down. They obeyed. Then he signaled that he had to leave to get some sleep.
The crowds seemed to understand exactly what their demi-god meant. When Abhishek and the entourage stepped down and got into the car the crowds parted like the Red Sea as the modern-day Moses swept out of the bustle.
“Soon,this will happen to you too,” I consoled Rana just before they left. He grinned some more and quipped, “Awesome.”
I’ve had any number of stars home. Crowds always seem to materliaze magically for them. Nothing like this has ever happened before.
“Just pray that Pa never visits you,” Abhishek whispered just before he left.
Pa did. But that’s another story.
I had seen Abhishek being mobbed earlir. In Kolkata where he was shooting for Rituparno Ghosh’s Antar Mahal, shrieking girls greeted his appearance at the studio.
And I cut through the appreciative screams to a flashback at a function to facilitate Anup Jalota where I saw Abhishek for the first time. He was with his mother, the ever attentive son listening closely to every word she said…. Abhishek sat a row behind where I was placed along with one of my magazine editors.
To say that Abhishek was the cynosure of all eyes would be be no exaggeration. Everyone at the function was whispering about his debut in films and his association with Karisma Kapoor.
I asked my editor-friend for an introduction. But to my puzzlement he ignored the request. It took me years to realize that journalists guard their star contacts in Mumbai more fiercely than housewives protect their recipes.
Today I’mm proud and happy to say I’m very close Abhishek. There isn’t a vain bone in his body. Abhishek is naturally and irreversibly gregarious. We are more chums than two guys separated by a generation. Unlike some other stars who try oh-so-hard to be friendly, Abhishek needs to make no effort in that direction. Of all the star-sons that I know in the film industry Abhishek is by far the most affable. He reaches out instinctively . He loves coming into contact with people from the film industry and it shows in his attitude.
He makes it a point to be friendly even to those whom he hardly knows. My friend Sanjeev Kohli, the former CEO of Yashraj Films says, “The Bachchans have many huge achievements to their credit. But I feel Abhishek is their greatest achievement. He generates only goodwill.”
I’ll have to go with that. There’s something enormously positive about Abhishek. The quality transmits itself effortlessly to the person in front of him.
Anyone who tells you that Abhishek is vain or arrogant about being a Bachchan is a liar. Neither proud nor modest about his tremendous pedigree, Abhishek would have been who he’s regardless of his surname. That mischievous glint in his eye often manifests itself in harmless pranks.
Abhishek can make you squirm with his jokes. Once in front of his dad he suddenly turned to me to ask, “Who’s a better actor Amitabh Bachchan or Naseeruddin Shah?”
Over the years that I’ve known this Bachchan bachcha we’ve established a comfort level that goes way beyond an ordinary journalist-actor relationship.
He loves the company of his friends men and women, of which he has quite an impressive roster. You can often catch him with either a bunch of them or with one of them at home at a restaurant having a ball.
But there’s a bleeding heart under that prankish, mischievous front that understands a friend’s predicament immediately. Once when at 2.30 in the morning a very drunk very badly behaved male superstar was giving me major grief I ran into Abhishek in a hotel lobby . “What happened to you?” he asked immediately.
I told him. In no time at all Abhishek led the sizzled bratty superstar away from me. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanking the Stars above for stars like Abhishek down below.
I don’t think being a Bachchan was a problem for Abhishek even when he didn’t have big successes like Dhoom and Bol Bachchan or hugely lauded performances like Yuva and Phir Milenge to his credit. It was people around him who PRESUMED Abhishek would’ve tons of attitude because of his surname.
But I know better. There’s no better son, spouse or friend in Bollywood