In real life Abhishek Bachchan seems to have almost as many heads as Beera, his ten-headed character in Raavan. Abhishek, Abhi, AB, @juniorbachchan, one half of AbhiAsh, the actor goes by a multitude of monikers. From film sets in Mumbai to the IIFA awards, a BAFTA Q and A, to an Actor’s Masterclass, I have had the opportunity to observe the numerous avatars of the star. At times he wears his famed prankster head. Sometimes he dons that of his current character. Then there are the occasions when he plays the consummate and hard working promoter of both his films and the Indian cinema industry. Officially Abhishek has put on this head for our interview hours prior to the Raavan premiere. That does not mean to say the actor did not suddenly switch into one or more of his other alter-egos on occasion. ‘Fire Away’, he shoots. And so I do.
How excited are you about the release of Raavan?
I’m very excited. You work hard on a film and finally it is done and you want to put it up for judgment. There are a fair amount of nerves with that but you are excited to see how it does, and hope it is received well.
What was the experience of working with Aishwarya for the seventh time?
It’s exactly the same as it was in the first film we did together. We have always enjoyed each others company as co-stars from even before we were married, and I think we’ve got a wonderful working relationship. There’s a great level of understanding, and that extends till date.
What was your response when you were asked to be a part of Raavan?
I don’t read Mani’s script; he just asks me to do the role and I am there for him. I’ll never ask him for a script or say no to him. Actors would give a body part to be a part of this film. I have done three films with him so I am damn lucky. Obviously he’s just outstanding. He is more than just a director, he is a dear, dear family friend and very close to both Aishwarya and I. Just being around him is a lot of fun.
You have shot a number of movies with Mani Ratnam before. How has this experience been different to earlier times working with the director?
It’s definitely been more amplified in terms of the kind of experience we have gained. It is the most physical film we have made. As a character also Beera is larger than life and very unpredictable, so completely different to what we did last with Guru. But then again, that is a bit of a trend with Mani, he likes to do something which hasn’t been done before.
What did you do for this film to get into the character of Beera?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing! I believe as actors we lend a small part of ourselves to every role. We bring something that is very personal and use it in every role. This has been the first character which I could not contribute to from my personal life. He is just so different from the people that I know. I have never encountered somebody like him, as wild as him, as volatile as him. So there’s nothing that I could contribute, he literally had to be fabricated from thin air. You know for example with Gurukant Desai there was a definite framework of how Guru would behave, whereas Beera can do everything and anything. So, you know you just have to go with it.
Did you and Vikram (playing Abhishek’s role in Ravanan) exchange notes?
Never. Never. We both had very different interpretations for our characters. Although the scenes are the same our interpretations are very different.
You have played a wide variety of characters throughout your career. Which is the closet to the real Abhishek Bachchan?
(Laughs) You are presuming I know who the real Abhishek Bachchan is? That’s pretty much the problem with all actors; we get lost somewhere and don’t really know who the true ‘me’ is. The wonderful thing of being an actor is that the film you are currently working on is the person you become. I am pretty sure that during that period of filming you are that person. (Pauses) Maybe Raj from Kuch Naa Kaho?
You have worked in over forty movies in Bollywood; do you feel you have grown as an actor?
I better have grown as an actor or I would be pretty hopeless at my job. It’s important to grow with every film. The day you stop growing creatively is the day you should stop working, because then you became very complacent, which you should not become. Do I have a lot to learn? Yes, too much. The process of learning is going to be endless.
Can you tell us of any memorable moments on set?
The entire film was memorable. There should never be just one memorable moment. If that is the case, you shouldn’t do it. The film in its entirety should be memorable.
A number of recent Hindi film releases seemed to have aimed at the cross over market. Is that the intention with Raavan?
No. I have never understood cross over. You make a film to your audience and Indian films are so unique to themselves. I also believe that it is that very uniqueness and those qualities that are so very synonymous with Indian cinema that are the reasons why the world is waking up to us. I think it would be tragic to want to change that to suit a different palette. I think you just make a film and leave it up to the audience who wants to see it. I don’t think you should go chasing a particular section of the audience because if you do you’ll be compromising your story somewhere.
How important to you is Box Office success?
We make films because we hope they are going to be hits, it’s just that most of the time we are wrong. That is one of the reasons we make a film, but ultimately you are here for the audiences. We work for them, and we work to entertain them.
Find out how Abhishek performed in Raavan at our Bollyspice review.
Photo credit (Abhishek with Steven): Eleanor Halsall