Craft of stage actor superior to film actor: Amitabh Bachchan (Interview)September 14th, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Sep 14 (IANS) Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who plays a whimsical Shakespearean theatre artiste in “The Last Lear”, says that it is psychologically very difficult for a film actor to play a stage actor.”See, the craft of a theatre actor is superior to that of a film actor. This stage actor (I play) - Harish Mishra - has a huge ego and arrogance in him. It is psychologically very difficult for a film actor to portray such a character. People from stage are a bit louder than normal people. Mishra actually shakes his hands while talking. Actually he speaks in a manner as if his real life too is an extension of the stage,” Bachchan told IANS in an interview during a visit here for a special screening of the film.
The actor, who has been in the film industry since the late 1960s, said that he was made to do a lot of homework by director Rituparno Ghosh for the role of the 75-year-old Shakespearean actor.
“Ghosh took me back to my schooldays and made me do my homework to prepare myself for the character of Harish Mishra. He made me read William Shakespeare’s plays, watch DVDs of plays from across the world. He piled my reading table with books. Besides, there were thorough discussions on the sets. There was no escape for me but to become Harish Mishra aka Harry for him,” he said.
The actor said that the USP of the film was the loneliness of the character and the mundane theme.
” ‘The Last Lear’ is a strong emotional film with laughter and tears from real life,” he said.
But Bachchan was quick to clarify that character in the movie did not carry any of his personal traits.
“I have just played the role depicted by the director. The story carries real life traits, but not Amitabh Bachchan’s real life traits. The character of Harry is a believable one, but I can’t say if it exists in the real world.”
“The Last Lear” is based on Utpal Dutt’s play “Aajker Shahjahan”. Shot in theatrical style, not only is it Bachchan’s first English film but it is also the first time he plays an actor in a movie. It also stars Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal.
Asked about his experience of having worked with Utpal Dutt, he said: “I have been privileged to work with Dutt from the beginning of my career - be it giving commentary in his Bengali film ‘Bhuvan Shome’ or having him as a co-actor in my debut Hindi film ‘Saat Hindustani’.
“This film has been inspired by his play ‘Ajker Shahjahan’. But I cannot even attempt to be in his shoes. He is a true Shakespearean stage actor.”
Many critics have termed Bachchan’s performance in “The Last Lear” as his best so far.
“I don’t think it’s just to categorise my films and label them as good, bad or best. It is not healthy for the career of an actor … it limits his creativity. I have done over 150 films so far and if you ask me all of them have been my best performance irrespective of box office results,” the actor quipped.
This is the first time Bachchan shared screen space with popular Bengali actors like Prosenjit and Jisshu Sengupta.
“I am lucky to get such an opportunity to work with some of the most popular actors from the Bengali film industry. Every one of them has experiences worth listening to and came up with suggestions to better the script before a shot,” Bachchan said.
Though upset that the film’s Mumbai premiere was cancelled due to protests by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists over his wife Jaya’s alleged “anti-Marathi” remarks, the actor said that he had no regrets.
“It would have been better if I could share my film with the Mumbai audience too. But there are no regrets as the premiere was held in Kolkata - my second home - where I started my acting career. This is the second time after the Hindi film ‘Agneepath’ that a premiere of my film is being held in this city before Mumbai,” Bachchan said.
Asked about the row with MNS chief Raj Thackeray, he said: “That chapter has ended. All I would say is that I am convinced that I am not alone. All people of India are with me and as long as I have the strength, faith and support of the people no one can harm me.”
Bachchan added that he was unaware about Congress chief Sonia Gandhi coming out in his support against Thackerey.
“I read about it in the newspapers. But personally, I am unaware of this news,” he said.