‘Raavan’s violent response destroyed me’

Abhishek Bachchan admits that the failure of Raavan destroyed him and that it took him an year to bounce back.

Written by Harneet Singh | New Delhi | Published:July 21, 2012 5:40 pm

He’s currently riding the Bol Bachchan wave but Abhishek Bachchan isn’t afraid to introspect. In a freewheeling chat,the actor looks back at his career,his flops and the lessons he has learnt. He admits that the failure of Raavan destroyed him and that it took him an year to bounce back. Excerpts:

So all set to enter the 100 crore club with Bol Bachchan?
We still have some way to go before the magic figure. You know,100 crore is just a term that is used these days,its kind of replaced the silver jubilee term. At the end of the day,figures don’t matter. As long as the audience loves the film,actors are happy. Ajay & I were joking the other day that there isn’t a special club where we will go and have coffee now. It’s business as usual.

Your dance performance has really got the town talking. It was a nice surprise to see you go all out in that sequence. What went into it?
Yes,it was a very important sequence. Rohit (Shetty) told me to be absolutely besharm,to go all out. He said that if I hold back even 1 %,the sequence would collapse. So I had copious amount of coffee and just went all out. Thankfully it worked. I saw the reactions in the cinema halls when I went for my rounds with Rohit and I must confess seeing the audience enjoy the performance made me very happy. Once a lady had slapped me in a cinema hall after the screening of Sharaarat. She had told me that I’m insulting my family by acting so to see the audience go crazy and chant my name in the same cinema hall,felt very nice indeed.

There is a certain swagger in you when you perform a comedic role,like it was in Dostana. Is it because it comes easy to you?
I don’t think I have a swagger. It’s just that I enjoy comedy. People have appreciated me in the genre but that doesn’t mean that I can do it in my sleep. I work hard on getting the timing right. It’s just that people don’t see the process. As actors we have to be like ducks,paddle crazily under water but maintain a calm exterior. On screen,the performance should just flow. I’m glad people feel like that when I do comedy.

To what do you attribute your comic timing?
I think it’s got to do with my upbringing in school. My humour is very British Boarding School. I think it’s very important for an actor to laugh at himself. If you don’t then you’ll self-destruct pretty soon.

Name some of your favourite comic actors.
Buster Keaton,Charlie Chaplin,Peter Sellers,Woody Allen,Jack Lemmon,Walter Matthau,Mehmood uncle,Asrani uncle,Johnny Lever. I think even Krushna is outstanding.

Now that you have delivered a hit,notched up good reviews,is there a sense of vindication?
I haven’t read any reviews. I have kept them all and eventually I will get down to them but as of now I’m just focusing on the audience reaction. As for feeling vindicated,not at all. I have never looked upon it like this. I have never had angst against the critics. They tell actors what to do. I don’t think critics have any hidden agendas. As a person,I like to take people on face value,it makes life more convenient.

But you have got some nasty reviews over the years,how do you take them?
I take reviews like a kind of a feedback. I read it and then decide what to take from it,what to pay attention to,so that I can benefit from the criticism. I use critics like a chart to track my growth. I put up reviews that I feel are offering me insight and highlight the portions that are about me. When I started out the highlighted portions were 75 %. My endeavour always has been to decrease the highlighted portions. I’m getting there. See,when a film doesn’t do well then it is rubbed in your face. Obviously nobody likes it. Actors are sensitive people so we sometimes tend to get defensive about it because we have worked very hard. But I’ve noticed that if you do a good job then the critics praise you also. It’s the borderline films—the ones that are liked and disliked 50- 50 % that is tough to interpret. You don’t know what to make out of it.

But once you work on a film,you must be getting an idea how it is shaping up? Shah Rukh once told me that he could predict whether a film would be a hit or a flop on the third day of the shooting. Do you also get a sense of a film?
Of course I do. The reason I agree to do a film is because I like the story but the tough part is to translate what is on paper onto the screen. Like we know,there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. Things happen and you know this film isn’t shaping up the way you had thought it would but you have to stand by your work and hope that it clicks. It’s all part of the game.

About your movie selection,how much importance do you give to the audience while selecting your roles—in the sense do you pick up a role that you feel your audience likes you in?
It’s always about what the audience wants. It’s never about me because the moment that arrogance comes in,the audience can sniff it. Ultimately you work for the audience. They employ you. It takes a while to find your audience and make them loyal to you. It’s with filmmakers too. For instance take Christopher Nolan’s career—99 % people would not be aware of him when he made Insomnia or Mememto but today he’s considered as a modern day genius. It’s because he is catering to an audience that he has developed.

So you have done all your movies for your audience?
All except one.

Which one?
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. I did that film for personal reasons. I was embarrassed as an Indian that I had no idea who Surjya Sen was. When Ashu (Ashutosh Gowariker) narrated the story to me I wondered why we haven’t told this story so I decided to do it. It was a personal quest,which we had to communicate to 1.2 billion people. Maybe we couldn’t communicate it well.

Out of all the films that haven’t worked,which one has hurt the most?
Raavan. I worked exceptionally hard on the film. I couldn’t for the life of me understand the violent reaction the film got. I don’t want to get into all this since it’ll sound defensive but I will reiterate once again that till date I haven’t seen such kind of a violent reaction from the media. I felt like saying,“Ease up,guys. It’s just a movie. Its okay if you didn’t like it.”

So how did you deal with it?
It destroyed me. It took me a long time to come out of it. I remember writing something about life and films after Raavan released. I’ll tell you a line that really summed it up for me: “Death of a true artiste is a loss of innocence and the birth of a great artiste is after the same.”

What lesson did you learn from Raavan’s debacle?
I learnt that my work is not just about personal milestones. It’s about communicating and sharing with the audience. I learnt that I can’t make films only for me; I have to make it for people who buy a ticket to see me. In many ways,Raavan was a reset button for me. I sat back and took stock of my career. It took me a year to bounce back,to reboot.

So this policy of doing one film at a time started post Raavan?
Yup. But that’s also because the requirement of a leading artiste these days is not just to shoot a film. It’s about training for the role,shooting,promotions,release and then post release. I’d like to be available at each stage for all my films. I think its much better this ways because then you don’t make any excuses.

Excuses?
Yeah. I don’t want to get into the zone that if I had insisted on a particular idea,fought to get a better song,cut a better promo then the film’s fate could have been different. As a person,I’ve always taken the flops on my chin. If a film doesn’t work I say yes it’s my fault. Now the stakes are really high. I want to be hundred percent available. Anyways I have never had a callous attitude towards my work. I have never thought ki 15 filmein kar lo,4 toh chal hi jaayengi.

Now you get into Dhoom 3,what can we expect?
Well,my character Jai Dixit is the hero of the franchise. We’ll be showing a new dimension to him. Dhoom is home ground for me. Its like switching a button on.

The stakes are high with Aamir Khan playing the antagonist?
Oh yes,it’s going to be so exciting. I’m really looking forward to be working with Aamir. Dhoom is pretty much like the Batman franchise where the villain is given much more importance because the central thought is that if you don’t have a strong enough adversary then the hero will never look good. It’s like Batman Vs Joker/Bane. Aamir’s villain will only make me look better but I have the tough job because Jai is a known quantity,the audience knows what he is all about so how do I make it interesting? I need to look like the guy who will tell the villain that I’m going to give it to you. It’s going to be Aamir & I in the same frame and I have to make sure I hold my own. It’s going to be a challenge but the advantage is that the audience will be rooting for the hero so it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Have you thought about what kind of a film you’d like to do after Dhoom 3?
I’d like to do a dhamaal film,a fun film.

Lastly I have to ask how is it brining up baby? How is Aradhya? Do you get enough to spend enough time with her?
She’s a delight. I manage to spend time with her just like any other new father.

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