Bhoothnath Returns, a ghost story with a well-meaning ghost at the centre of it, played by none other than Big B, who was also the central figure in its first edition in 2008, is back in a new avatar; albeit in the same costume, but with a new addition, child actor Parth Bhalerao! Given that the summer is ripe for movies that offer unique, engaging content (with director Nitesh Tiwari who landed the National Award for Chillar Party), the film has certainly got the audience, particularly the young ones, rather curious.
Tiwari, on his part is thrilled at being pencilled in for the project which presented him an opportunity of directing the legendary actor (he has worked with him earlier in the television show Kaun Banega Crorepati). According to Tiwari, “Amitabh Bachchan will never say no to anything you suggest — we took him to dirty railway tracks where it was impossible to even walk around, made him climb eight floors of a building without a lift, made him dance like a teenager and do really crazy stuff, but he was game! And then again, he doesn’t accept anything being ‘ok.’ During the dubbing for a scene, I was fine with the second-third take, but he went on till the 15th take or so till he was absolutely convinced that he had got the right graph (suitable for the character in a particular situation). All these aspects make it a treat to work with him.”
Outside of his felicity as an actor, the director points out to his large-heartedness that was evident on the sets. The superstar in order to put him at ease, met Parth, even before the shoot started. “He addressed Parth as ‘champion’, right through the shoot and kept his morale high, saying, ‘Tu toh champion hai’. One day Parth was feeling very low as he was missing his friends; he was unable to concentrate, and get his scenes right. When I shared this with Mr Bachchan, he immediately came and cheered up Parth without even giving an inkling that he was aware of anything,” recalls the director. In fact, Big B went a step further, occasionally demonstrating the correct body posture and movements for various scenes to his young co-actor.
Bachchan’s diligence and involvement is quite evident in the scores of promotional events he has been a part of, gamely holding forth on various aspects of the film—lauding the talent involved—his young co-star, Parth Bhalerao, Yo Yo Honey Singh who raps in the film—among others. Outside of his well known professionalism, Big B has an emotional connect with the film as well—Bhoothnath Returns is a co-production between old friend Ravi Chopra’s B.R. Films and Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series. The film is a labour of love for the well-known banner that according to reports has fallen upon hard times (Chopra has been ailing for some time and his wife Renu and sons Abhay and Kapil are fronting this project). Undoubtedly, Bachchan’s presence and support has added manifold to the film’s value.
A quick tête -à-tête with the Big B on playing the good ghost:
The last edition of the film, Bhoothnath, hinted at the importance of following traditions . So, what is the moral/ethical premise in Bhoothnath Returns?
Morals and ethics never change in a given society that has history by its side. Bhoothnath carried the sentiments between father and son and a compassionate grandson. Bhoothnath Returns carries moral and ethical values too, but in a different circumstance, that are valid and pertinent in what the present state of the nation is, and how a young lad and Kailashnath urf Bhoothnath, on a second mission to Earth, get enveloped in. Apart from the humour that the proceedings of a ghost on Earth provides, there is, coincidentally, another young kid who is the only one that can actually see Mr Bhoothnath. What follows, is there for you to see in the film on the 11th of April 2014, worldwide.
This film too has a child actor along with you as the main protagonist, so would you say that Bhoothnath stories work best with the camaraderie between the child protagonist and Bhoothnath in the film? Also, your comment on your co-star in the film, Parth Bhalerao.
The child is indeed the main player in the film, and yes the main protagonist. Children have a way with words and deeds, actions and thoughts. The writer and director of the film, Nitesh Tiwari has most intelligently carried forward the legacy of the first Bhoothnath into this one.
Parth, who plays the role of the kid is an exceptional talent. Rare, mature and one of the best that I have worked with. His simplicity in executing the most demanding acts is to be seen to be believed.
As an actor how is it working with child actors? And you have always been very good with it — Black, Bhoothnath, Paa, Mr Natwarlal — are examples. Is it easier or more difficult as working with grown ups? For instance, how does one give them cues?
I have had the great fortune of working with kids in several of my films and as you rightly point out, there are many examples of them. Giving cues to them is least worrisome; you need to watch out for them giving yours, for, they can surprise you with their acumen and trait. It is an absolute delight to be in their company. They are more honed in and proficient in the craft, and even though they may seem or look uninterested or edgy, when the camera starts they are established professionals.
In this edition, you take on the might of a local politician in the film. Would you detail that a bit? Do you think the film echoes a popular sentiment especially this year being the election year?
Yes, that is correct. You may have noticed that in the trailers of the film. There is a politician involved and yes, the premise of an election is quite prominent in the story. The positioning of the film in the election year is purely coincidental.
What would you say is the challenge in doing films like Bhoothnath that are about, well, ghosts? And a series at that.
Apart from the obvious challenges of ghost material, there are certainly greater technical issues that need to be resolved. In the film there is only one person, the little boy who can physically see the ghost. No one else can. It then becomes a huge creative challenge for the director to construct and shoot scenes when the ghost is involved. But the director has managed that quite beautifully. Continuity issues are taken care of by the scripting process, so it has not been a problem.
The film also has Ranbir Kapoor make an appearance — is he a co-ghost?
Ranbir has very graciously done a small cameo in the film, as has Shah Rukh. Indeed, Shah Rukh’s presence in the film comes at a most opportune moment in the story. When you see the film, it will make better sense than for me to describe it now.
There is a new director, Nitesh Tiwari on board—as an actor what did you find different about his perspective as a director?
Nitesh is not new. He has directed a National Award winning film, Chillar Party, and has been involved with films and writing since a long time. I met him during the scripting and shooting process of the KBC promos, and it has been a privilege to have worked with him!!
What would be your favourite ghost story, that you would like to watch as a film.
I am not very fond of ghosts or ghost stories . Unless, of course, I am in one of them!!
A ghost story or a zombie film – which would you prefer to watch or act in?
Right now, it would be prudent for me to say ‘a ghost story’ !!! I am unaware of what a zombie is, though I do hear the word often in the conversations of the young.