Abhishek Bachchan appears as a zombie as he saunters in his wing of Janak, the Bachchan office in Juhu, Mumbai, with a carafe of coffee in hand and bloodshot eyes. “I haven’t been sleeping for more than an hour a night. There is more caffeine in my body than blood,” he says. After the hectic promotions for Dum Maaro Dum, he’s off to Russia for a long schedule of Abbas-Mustan’s Players. He tells Harneet Singh how he takes his flops on his chin
What do you feel about Dum Maaro Dum (DMD) now that it has released.
Well, since excitement is not part of the occasion anymore, it’s pure nerves. DMD is as important as my last and next release. I always take my films personally. I envy my actor friends who build a shield and can remove themselves from the outcome of the movie. My problem is that I do everything whole-heartedly. I’m the kind who jumps into the pool even if he doesn’t know swimming. I did that, you know.
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Jump into the pool without knowing how to swim?
Yes. Being severely asthmatic, I wasn’t allowed to swim as a kid. Every Sunday when the Juhu gang — who are all actors, directors and producers now — used to go to Hotel Sun ’n’ Sand, I was made to sit on the side. One day, I just jumped into the pool. My mom almost got a heart attack but I knew I’ll survive. I would take a bucket and throw it in the deep and go and bring it back. That’s how I taught myself to swim. That’s the kind of guy I am.
So how does the survival instinct kick in when you deal with flops?
If my film doesn’t do well, I stand on the frontline and say, bring it on. I own my flops. You see, my last three films (Raavan, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Say, Game) haven’t done well. A magazine called me ‘Zero No. 1’ but it’s not the end of the world. There’s still a lot of work left in me. I’m not going to accept it and I’ll make sure that the tide changes.
But the media will comment on the fate of the film since our industry is governed by the box office?
I agree but can you allow me to move on? Raavan was over a year ago but even now I’m asked about it. I’ve never looked back. I’ve lived my flops, suffered a lot, dealt with it and even tried to rectify my mistakes but nobody lets me forget it.
Do you feel that you have to prove yourself with every film all over again?
I don’t have an answer because I haven’t analysed it. But one thing is certain that when a film flops, it’s Abhishek’s flop but when it does well, the credit is never given to me. I don’t know why.
So let’s analyse it now. Do you think you get flak because of your heavy-duty last name?
I don’t think so. I don’t want to analyse it. If I do, then
I’ll get an excuse. I don’t want to find a patli galli. If you do that then you start using it and it becomes your main route.
What piece of recent criticism really hurt you?
I don’t mind what they say to me because I’m used to it. But I saw my father’s face fall when he made a comment on Raavan and such vicious things were said that he had to apologise to me.
Are you talking about Amitabh Bachchan’s comment on how the editing of Raavan ruined the movie?
Yes. It was a conversation that an editor of a magazine was having with my father on Twitter. He asked what went wrong with Raavan and why was Abhishek’s performance so patchy? So Dad said a lot of my scenes were edited out. That’s all. When the controversy started, we were in London with Mani Ratnam who is family to me. After that day, my father has never ever written about me or my film. I felt very bad for him because you’ve stopped a parent from even discussing about his child.
As an actor what do you think is your strength?
I have the ability to completely surrender to what I’m doing. In the last 10 years, I have worked with some of the biggest directors of my generation. Why are they coming to me? I think that’s because they feel I’ll submit to them and jump in with both feet.
What’s your biggest weakness as an actor?
I think maybe my strength is my chink. But then that’s life. When you are down you get epiphanies. When you are up then you’re too busy having a good time to think of anything else. We put on a brave exterior as actors but we know what’s going on.
Whose opinion really matters?
My Dad’s. Always. He told me to “Stand tall. Take it on the chin and make sure your chin is tough enough to take it.” Who gives you the best pep talk?
I’ve quite a few people, but I think the best one is by my wife.
The best lesson you have learnt in your decade-long career?
I’m not as idealistic about acting as I was. Today I realise that you make a film for the audience and not yourself so you need to give them what they want.