Amitabh Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor!One defined the rage and restlessness of the ’70s and reinvented himself for millenials, and the latter one just over a decade old in the film industry is the youth icon. Together, they are possibly the finest actors in the Bollywood.
India Today brings to you a never before experience in which youth icon Ranbir Kapoor exclusively interviews Big B, where both talk to each other about cinema, life and much more in a freewheel chat session. Here are excerpts of 21 amazing questions Ranbir Kapoor asked Amitabh Bachchan after having two glasses of Champagn:
1. Ranbir Kapoor I will not look into your eyes because I am intimidated. I’m such a fan of the work you do. I have ten thousand memories of you, having been around you while growing up. I remember when I came on the sets of Ajooba (1991); I was very young and not aware of actors or what they do. I didn’t even know my father was an actor. It really scared me when I saw you in that costume-your presence, your magnetism has stayed with me. Another thing I must tell you, Amit uncle, for the past 20 years, you have never forgotten to wish me on my birthday. And when I was in school, in my first semester in New York, I came home and found a message on my answering machine: ‘Hi Ranbir, this is Amitabh Bachchan calling to wish you a very happy birthday.’ That entire semester I showed off that phone call to everyone. It was my trump card. I got a lot of attention from women. But my best memory of you is while I was assisting (Sanjay Leela) Bhansali on Black (2005). Forget film school and acting school, it was when I got to see you live that I received my education. Tell me, what is your take on commercial cinema? I find it hard to digest when people tell me to do a masala film.
Amitabh Bachchan I don’t think there’s a necessity to have a debate on this. Every film is made to make money, whether it’s a so-called art film or “different cinema”. Everyone invests money and wants returns. It is the audience that decides whether it is a masala film or not and whether they would like to go watch it again. So when you talk of the other kind of cinema, the credit really goes to the audiences, because it means they have changed their tastes and they really want to see better films. Better in the sense that they want to see something credible rather than escapist. It is challenging for newcomers, for new filmmakers. But if you’re saying your kind of cinema isn’t making money, you’re wrong. Some of your films have done huge business. You want to be seen as someone doing something credible, something people can identify with. Audiences like you, irrespective of the kind of films you do. You have a quality; when you perform, you don’t do much. You have great movement within your eyes, and there’s something you do with your body. You’re brilliant, and audiences are very mature, so don’t worry about your films not doing well.
2. Ranbir Kapoor You’re pulling my leg now, Amit uncle! When you’re not working, are you constantly in a state of inspiration? You’re always so aware of what happens in the world, about politics, about sports. Are you constantly learning, reading stuff or do you have moments when you are not doing anything, just relaxing.
Amitabh Bachchan This mobile phone is a horror. The moment you switch it on, you want to go to Twitter or Facebook. You start scrolling and you don’t want to stop. The brain gets exhausted with the information you’re getting. I don’t know if it’s healthy, but it’s difficult to stop.
3. Ranbir Kapoor I’ve stayed away from social media. I find that actors are so easily accessible-through social media,at airports.
Amitabh Bachchan Yes, this is a problem! I have to think before I go to the airport. What did I wear last time?
4. Ranbir Kapoor Do you think I am losing out by not being on social media?
Amitabh Bachchan I think you should do what’s important to you. I started a blog because someone said there are a lot of websites out there in my name. The first day I wrote two lines: ‘Hello, everyone. I’ve started this blog.’ The next day I got a response and I thought this is fantastic. I sent a reply in my next one. The next day I got four replies. Now I’ve written it every day for over 3,000 days non-stop. I do it myself. Twitter and Facebook too.
5. Ranbir Kapoor Apart from social media, what else do you do? Are you comfortable being on your own? Do you enjoy travelling?
Amitabh Bachchan I can’t say I prefer it, if I have company, I enjoy it, but if I don’t, I’m okay by myself. As far as travelling is concerned, I think now I’m more comfortable being at home.
6. Ranbir Kapoor But how can you create something new if you’re not travelling and rejuvenating yourself?
Amitabh Bachchan What’s the guarantee that I could rejuvenate by travelling?
7. Ranbir Kapoor But don’t you want to meet new people?
Amitabh Bachchan I meet them on TV, in the media, through social media; I read opinions, the reactions to them.
8. Ranbir Kapoor I remember when you took off acting for some time. Did you take it as failure; the sabbatical?
Amitabh Bachchan It was a mistake. I don’t think I should have been away from the camera and the studios. Every day on a set is great learning. To sit back and take a sabbatical is wrong. I felt, I’d be able to continue after three years, but in this profession, there’s always someone waiting around the corner; someone better, someone better-looking, more popular will take your place. Every day you are always learning something, meeting new people, working with new artists, working in new surroundings, meeting directors and people you have not worked with. I think I missed out on that.
9. Ranbir Kapoor Which was your hardest phase?
Amitabh Bachchan Everyday is tough, Ranbir. I’ve met with so many failures. At some point you’ve got to ask yourself what you can do best and what you can go back to. Work small, adjust. Reconcile with that and then it’s just taking steps forward. It’s well known that I had a huge failure in the corporation I began, it bankrupted me, I had no films, no money, I had creditors hounding me, it was a horrid feeling. The very people who applaud you, sing praises about you when you’re doing well, abuse you and become demanding. It’s tough to face that. I decided that I was an actor and went back to it. I went to Yash Chopra asking for a job.
10. Ranbir Kapoor And your ego didn’t come in the way of having to ask for a job?
Amitabh Bachchan I don’t know what ego means. If I don’t have a job, I’ll go and say I don’t have a job. If I need it, I’ll ask for it. That’s how I got Mohabbatein (2000). I didn’t find it embarrassing.
11. Ranbir Kapoor Many in your position would have.
Amitabh Bachchan You have to realise there was no position. I think we are capable enough to understand how we have performed, what was lacking.
12. Ranbir Kapoor I remember on the sets of Black, we would be struck by your performance. But you’d go to Bhansali and say, Oh, I clenched my jaw a bit too early. You wanted a retake. You had a desire to get every bit right.
Amitabh Bachchan I think it worries you when you see the film. When I see Black now, I hate to see the dining room scene, when I read the letter.
13. Ranbir Kapoor When you read that letter, and you get choked. I remember it so clearly because Bhansali showed me that as an example of how you could control your physicality too. As an actor you should be able to do that, he told me.
Amitabh Bachchan I remember it for the mistake I made. I pull out the letter and reach for my specs and start reading. But if I’ve got Alzheimer’s, how do I know my specs are there? I should’ve thought about it and then reached out. I curse myself. I kept telling Sanjay I wanted to redo it. But Ranbir, you were assisting Sanjay on Black, your main job was to train the little girl perform as a blind girl. If people have appreciated her performance, it’s because you used to train her.
14. Ranbir Kapoor A piece of trivia-the only person I’ve been a body-double for is you, in the shot where Debraj is sitting by the fountain. I had to pad myself with overcoats and a skullcap. I’ve had the privilege of being Amitabh Bachchan for a day. It was awesome. If you had to choose one favourite film for all ages, if I pointed a gun at you and asked you to choose, which would it be?
Amitabh Bachchan : I’d tell you to use that gun and shoot it, because I really don’t have that one film. I can’t choose. I feel that I’d belittle the people who’ve made the other 200 films with me. I don’t mind dying for that. I want to ask you, you went to acting school in New York. I want to know how acting is taught. I’ve missed out on it. I didn’t know there were acting schools, until I met Jaya (his wife), who had been to such an institute.
15. Ranbir Kapoor To be honest, it’s absolute rubbish. You can’t learn method acting in nine months. What they teach you is how to use sense memory or emotional memory for dramatic scenes. Any intelligent person can do it. My acting lessons came from you on the sets of Black. Bhansali directing you, you responding to his directions. I wouldn’t advise anyone to go to acting school, go to an Amitabh Bachchan set, I’d say. You haven’t done theatre. Would you consider trying it someday?
Amitabh Bachchan I’ve done amateur stuff that everyone’s done. But I can’t take to the stage now. I’m scared, it’s tough to be on stage. I won’t remember my lines. I admire people who can do it.
16. Ranbir Kapoor I’ve seen you memorise a four-page monologue in one hour. Which brings me to my next question. Do you like to stick to the script or improvise?
Amitabh Bachchan I stick to the script. The writer is the most important person for the film. He’s not just the writer, he’s also the director, set designer, music director-when he writes, he imagines everything. It’s the toughest job to do. It’s disrespectful to say ‘hey, this is rubbish, I’ll just say what I feel like’.
17. Ranbir Kapoor But to direct is to tell a story, right?
Amitabh Bachchan Telling it through a lens is tough. How do you know where to put the trolley, where to walk, tell the artist what you want them to do.
18. Ranbir Kapoor It happens to me, that I get a story idea, I share it with people, but I just get lazy and can’t get down to writing it. I don’t have the knack. Either you’re born with it or not.
Amitabh Bachchan If you do have these moments even in the middle of the night, speak them out, record them. Give them to someone else, a friend who’s a writer. You never know, something valuable might come out of it.
19. Ranbir Kapoor Do you miss singing and dancing with heroines in Ooty?
Amitabh Bachchan It’s terrible labour and I hate it. I went along with it because it is a part of my profession. But there were a couple of incidents early in my career, when I was asked to do a song and dance routine, but I didn’t do a very good job and was replaced. So it became a stigma for me. I hate it when I have to do a song and dance sequence. The kind of stuff you guys do now is impossible. How can different parts of your body move in different directions?
20. Ranbir Kapoor My personal life has been written about a lot. Mostly in a negative way, calling me a cad, a flirt. How do I get out of that?
Amitabh Bachchan Negativity sells, so it’s going to happen. I deal with negative media even today.
21. Ranbir Kapoor What’s your relationship like now?
Amitabh Bachchan Oh, I love them. Dare I say anything else (laughs)?
I remember meeting you in London, we were staying at the same hotel. You had a book in your hand and you were going to a park to read. You said ‘I just want to be in my own space. It’s too complicated in Mumbai, I can’t function there.’
Watch Amitabh Bachchan Exclusive Interview By Ranbir Kapoor