Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

While the adage says that ‘change is the only constant’, it’s quite a delight when some things don’t change. Like for instance, you catch up with AbhishekBachchan after two years, and here he is – in a white sweatshirt, blue denims, stubble with that cool, courteous attitude – that’s signature AB for you. There’s always a lot to speak to the guy about – for his in-depth thoughts and the quality of being articulate. Quite a delight for his fans, AB is back on-screen after a while with ‘Manmarziyaan’ and we chat all about his latest release amidst much more. Excerpts:

 

A lot of people question you, why did you take this break? But, I feel it’s great you did…..
People were mentioning it to me, I was just not able to read it. I’m not saying that I will just do solo hero films. There’s a certain perspective through which your audience sees you and if they are not happy with it, then you need to change it. ‘Yuva’ is an ensemble piece, but somewhere you also have to see what you are doing in it and how you are going to be perceived by the audience. Those are the kind of questions I never asked myself, I do that now. There’s no shame in admitting that. At the end of the day, we make movies for our audience and if they are not happy, you need to change that.

Then at what point did you feel that ‘Manmarziyaan’ is the right script to go by?
Above and beyond what the normal parameters are, there were two things which I was very conscious about, which I wanted in the film I take up. One, I wanted to be challenged as an actor and I wanted to be uncomfortable about going to work. The minute I heard about ‘Manmarziyan’ and then when I heard what Anurag’s approach was, and what was his perspective towards the story, I instantly knew that this was the right film to do. It was definitely a big challenge, and next I knew, Anurag would push me and demand a certain level which would put me in an uncomfortable space. It ticked both those boxes, so I instinctively just went by it. The fun fact is, they approached me in January and in February I was shooting the film, so it happened that fast. In the last one year, I have been trying to get that film, and get it on the floor, you have your own struggle to make a film. There’s a lot which goes into getting the finance and cast together, I was doing all that, but this came along and I knew instinctively that this is the film to go by.

Character wise, did you need to shed some inhibitions?
Robbie by profession is a banker, but he is an introvert. He is an internal guy, but a resolute kind of a person. He knows what he wants. He is not very expressive. So, as a performance, it’s veryinternalised. He is not somebody who says too much, but when he says it, you know he means it. When he decides to do something, you know there’s a lot of thought into it. That’s what excited me. Robbie has no crutches and as a performance, it is a challenge. It’s terrifying as an actor, the camera doesn’t lie and you can’t fool the camera. Somewhere I knew it would push me to do something which I like doing, which is not overdo. When I am expected to do something which is high energy, I do it but I’m conscious of it. This is more natural to me and I knew Anurag would capture the depth. I knew he would make it possible.

You’re eternally a positive guy, yet, was there a point where you had to try and keep yourself motivated and be assured that this is the right thing to do and it’s going to be worth the wait?
People don’t understand this but I felt all the doubt, and I felt lost before I took the decision. So, the decision was the first step towards improvement. I’ve been thinking about this from a very long time. When I decided to take the sabbatical and that was my first step towards changing things. I had figured everything out, I knew what I was going to do. The first part of the plan was to stop. When that happened, it was a very well thought out and dedicated decision. So, the last two and a half years, was work in progress. I was executing a plan in the last two and a half years, so I had no doubt about it. I stopped signing films only when I was convinced that it was the right thing to do.

 

There’s a certain perspective through which your audience sees you and if they are not happy with it, then you need to change it

So, now has it become even more essential for you to work with good directors?
Absolutely. When I told Karan, I’ve signed ‘Manmarziyaan’, he told me, ‘you’re going to love working with Anurag.’ And he said I’m not telling you that as a director, but I’m telling you that as an actor because I’ve worked with him. He gives you wonderful notes when he is directing which is absolutely right. Any actor who has worked with Anurag, has been spoilt for life. He is very giving as a director. I just really hope, I can say that about all the future directors I work with. I’ve truly enjoyed working with him.

Just how you’ve grown as a person, through cinema, sports and life – has that also lead to you thinking differently and making different choices?
I believe, everything has contributed. Life shapes you. I’m sure, subconsciously somewhere whatever you do, inspires you in certain way. Sports teaches you a lot. It gives you a lot of fighting spirit. At times when you are feeling low on confidence, being around sports gives you that ‘never say die’ kind of attitude. It gives you that inspiration to keep going. I used to be a basketball player and I remember Larry Bird who is this very famous basketball player said that, ‘Give it your all, till the final bell rings. Don’t give up any hope. Keep going, whether you are winning, losing or anything.’ So, life itself teaches you a lot.

What has changed in the sense of how you feel as a person over the years?
I think I’ve managed to chanelise my energy into the right direction. There’s definitely a lot more focus. Shockingly, I never set any goals for myself. I was just happy with the opportunity to act but if it’s a career, you need to have goals. You need to be focused on what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve. I didn’t have any of that. I was just happy that ‘wow, you are giving me an opportunity to be an actor.’ Now what? If anything, I’ve learnt how to express what I desire a lot better. Previously I think, I was a bit reticent and shy. I felt, it’s not cool to say some things. But now I’ve realised, it’s absolutely okay to express what you want. There’s no shame in saying what you feel and going aggressively after what you want.

One of the best things actors feel about the profession is the ability to express…did sports also help as a source to express when you were not doing a film?
Yes, I’m pretty expressive on field if you see (laughs). Yes, somewhere I believe it helped. I’ll agree to that (smiles).

Through your instagram posts, you’ve been re-visiting your ‘Manmarziyaan’ journey. What do you take back now by the end of this film?
First and foremost, that all the decisions taken so far were the right ones. There’s a renewed sense of confidence. How the film pans out eventually, I haven’t been sure, nobody can be sure. But I know today, that every decision leading up to the film, was the right one. Taking a sabbatical was the correct decision. Working with Anand and Anurag was absolutely the right decision. ‘Manmarziyaan’ was the correct film to resume.

What’s happening on the production front?
I want to get the home production back on running, but it will take me 12-16 months. I’ve identified two scripts but they will take time to be made. That’s also another project I’m working on simultaneously. After I release this film, I will start on the next but as of now, the next one year is full.

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