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Interview: Amitabh Bachchan

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  • CNN talked to Amitabh Bachchan, the De Niro of Bollywood
  • Bachan: Indian films profitable and exciting with viewers all over the world
  • Bachan: Excited to be working with son and daughter-in-law
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Hailed as India's greatest actor, he's the legendary star of Sholay and leader of the mighty Bachchan clan. CNN talked to Amitabh Bachchan, the De Niro of Bollywood, at an International Indian Film Academy event in London...



Amitabh Bachchan talks to Myleene on the green carpet at the Indian Film Awards in Yorkshire, England

CNN: Right now, it's an exciting time for Bollywood.

Amitabh Bachchan: Yes, I think it is. It's a great progression from where we were a few years ago, where even though we were the highest-making film nation in the world, we were looked upon with a certain amount of criticism and skepticism about our content and the way we make our films.

Gradually, over the years, people have come to expect and accept that this is how we make the films, and it's all turning out to be profitable and exciting with viewers all over the world.

CNN: Why do you think people had been so skeptical?

Bachchan: Well, they felt that the content wasn't exciting enough, they couldn't understand the song and dance routine, they didn't like the very cliched stories or formulaic storylines, but that's the way we are. We must have song and dance in our lives; we've had it ever since the inception of cinema in India.

Our stories are very social-based, very human-based. We are a very emotional nation. All our culture and tradition of over 5,000 years has come through a lot of heat and fire and eventually come out on top. That's how it is, and that's how it's going to remain.

CNN: Is Bollywood escapism for the Indian people?

Bachchan: You have to see it in a larger perspective. There are large numbers of people in India below the poverty line, there are large numbers of people who lead a meager existence. They want to find a little escape from the hardships of life, and come and watch something colorful and exciting and musical. Indian cinema provides that. So yes, the content of our television and our cinema is escapist in nature because we are there to provide entertainment.

The select group of people who do make realistic cinema, who do make cinema perhaps a little more acceptable to the Western audience, is a very small percentage.

CNN: What are the main differences between a Hollywood and a Bollywood actor?

Bachchan: Conceptually we are both the same. We are all human beings, we are actors, we are put in different situations and conditions and we act. Perhaps the content of the Indian cinema is a lot more varied and diverse as compared to the ones the Hollywood actors get associated with. They more or less have a very single track presence, so to say.

Indian actors, because of the format of our stories, need to be good actors, and be able to perform emotional sequences, do a bit of comedy, dance and singing, action, because all of this forms just one film. In many ways I'd say there are greater demands on Indian actors than there are on Hollywood.

CNN: So do you think Hollywood actors could learn from the Bollywood actors?

Bachchan: I don't know that we are worthy enough for learning something from us, but I do know that actors in India are very capable, very talented, and can be compared to the best anywhere in the world.

CNN: What makes you the best actor in India?

Bachchan: I don't use any techniques; I'm not trained to be an actor. I just enjoy working in films. It's more instinctive rather than anything else. I don't do the calculated rehearsed kind of approach, and I hope that I can continue that because I believe that instinct is much stronger and greater when you are performing on camera.

CNN: Tell us about the upcoming remake of "Sholay."

Bachchan: "Sholay" is an extraordinary film. It's the highest-grossing film and it had a great impact on our society. Obviously remaking it is a huge task. We are purely using the inspiration of the film.

I am playing the baddie in the film, as opposed to one of the leading men in the original. It's a great challenge for any actor to do something different in a film. I will obviously not be playing the leading man, but it's exciting. At my age you don't get to run after the girl and win them over and fight the baddie, but I'm happy that I'm doing the negative role in this film and I'm enjoying it!

CNN: Tell us about "Sarkar 2" -- it's becoming a bit of a family affair!

Bachchan: It's a very powerful film, it takes influences from the Godfather. It's not exactly a remake, but it took inspiration from the Godfather and put it in "Sarkar." We are now doing "Sarkar 2," which is going to have Abhishek, my son, and his wife to be, so I think it will be wonderful for the three of us to work together again. Sarkar 2 will be a much larger film, larger in concept, larger in visuals. It promises to be very exciting.

CNN: Is it nice to work with your family?

Bachchan: The entire filming industry in India is one big family. We all feel that way whenever we make a film: it's a very homely feeling; we all live together, eat together, move around together. It's a wonderful feeling. I don't know how Hollywood behaves, but this is how we behave, and yes, when you have members of the family working with you it makes it all the more exciting.

CNN: What's next for you?

Bachchan: I think that it's important that actors keep getting challenged every day. For every creative person it's a terrible moment when they say they have done all they want to do.


I like to feel the butterflies in the stomach, I like to go home and have a restless night and wonder how I'm going to be able to accomplish this feat, get jittery. That hunger and those butterflies in the stomach are very essential for all creative people.

I'd like to believe that tomorrow is another challenge for me. I'm sure there is lots more for me to do, because there is lots and lots of stuff still to be explored. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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