From the gift of the gab to the gift of the gaffe

Posted: January 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Time was when Amitabh Bacchan used to stray clear of controversy. Time was when Amitabh Bacchan had sworn himself off the media, as he did not want his words to cause any trouble, intended or unintended. When he was considered the perfect elder statesman of the industry. When the rare occasions that he opened his mouth, the most profound and mature words were heard.

But then he got introduced to blogs! And all hell broke loose…

Blogs fascinated him. To the extent that he wanted to write regularly. Wanted to vent out his true feelings. For the world to see – and which it would, on account of his stature. And when you choose to blog that regularly and express yourself thus, it is not easy then, to stay clear off controversy.

So now, the erstwhile ‘elder statesman’ regularly finds himself with his foot in his mouth. And as fans, we are hurt. The way we are hurt, when our hero, Saurav Ganguly, struggles to fend off the bouncers of a johnny-come-lately new pace bowler, and we wince. Because we cannot see one who has given us so much entertainment to be embarrassed thus. And which is exactly what Amitabh is doing to us.

Over the years, he has consistently disliked calling the Hindi film industry, “Bollywood” as he does not appreciate that reference to Hollywood. “Why should it be that way?”, he always asked.

Fine. Makes sense. And I appreciate his stand, to that point.

But when he goes ahead and slams Slumdog Millionaire for showing India in poor light, and saying that the cities of the world have their own underbelly, I am staggered.

What’s the connection?

Are you saying, Sir, that Slumdog is a success because the western world wanted to see and pity the underbelly of India? Or does the film offer something beyond that?

So, if a James Bond movie shows a drug mafia in the USA, is that the reason for it’s success? Is the movie trying to say that drug mafia exists only in the US? Should someone point out, then, that it exists in most countries in the world?

Or when a Bunty aur Babli shows an American conned into buying the Taj Mahal, should Americans jump on it, and claim that people from any country can be conned, so why show an American only??

By reacting thus, Amitabh has shown a defensiveness, that is completely uncalled for! And taken a “story” that is dramatized, too literally, beyond its screen value. It’s like the Health Minister of India, wanting to ban smoking scenes from being shown in cinema. Man, you can’t get that literal! Amitabh is trying to likewise suggest that if a western film wants to show India, it should not be allowed to show it in such poor light?! WHAT?? WHY??

To make things worse, and to add fuel to fire, after the Oscars nominations are announced, and on being asked to comment on the Slumdog nominations, Amitabh chooses to brush them aside, as those being not so important?

An earlier pre-blogging-world Amitabh Bacchan might have given the politically correct reaction, to such a query, irrespective of his personal feelings about the Oscars, by saying, for example, that “he wishes the film all the luck” or something like that.

Blogging’s changed Amitabh. For good, it appears. Oh, wait a minute.. more like, “for bad..”!

On the other hand, are the views that he is now expressing, his ‘real views’, and is he really the person that he is now openly being viewed as?? If that is so, we are saddened by the real personality of Amitabh Bacchan. Where, after all the success that he has achieved, he still has the “grapes are sour” attitude! Grow up, Amitabh… there’ s still time!

  1. Rax Lakhani says:

    Excellent points, well made. A lot arises from the fact that there have been very few Bollywood films which have achieved critical acclaim on a par with Slumdog.

    Amitabh’s performance in Black was commendable but was overly crafted towards an international audience making it slightly removed from the ‘real’ India that Amitabh should and could be portraying.

    • wisdominhindsight says:

      Appreciate the point you make.
      But I would again question the sentence that you write, “… that Amitabh should and could be portraying”.
      Amitabh is an actor. He takes on projects for acting. He does what the director demands. He cannot be making films for x and y purpose.
      He does films because he likes the script, the character, the role that he has essay. Whether it has one impact for international audience or another for an Indian audience, first of all, is the way, the director set out to his goal, and second of all, its something that an artist couldn’t care less about, really!

  2. Rax Lakhani says:

    Seriously? Amitabh probably gets hundreds of scripts delivered daily to his agent and he is quite possibly one of th most influential individuals in Bollywood. He has a big say in which parts he plays and how he plays them (just listen to DVD commentary on most of his recent films).

    A man like him is in a strong position to pick and choose the films he makes and will undoubtedly be able to have influence over script changes and overall direction.

    Mr Bachan is an ambassador for the International Indian Film Academy which was set up to celebrate Indian cinema around the world because the belief in Bollywood is that there is a very large, not just expatriate, audience who want to see its progress, development and creativity.

    In a recent interview, Amitabh had this to say:

    “Somehow, Indian cinema has always unconsciously underrated itself but I believe it has the content, value and uniqueness to go out to a much bigger audience. We believe that, in terms of audience numbers, Indian cinema is achieving more than Hollywood and Western cinema. The number of tickets sold for Indian films around the world is 3.6billion per year compared with about 3.2billion for Hollywood. We don’t have the kind of money Hollywood has but we would like it: we have the talent to match up to anything in the West. If we were in command of such high finances, we could achieve that. It’s not just the commercial side but also the fact that something made in India is getting recognition all over the world.”

    With this said, I have to disagree with the final statement in your comment.

  3. wisdominhindsight says:

    You are right – Amitabh must have 100s of scripts delivered to his agent regularly. But:
    1. Are these good scripts? Good directors? If they were, would he be doing the junk that he has been doing in recent days?
    2. As soon as he dabbles much in the script, to “make a larger statement” about India, he is taking the ownership on the performance of the film, at a level higher than he is obliged to do, as an artist. He would not risk that, unless he is producing / directing the film as well.
    3. He has been quoted also to say, that today, he is a character actor. Back when he was the hero, the film rode on his personal shoulders. Now, he is happier, that the hero has to carry the film, and his is a character presence.
    4. Indian films are still, unfortunately, largely based on hero-heroine framework. They are TRYING to write good roles for him, but not succeeding enough, as we have seen in most of his recent efforts. Inspite of his giving his personal best to the ventures.
    5. As we all know, his second innings on television and cinema was forced upon him, due to the debts that he ran up with his company, ABCL. KBC came like a god send. He has been quoted also to state that he does not know how many years he has left in the industry. Due to this factor, he would not really sit idle and wait for the right scripts. He keeps a very busy schedule.
    6. I have absolutely no issues, in Amitabh doing what he needs to do, in his personal capacity, or as an IIFA ambassador. But in a film, how should India be depicted, or what should be the flavor, is really left for the director to decide. And it would also be based on what will connect best with the target group, and which will deliver best results. Largely in terms of box office success!

  4. Rax Lakhani says:

    I have to defer to your knowledge about Bollywood in this case, as I’m not a huge fan myself. I’m sure what you’re saying is true. However as one of the only internationally recognised stars of Bollywood, I’m sure Amitabh won’t be singing his swan song at anytime in the near future and will work in the industry as long as he cares to do so.

    Again, in an interview, Amitabh is quoted as saying: “I’m finally at a phase where I can afford to take the risks I want to, do all kinds of roles without being bogged down by pressures of an image or commercial farings.”

    My girlfriend has worked on a few Bollywood films here in London but my only comparison is the way it works over here and in Hollywood where high earning actors command huge stakes in the direction of movies they’re working on.

    You raise some really good points. Let’s spar again soon 😉

  5. wisdominhindsight says:

    1. Yes, Amitabh Bacchan keeps getting roles and he will keep acting, perhaps for as long as he wants to. Not all the roles or the scripts are as good as we would like him to do, but there is enough work for him, that’s for sure.

    2. Yes, he likes to take the risks. Because as he says, the fortunes of the film are not necessarily riding on him. But more on the hero of the film – the younger chap!

    It will be a pleasure to spar with you again!

  6. wisdominhindsight says:

    Here’s an update. It appears that Amitabh Bacchan actually called Danny Boyle and apologized for his comments about the film:

    Of course, he is trying to blame it on misinterpretations and the like. Well, when you speak with your foot inside your mouth, the garbled words that come out, will cause some misinterpretations, won’t they?

  7. Have you seen the film Slumdog Millionaire? You should…

    Who wants to be a Hollywood movie fan? Slumdog Millionaire has reaped rich grammiess – not only the eight Academy Awards last night, but also box office gets totaling nearly $100 million in the US..More people may have seen The Curious Case of Benjamin…

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