"Black" goes into a very sensitive area of our society.
Yes, the physically challenged people...They never desire our sympathy. They need to be treated like normal human beings. That's the spirit "Black" captures. So what if you're handicapped? You work around it. That's what "Black" tells us. Life is a struggle for all of us.
The basic question the film addresses is: are we willing to make that effort to overcome the hardships? That's what Ran Mukherjee's character does, with some help from me. "Black" isn't the story of defeat and depression. It's the story of triumph over tribulations.
Your wife Jaya Bachchan thinks this is arguably your best performance to date?
There's nothing in "Black" that I've done before - not a single scene or shot...As an artiste I feel extremely satisfied. I've never felt this way before. It put me in touch with emotions within me that I had never touched before. The hard edges and hidden corners inside tend to remain unexplored. "Black" got me to explore those emotions.
Yes, I've been doing mainstream escapist cinema all along, some of it of a fairly high quality. But somewhere you feel there could've better aesthetics. "Black" is such a welcome relief. It has salvaged me as an actor. Everything, from its exceptional background score by Monty to the cinematography by Ravi Chandran, is beyond anything seen in our cinema.
You've been struggling with improbable roles for years...
Most certainly. But the wait has been worth it. "Black" has unburdened me of mediocrity. I feel "Black" will open a new chapter in Hindi cinema. And cinema should be prepared to acknowledge and honor it. "Black" will take us several notches higher.
And mind you, "Black" isn't meant for an elite 'art house' film. Most certainly "Black" isn't an art house film. And those who're calling it that are doing so without seeing the film. "Black" isn't one of those depressing films that doesn't take its responsibilities towards the box-office seriously. It's an uplifting, elevating triumphant drama. It's like being in one of those fast-paced action films where you couldn't move out of your seat because the action was so fast-paced. "Black" grips you from the start and it haunts you for days.
This is where the craft and genius of filmmakers come in. It isn't just the action, glamour and pace. There're several areas of the human mind that need to be explored without getting experimental. "Black" does just that.
How's Bhansali as a director?
It's difficult to fathom his mind and his brilliance. To have the capacity and depth to treat such a complex subject so lucidly is something inexplicable. It's very tough to find a sense of music, drama, script, emotions and costumes in one person. His power of observation is incredible.
During an unguarded moment when I'm all by myself and a shot is being lit up, Sanjay would observe me and incorporate that in the shot. That's a fantastic trait to have. Most of us are at our natural best when we're left alone. On camera we tend to get into convulsions and contortions. To incorporate mannerisms taken from real life is a very brave thing to do.
Have you been more actively involved with this project than any other?
The foundation for the project was so strong I saw no need to add anything. The moments are enhanced by the props, the lines, clothes and the environment provided. Without these props an actor is lost...and the co-stars! This is nine-year old Ayesha Kapoor's first attempt at film acting. That a girl that small can give such a huge performance is incredible.
And Rani Mukherjee?
I've worked with her before in "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham". And now I'm doing Shaad Ali's "Bunty Aur Babli" with her. Rani is a natural. I've always admired her acting. Very spontaneous and instinctive. No director needs to explain excessively to her. "Black" is Rani's best.
To have a co-star like her who gives the right cues and responses certainly enhances my performing ability. Most of my scenes in "Black" are with Rani. That gave us time to build up the moments. It all helped to give "Black" that cutting edge, which you've noticed.