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    Don't mess with nature: Amitabh on coping with Mumbai floods

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, August 08, 2005
    Don''t mess with nature is the lesson denizens of this financial and entertainment capital of India should learn from last week''s devastating floods that brought the city to its knees, superstar Amitabh Bachchan says.

    "Nature''s fury!! Well, what can you say? You never mess with it. Humans will never be able to defeat it or overcome it," Bachchan told IANS in an interview.

    "One can be warned and be prepared for it. But you can never completely cope with it," he added.

    At the same time, the devastation did not surprise him.

    "When nature plays truant, such things happen. This time around the effect has been larger because of the intensity of the storm and rain," he felt.

    Amitabh felt the sensation-seeking media had made too much of his and his family''s plight during the deluge from a stray comment made by his wife Jaya to "well-wishers".

    "It''s a fallout of a very common human nature. People are interested in knowing what the celebrity is going through. If you are perturbed by the invasion, stop being a celebrity," he contended.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    What lessons have been served up for Mumbaikars by nature's fury?

    Nature's fury!! Well, what can you say? You never mess with it. Humans will never be able to defeat it or overcome it. One can be warned and be prepared for it. But you can never completely cope with it. Count one's blessings and pray I guess....that's all that mankind can do..

    As a resident of Mumbai, were you surprised by the devastation?

    The devastation and the helplessness did not come as a surprise. When nature plays truant, such things happen. This time around the effect has been larger because of the intensity of the storm and rain. But let me tell you, I have been in situations where the conditions were not even a hundredth of what Mumbai went through. And I'm talking about cities of the western world....the first world..the developed nations. And the authorities even there were unable to handle the situation. I was in a snow blizzard in New York once and after it was over, nothing moved in the city for two days. But this does not take anything away from the suffering of our countrymen and the need for their rehabilitation at the earliest.

    How did it (the Mumbai rain) affect you and your family?

    The rains have affected all in Maharashtra. How it has affected me personally is really not the question. Everyone has been through a traumatic experience. Watching the plight of the common man has been very disturbing, and one hopes and prays that normalcy is restored in their lives, as early as possible.

    There was constant speculation in the press about the damage to your property.

    Speculation in the press on damage to my home and property is expected. I did not speak to journalists about it. Several journalists, some very dear friends, wanted to know about our plight. They continuously kept calling. But I deliberately did not take their calls, SMSs or letters. Some even had to be turned away from the house.

    My apologies...But I am not comfortable with the ethics of my personal plight being written about, or used as material for commercial gain. Please don't sell my misery in the papers. I am not convinced with the argument that the authorities need to be informed, via the media on what is happening in my house. Whatever my condition..good, bad, indifferent, is my condition and I do not wish to share it with the world. I shall handle it, thank you. But what is being done for those hundreds that are suffering for the lack of assistance after the calamitous week in Maharashtra? Concern should be expressed for them, not Amitabh Bachchan.

    Was the invasion of your privacy during such a critical time too heavy a price for you?

    No, I don't think it is too heavy a price to pay during a situation like this, for someone with a celebrity status. It's a fallout of a very common human nature. People are interested in knowing what the celebrity is going through. If you are perturbed by the invasion, stop being a celebrity.

    Wasn't it an added burden to cope with the media attention?

    No. It is the media's prerogative to seek information. It's my prerogative, whether I want to give it or not. Of course, for those that are accountable to the public, the story will be different.

    Jaya was quoted as making a statement about your family's plight during the devastation.

    She did no such thing. She is in Delhi attending parliament. During the deluge, we were cut off from her...no phones, no mobiles no connections..nothing! Nothing went through for two days. As a mother and wife she was concerned. After she finally did make contact with us, she was discussing, during an informal conversation with her colleagues, what we were going through. This was leaked or communicated to the press by some well-wisher. The press made it front page news. Why? I haven't the foggiest. But let me guess..How does "good saleable copy" sound? That's all that there was to it.

    Strangely, you were made accountable for the media attention that was imposed on you during the deluge.

    Counter-attack by the press...being put in the dock... all the press write ups about my losses is an illustration of a very well known philosophy of the media. Get hold of a saleable subject, seek information on it and print it. Then get others to comment on it and print it. Then get someone to comment and print it..And on and on it goes... One week the focus is on personal matters..A week later it's political matters. A couple of months after that you need to change the subject..or else it gets stale. Its part of the terrain..we have to accept it, happily, for it's a part of our existence.

    You 're a very private person. What role would you ideally want the media to play in your life?

    How can I even dare to dictate what role the press should play, in matters concerning privacy? The press is an intelligent body. They are the conscience keepers of the nation and the world. They know their job better than anyone else.


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