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    India's biggest star turns 64

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Tuesday, October 11, 2005
    Even as Amitabh Bachchan turned 64 Tuesday, the superstar''s energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. Bachchan said his only wish on his birthday was for health and happiness for himself and his family and the opportunity to do good work.

    The megastar, who is these days hosting the TV game show Kaun Banega Crorepati 2, went about his normal work schedule and spent some quality time with his family.

    After decades in the film industry, Bachchan is still hungering for more. He has just finished shooting for two films - "Eklavya" with Vindhu Vinod Chopra and "Ek Ajnabee" with Apoorva Lakhiya.

    In fact, Bachchan is happy that the changing profile of Hindi cinema and his age allowed him to experiment with roles instead of typecasting him in the hero''s role.

    The actor, who has had a successful 2005, is working with various directors and has a slew of releases lined up for next year too.

    Moreover, with son Abhishek''s career looking up, Bachchan couldn''t ask for more.

    Everyone wants to know what you're going to be doing on your birthday?

    It's like any other day. It'll be work, work and work. I'll be shooting for Kaun Banega Crorepati. In the evening I'll come home and spend time with my family... which I hardly get to do these days.

    Your 60th birthday bash is still being talked about.

    That was because Jaya thought turning 60 was some kind of a benchmark. She said we have to celebrate it. I said: 'Bhaiyya main kuch nahin karne wala hoon. Aap jahan kahenge main chala jaoonga'. My family, Amar Singhji and Anil Ambani had organised everything.

    "Hamare Hindu calendar mein 60th year auspicious mana jata hai. I don't know how far it's true. But a man is supposed to grow wise at 60. The 64th birthday is just another day.

    You've just shot with Vindhu Vinod Chopra.

    Yes, "Eklavya". Vinod Chopra is very passionate about his work. Meticulous to the point that the birds must fly in the correct direction, the cloud formation must be just so. He manages everything. Sanjay Bhansali had worked with him for seven years. So now I know where Sanjay got his penchant for perfection.

    "Vinod Chopra wanted to work with me ever since he came out of the Pune (film) institute. We'd keep discussing scripts. But it never worked out... until now. All of us had a great time. Vidya Balan is a great artiste. She has magic in her face. She has incredible presence. When she appears on screen you don't want to watch anyone else. She's a breath of fresh air in the industry.

    You play the title character?

    Yes. "Eklavya" is set in Rajasthan. There's intrigue and enigma in the film. Just before this, I shot with Apoorva Lakhiya for "Ek Ajnabee" in Bangkok. Apoorva has shot some great stuff. He has edited the material in a very novel fashion. There's a new style of presenting the scene. You've to see the film to believe it. It's just about two hours long. It doesn't have actors singing on screen.

    Further proof of the changing profile of Hindi cinema?

    And let me tell you, "Eklavya" is just 90 minutes long! Visually it's stunning. Rajasthan provided the natural beauty that Vinod wanted. He has laboured for months to make each hair on my beard look correct... I went to Rajasthan for "Reshma Aur Shera", "Lal Badshah" and "Khuda Gawah". It felt good to return there.

    Your co-star in "Ek Ajnabee" is a little girl.

    Yes! Such unexpected partnering is possible because I'm 64. The leading men are constrained. They always have to be good looking, have to smash the villain and win the girl. I'm liberated from such constraints. I don't have to do these things any more. That's the most amazing gift I've received as an actor.

    What would you like to gift yourself for this birthday?

    I'd want health and happiness for my family and myself... and the opportunity to do good work. Basically I just want to be alive. I've had a very fortunate year. "Waqt" just had its silver jubilee a few days back - not too many films reach that stage of success.

    "This year there's been "Sarkar", "Black", "Waqt" and "Bunty Aur Babli". They've all been different, and have given me an opportunity to play something different. "Bunty Aur Babli" and "Sarkar" came back-to-back and gave me an amazing chance to do two different roles. To add to my pleasure they both featured my son.

    Abhishek's success must be a source of happiness.

    Yes. People saw him do various roles this year. I'm enjoying the attention he's getting and that his work is being appreciated. Audiences, the girls in particular, have a smile when they watch him. I like that.

    He's not straitjacketed by any image?

    Well I guess he started off with a huge inheritance of the Bachchan tag... nothing worked for four-five years. Suddenly everything starts working, including small appearances in "Hum Tum" and "Salaam Namaste". It's a very encouraging sign.

    "He has some truly promising films on hand with Karan Johar, his buddy Rohan Sippy, and Ram Gopal Varma who wants to make several films with him. Then of course there's Yashraj Films to give him opportunities.

    Your fans and fan clubs will go berserk again on your birthday.

    I'm grateful and happy... I can only reciprocate by giving them my good wishes and hoping that I live up to their expectations. Fans are fans. They do all kinds of over-the-top things to express their adoration and adulation. I don't approve of building a temple, doing havan and writing letters in blood. Makes me uncomfortable.

    "But I can't stop them. They get hurt when you stop them. I don't want to hurt their sentiments. But if you ask me I don't want them to go to extreme lengths to show their love. I'm not worthy of it. I want them to show temperance. Their love depends on how well I'm doing professionally. I guess I must be doing a few things right.

    You're working with a whole gamut of directors.

    Yeah, when people ask me to work with them I return their warmth. I do cinema, television, endorsements. There's still room for more work. Among next year's releases I have Ravi Chopra's "Babul", Karan Johar's "Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna" and Balkrishnan's first feature film with Tabu and me. He had been planning something with me for one-and-a-half years. Then in principle I've said yes to Deepa Mehta's next film "Komagata Maru".


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