MOVIES | AMITABH, 60FEEDBACK
'You don't know where you stand with him'
I have known him for about 27 years. You will perhaps never know where you stand with him but there is always professional trust.
The first time I interviewed Amit, he was not giving any interviews. It was during the shooting of Coolie (1982). I asked [director] Manmohan Desai whether Amit would give me an interview. He said, 'If you believe in my films, anything is possible. So come.'
I met him at the Bangalore railway station. I spoke to him over two days. As soon as I returned to Mumbai, he had his [near fatal] accident. So my interview became hot property. Sunday Review carried it as the lead story for two weeks -- the whole transcript of the interview.
I remember going to see Amit in hospital. He said he had read it, and hadn't I left out quite a lot?
He always feels he has said something which has been left out.
But he is pretty forthcoming when he talks. His mind is focused on the interview. He doesn't let anything disturb him when he is talking. For this book [To Be Or Not To Be, which Mohamed has written], we had a three-month deadline. But he was so busy, I didn't know how to do it. Then he asked me to move into his house.
I didn't take him up on the offer because I know he hardly sleeps. But we travelled together to London and Paris, and spoke then. I am quite thrilled with the book. I think there are a few things that everyone doesn’t know that will be there in the book -- no sensation but straight, clean and not omitting anything.
It all happened this April when I was visiting the family once. Jayaji asked whether I would do a book on Amitabh. I really wanted to be behind the camera. So I said I would love to do a documentary on him. Jayaji said, 'Ask him.' I did, and Amitji said, 'Sure.'
So I really got into it to do the documentary. I already have about 40 hours of footage on the documentary. Everyone, the whole family has been shot. Only Jayaji and Amit are left to shoot. But the book grew in concept and I got more involved in it.
Whenever earlier books have happened, like Bhawana Somaaya, I used to say wow! Now I was being asked by the same family to be part of this book and I was flattered. Things came full circle for me because I have been a diehard Amitabh fan and have been watching him since I was a teenager and have done innumerable interviews with him.
I didn't want the book to be dry and academic. At the same time, I wanted it to be serious and readable. We divided the book into separate compartments to tackle it better.
The main challenge for me was to get out of magazine style writing into writing for a book. So for me, it was creatively exciting. And though I didn't get to wrap up the documentary, doing the book and documentary would have made a mess of both. You can't do two things at the same time.
It was quite tough to meet the deadline, but Jaya and her team gave the family photographs and did the leg work. They had this designer called Dhun Cordo. They took over the pictorial part and I was doing the writing part.
The main part of the book is the interview. It spans 400 pages, out of which 200 are pictorial. It is a kind of an overview. If I had given the usual overview, it would not have been very different. So it is exhaustive. I have tried to discover new facets. And I didn't go back to the earlier interviews I had done with Amitabh.
He hasn't seen the book yet. He has just seen the cover.
Khalid Mohamed, former editor of Filmfare and The Times Of India's legendary film critic, co-authored To Be Or Not To Be with Jaya Bachchan who he directed in Fiza. He spoke to Lata Khubchandani
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