Here’s the interview I did last week with Bachchan for the Mirror. Some of you missed it and asked if I could post it here.
Incidentally, Bachchan is angry and hurt at the same time; one has to feel sorry for him in this instance. Where he invests his money and time is his right, and clearly no one can be tragetted on these grounds. Although he didn’t admit to it directly, the truth is, the actor is paying heavy for his maha celebrity hood. And his ordeal is not over yet, methinks much like a section of the Muslim community is compelled to do in this nation, he will have to keep proving, through actions and deeds, he cares for Mumbai. What a bummer!
Amitabh Bachchan has so far remained silent over the accusations that have been hurled at him by Raj Thackeray and his party. That the movie star’s loyalties remain with his home state, Uttar Pradesh, and that he has never shown much interest in his so-called karmabhoomi, Mumbai. But clearly, he has been quietly hurting even as the charges got hurled thick and fast, as did some empty beer bottles inside ABCL’s office.
Last night, as Bachchan prepared to travel overseas for a film shoot, he finally broke his silence and spoke emotionally on all the attacks on his reputation and integrity, and on being labelled an outsider in a city he’s spent a lifetime in. “I am not an outsider by any stretch of imagination. This land is my land as much as it is of every other citizen of our beloved country. I came to Mumbai in 1968 to pursue a vocation. I did not need a visa to come here. I have made this city my home for the last 40 years. I bought my first car here, and my own house. I met and married my wife in this city and both my children were born here. Both my children were married in this city from that same house. My two grand children were born in this city. My father and my mother spent their last years in Mumbai and died here. They were put to flames here and their ashes have mingled with the earth of this city. This city gave me name and fame beyond anything that I may have deserved or hoped for. I am not leaving this city and going anywhere. Let them chuck a thousand bottles. Let them burn my effigies and conduct morchas in front of my house. Let them blacken my film posters and stop the screening of my films. Let them attack me with stones and laathis or whatever else is there in their arsenal. Let them abuse me in the print and electronic media. Let them implicate me in false cases. I am not budging!”
To make matters worse for Bachchan, the Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, recently ran a report which compared him with Rajnikanth in the context of the Hogenekkal controversy, suggesting that while Rajni sided with his ‘karmabhoomi’, Tamil Nadu, while speaking out against his ‘janmabhoomi’ Karnataka, the same attitude is not seen when it comes to Bollywood stars. But Bal Thackeray’s later retraction of this report seems to have assuaged the star to an extent. “I feel honoured that I have a friend in Rajnikanth and even more honoured that, despite my insignificance, I am brought into comparison with him. Bala Saheb has been a father figure to us and shall remain so, ever. In my growing up years my parents taught me that 'when elders speak, the young listen quietly'. I quietly accept whatever my elder or his outfit has expressed.”
I am not up for scrutiny!
However, what remains to be seen is if the accusations will compel the actor to deliberately alienate himself from doing things for UP, and will see him participate in social work in Maharashtra. Bachchan vehemently denies this is going to happen. “Accusations and insinuations are not going to make me change the course of my conscience. I shall do what I want to do and what I feel needs to be done; whether it is in Maharashtra or UP or Bihar or Punjab or Bengal or Tamil Nadu or any part of the country. The people of this country have loved and given unbounded affection to my family and me. I am equal in the eyes of the entire nation and no one should stipulate what I must do or not. My sense of fairness and fortitude is not up for scrutiny. Every individual in a free society has the freedom of expression and speech. And I honour and respect that. But those that question me and my deeds or non deeds, need to know a simple fact: I am a public figure, not a public official. I am not a democratically elected representative of the people, neither do I hold any Government public office. I am answerable ONLY to the three C's... courts, constitution and conscience. Nothing and no one shall find a place, even remotely, into these honourable portals. People have the right to question me, as they do and must. But they do not have the right to demand proof for any activity of mine, particularly when they themselves are not eligible for such a misguided, heedless and a totally inappropriate task.”
Finally, why does Bachchan believe he’s been singled out for the attack on migrants from the north, why has he become the poster boy of communal hatred when he did not even apply for this ‘job’. The semi-philosophical answer is laced with hurt and sadness. “Sometimes in life, situations demand the proverbial 'whipping horse'. And there are a few 'chosen' people in this country that fit that bill.”