Success suits Abhishek Bachchan. As is evident on the sets of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, the man of the moment is having a blast joking all around, trading one-liners with everyone from his director to the unit hands. The hesitancy of the past is forgotten; the smile is as warm but a tad more confident. With flattering comparisons to his father, Amitabh Bachchan, growing, Abhishek is all set to get out of his illustrious shadow and take on the world.
You’re working with Karan Johar for the first time. What’s it been like?
I’ve never been pampered so much in my life. Karan loves and respects his actors and he is just brilliant. The conviction with which he works and, more importantly, the way he handles his artists, is amazing. Even the manner in which he explains the scene is great.
Were you excited when he approached you for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna?
(Laughs) I still remember Karan catching hold of me in the middle of the Dhoom party and saying, “There’s a filmmaker who makes movies mainly for the international market who wants to meet you.” I told him to come over with the guy the next day. You must understand that my relationship with Karan is very informal. I have known him since we were kids. Hiroo Aunty (Karan’s mom) and my dad were in school together in Nainital and the families have known one another since then.
The next day Karan arrived and we sat chatting. After half an hour or so, I asked him where this filmmaker of his was. He smiled, “Right here, sitting in front of you.” I couldn’t believe it, it was so sweet. I never asked him anything about my role or the film. I never question certain people. If they tell me, stand here, I just do it. Karan is one of them.
You have largely worked with friends all through. How much does that help?
When you’re working with friends, there’s a comfort level, which, for me, is very important. A friend knows and understands you and that does help a lot. I don’t consider myself a very good actor and I’m being very realistic and not modest when I say that. If there is a problem on the sets, I can’t work; I clam up, I become very stiff. So it is very important for me to have a congenial atmosphere on the sets.
Is it very important for you to be liked by everyone?
It is very important. It is very important in life to be liked. One should aim to be a good human being. I would hate to be in a workplace where people don’t like me because then there is some kind of negativity that goes around and that’s detrimental. It’s not about being Mr. Popular, it’s about doing what you think is right. I like to believe I’m able to do that.
Is the industry treating you differently now that you’re successful?
No. The industry has always treated me with a lot of love and respect. Whether that was for me or whether it came my way because of the family I belong to, is something I don’t know. But I am eternally thankful for it.
Of late, you’ve acquired some new labels—like “next superstar” and “rising prince.” How do you react?
Honestly, I don’t react to these labels. I’m thankful for them because it’s the people’s way of showing their love. However, deep down you have to know what the truth is and where you stand; these things can’t take you in. It is very important to remember that you are here because of the love and respect the audience has given you, which you’ve earned. And since they very seldom choose to love an actor, you have to work even harder to retain it.
What made you do that last-bit role in Salaam Namaste?
Purely emotional reasons. Adi (Aditya Chopra) called me and said, “I want you to do the film.” That is all he has to say. Adi is like an elder brother; I have grown up in Yash Uncle’s (Yash Chopra’s) house. They are like family. As professionals, they gave me Dhoom at a time when no one was working with me. And it turned out to be my first successful film. That’s something I will never forget. I will never question anything Adi says because he had faith in me when nobody else did. I will do whatever he asks me to blindly.
Be honest, did you enjoy playing the doctor in the film?
I had a ball. Adi gave me a free hand and told me to have a blast. That’s exactly what I did. Where comedy is concerned, I think there is no finer actor than Saif in the industry and I got to work with him once again, after Hum Tum. I also worked with Arshad (Warsi), a very old friend and another actor I consider a genius at comedy. Then there was Preity (Zinta), who is a very good friend too and with whom I was working for the first time.
I knew my actor friends would take care of me and correct me if I did something wrong. There was also Siddharth (Anand), who is a very capable director who knows what he wants. I had a blast working with them and on some level that shows.
Apparently you have agreed to J.P. Dutta’s Umrao Jaan even without a narration. Right?
I don’t need a narration from J.P. saab. I trust him with my life. That man launched me. He signed me on when no one was ready to do so.
He just has to call me and I will be there. Sometimes you do things for emotional reasons. I have been brought up with these values and I like to hold on to them. I would not be able to live with myself if J.P. saab told me, “I want you to do this one scene,” and I said, “I can’t do it because it is not the right decision to make right now.”
No one wanted to launch you?
Yes, no one wanted to launch me. It is a fact. You can check it out with my parents. Contrary to belief, there was no queue of producers outside my house. I went and asked for work but they all had valid reasons for not signing me. A lot of people at that point of time felt they could not take on the responsibility of launching me and it was a very fair decision. I respect them for that.
Were you disheartened?
Obviously I was disheartened. I was young—21-22 years old. But I went on to work with a lot of them afterwards.
Do you ask your parents for advice?
I take my parents’ advice for everything I do in life. I ask them for their opinion but they never impose their views. My dad has always told me, “Do what you want because if your heart is not in it you are not going to enjoy doing it.”
A numerologist once suggested that if you dropped your surname, you would be more successful. What was your reaction to that?
I react very strongly to such advice. Firstly, I don’t think it’s anybody else’s business. Secondly, my surname has been given to me by my grandfather and not my father, and is possibly the most important thing in my life. I would never disrespect my grandfather by dropping my surname.
I am extremely proud to be a Bachchan and extremely honored to be born in such a family. No power on earth or in heaven is going to convince me to disrespect my grandfather’s hard work by dropping his name. If that means I won’t be successful, that’s fine by me. At least I can walk with my head held high, proud of who I am.
How do you react when girls call you sexy, hot?
(smiles) I blush. It is a bit embarrassing. They haven’t said so to my face, so I don’t know how I would really react. It is awkward.
Do you believe in love and do you think true love happens only once?
Yes, I believe in love and I don’t think it happens only once.
Of late you’ve been linked to quite a few women. What’s happening?
My private life is my private life. Why is everybody so obsessed with it? I don’t enjoy questions on my so-called link-ups. I consider it very disrespectful. I don’t talk about women like that, so I don’t see why anyone else should. I don’t like it when people ask me about my link-ups because guys get away with it but it is very disrespectful for women. I don’t know if that’s because of the society we live in but it is true.
But you’re a public figure and there’s bound to be talk about your personal life.
Fair enough. I understand there is always going to be speculation; there will always be judgments passed. But I personally don’t indulge in these things because I believe it is wrong to talk about women like that. That’s the way I have been brought up, these are the values that have been inculcated in me by my parents. Also, I’m a private person and I don’t believe in talking about my private life. I don’t ever talk about what I do before I go to bed or what pajamas I wear.
Are you looking for a relationship?
No. You can’t plan a relationship, it just happens. Besides, I am very busy working and enjoying my work. I enjoy the process of waking up in the morning and going to work. That is my priority right now.