Sunday, 14 October 2012

Waiting for Bachchan ji

"We are going to have a big Bollywood star", Selvaggia Velo had announced almost one month ago and a guessing game had started.

From Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan to Rishi Kapoor, so many different names were proposed by the Italian and Indian Bollywood fans, all trying to guess the name of the "big Bollywood star" coming to Florence (Italy) in December 2012.

The idea of having a big shot actor or actress coming to the River to River film festival in Florence was enticing and at the same time, a little daunting for me.

I thought that with someone like Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh, there will be hordes of screaming Bollywood fans every where they will go, and that would take away the attention from the film makers presenting their documentary films in the festival.

In 2010, I had intereviewed Rahul Bose, Onir and Aparna sen in the festival. I had talked to Onir and Aparna in a coffee bar and Rahul in a small office. But I can't imagine myself sitting down in a coffee bar and chatting with Aamir or Shah Rukh, surrounded by delirious fans.

Finally on 11th, Selvaggia Velo, director of the River to River film festival, held a press conference and announced that the guest of honour this year is going to be Amitabh Bachchan. Three of his films - Sholay, Deewar and Black will be shown in the festival.

I am a little relieved by the announcement. I am sure that the serious Italian Bollywood fans will be there in Florence to look for Bachchan, and more Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi people will come to the festival to see him in person, but hopefully we won't have many of the delirious young fans milling around, looking for him to mob him and making it a big security issue. At least I hope so!

So I am looking forward to seeing Bachchan ji, though there was a period when I didn't like some of his films, like the period when he was doing films like Mard and Coolie.

I had loved his Hrikesh Mukherjee films - from Anand to Chupke Chupke, Mili, Abhiman, Namakharam and Aalap. I had also liked his initial films such as Zanzeer and Deewar, that had made him more popular among the masses. Then his popularity had grown too big, imprisoning him in certain kinds of roles, and I had stopped watching his films. I like his second innings as the elderly actor much more, that started in late nineties and that allows him to experiment much more as an actor. Films like Cheeni kum, Black and Paa.

I am not sure if I will get the chance to interview him, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The introduction to Amitabh Bachchan in the Italian press kit presents him as an icon of Indian cinema and also as the father-in-law of Aishwarya Rai. Though a couple of Amitabh's films (Cheeni kum and Kabhi Alvida na kehna) have been shown on national TV in Italy some years ago, he is virtually unknown among Italian public. On the other hand, Aishwarya Rai with a couple of mainstream Hollywood and British films is slightly better known in Italy.

I feet that his introduction should have also mentioned Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, one of the best Indian actresses of that generation. I have been told that Jaya will be accompanying her husband for the festival. This news is much more exciting for me. I have always been her fan and I think that I have seen all her films, from Guddi, Uphaar, Koshish and Piya ka Ghar, right down to Hazaar chourasi ki maa.

Her films deserve a festival on their own right. So I am glad that among the films selected for the festival, there is Sholay, that is also Jaya's film. Italian public has also seen her in "Laga chunri mein daag", when it was shown on national TV a couple of years ago during the summer Bollywood festival called "Amore con .. turbante". I hope that I can interview her as well, and I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for this!

I am also looking forward to watching documentaries in the River to River festival, the only festival in the world dedicated entirely to Indian films (though over past few years, an occasional film from other Asian countries also made it in the programme). It is held in a beautiful, old and historical cinema hall in the centre of Florence, Odeon cinema.

This year the festival is going to be from 7 to 13th December. So if you are around in Italy in that period, write down the dates in your agenda. A special treat this time will be the screening of the first Indian film ever made, Raja Harishchandra made in 1913, whose print has been restored recently.

Suppose you have to choose one favourite film in which Amitabh and Jaya were together, which film would you choose?

They did many films together, including - Ek nazar, Bansi aur Birju, Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke, Mili, Sholay, Zanzeer, Silsila and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (have I forgotten any? - I remember that in 1970s they were doing "Ek tha Chander, ek thi Sudha" based on Dharamveer Bharti's famous book Gunahon ka Devtaa, but I don't think that it was ever completed and released).

From all these films, my personal favourite would be Abhimaan, followed by Chupke Chupke. Abhimaan was emotional and intense, while Chupke Chupke was light and frothy, so the two films were very different from each other and were equally lovable. Both films had marvellous music by S. D. Burman. However, for this classification, personally I would prefer Abhimaan, because in Chupke Chupke, the emphasis was on Dharmendra-Sharmila Tagore pair and Amitabh-Jaya had a more limited role.

If you have to choose one favourite Amitabh-Jaya film, which one would you choose?



  1. Nice post Sir. I think you might be interested in helping me with my research. Here's the link:
    Do take a look. I shall look forward to your help :)

    1. Thanks Antarik. I did fill in your survey! :)


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