Post his visit to the Cannes Film Festival where his film The Great Gatsby opened the festival last May, Tellychakkar.com was looking out for an opportune time to speak to Amitabh Bachchan to talk to him at length. Recently, we caught the ever busy actor for a candid interview. Excerpts:
How was the experience of representing Indian cinema at the Cannes fest?
The belief that I was representing Indian Cinema is a misapprehension of huge proportions. I cannot dare to assume that as to what I was doing at Cannes. No, I was an insignificant part of The Great Gatsby that opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Since Warner Bros invited me to join them at the French Riviera, I went there. And do you know that I was there just for the moment of the opening that was magnificent after which I left. As a matter of fact, the organizers of the Festival had asked Leonardo and me to declare it open and that is what we did.
And how was the experience?
Being a part of the illustrious cast and crew of the film has been a most welcome experience for me. The respect and the dignity that came to me or for that matter to the entire team, was most endearing. Being in their company, of course, gave me, an opportunity to meet their own greats who were visiting Cannes. But by far the most important feel was of an Indian artiste at an International event of such gigantic proportion in the year when our Industry celebrates its 100 years of existence.
You must have met a lot of interesting personalities from world cinema at the fest?
Yes, the premiere at New York had all the greats from Hollywood connected with the film in attendance there of course. But, besides them, there were also some invited guests who have an astronomical presence in the world of cinema. Actually, the film (The Great Gatsby) itself has such huge talent that worked on it that that in itself would be enough... Leonardo di Caprio, Toby Macguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, whose husband is the very talented and very funny Sasha Baron Cohen, Elizabeth Debicki, the exceptionally tall and exceptionally fresh talent from Australia, Jaz-Z and his wife Beyonce and the many that have made such valuable contribution. Other than that we had Jennifer Lawrence, best actress Oscar winner, and a host of others. Besides, we also had the presence of Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and that wonderful actor from Django Unchained Christopher Waltz.
In an interview, Leonardo diCaprio was totally appreciative of you as an actor and a human being. Tell us about your rapport with him and the rest of the cast and crew of Gatsby?
It shall be very difficult to imagine what a massive star Leonardo is and for a person of his standing to be so kind, is most humbling. He is not only an immensely talented actor but he is also a very down-to-earth and caring. Totally involved in all aspects of the film, Leornado often gives supportive suggestions not for himself but for his co artistes.
I know he did for me, in that one small brief scene we were together in. This is most unusual. Despite his enormous fame, he possesses no airs at all and is just another simple lovable human being. The rest of the cast and crew have also been extremely respectful and caring towards me, and I can only look at them with the utmost gratitude.
Baz Luhrmann is your life-long fan. His visuals in Gatsby, Le Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet reminded us of Sanjay Bhansali…
I fiercely disagree with your assumption that Baz has been a life-long fan of whatever little that I possess and also feel that it is time that we, as a community, stop making odious comparisons. While Baz has his own body of work of great international standards, Sanjay his own... Vive le difference!!
You play a Jew character in Gatsby. Does that indicate a cultural glasnost in world cinema for Asian actors in the sense that Indian actors don't have to play Indians?
I cannot be certain of a response to this question, but perhaps those that now make decisions in this regard, need to be spoken to, to get an adequate answer. Cinema, in my mind, has always risen much above caste creed colour and religion and in that sense, can be looked upon, in this rapidly disintegrating world, to be a great integrator. There are not many institutions left in today’s world that can boast of such occurrence.
Your cameo in The Great Gatsby has been exceptionally well-received by western critics. Variety's critic has in fact declared that you have delivered the liveliest work in the film. Did you anticipate such a rousing response to your relatively brief appearance?
No, I did not and the praise has come as a huge surprise and shock to me!!
Amitji, are you inclined to sign more films outside India?
I have no idea on this. If there are some who may be interested in me, I would certainly consider them.
How seriously does the world cinema treat Bollywood?
Indian Film Industry has had a great presence almost every year at this prestigious event. But in its 66th avatar, Cannes has given it a special status and paid rich tribute to Bollywood because it is completing 100 years this year. This is a huge recognition and one can only look upon it with a sense of immense pride.
How much Bollywood do you think the West is ready to accept?
All good cinema shall always find a respectable place anywhere in the world. I assume the Indian Film Industry would attract similar attention.