The season belongs to Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan seems to be the flavour of summer. Four of his films are to hit the screen soon one after the other. Directors Milan Luthria, Farhan Akhtar, Govind Nihalani and Sameer Karnik are doing a repeat of 1978, says ZIYA US SALAM.
During the shooting of Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya" ... here Amitabh does not have much screen time but his role is important.
THIS IS the season for the man of all seasons. Millions of Amitabh Bachchan fans have not had it so good since 1978 when films like "Kasme Vaade," "Khoon Pasina," "Besharam" and "Ganga ki Saugandh" came one after the other. It helped that Bachchan was at the prime of his powers.
Now, two and a half decades later, directors Milan Luthria, Farhan Akhtar, Govind Nihalani and Sameer Karnik are trying to repeat history. The man remains the same, the faith in his ability to score at the box office remains undiminished too.
One thing has changed though: Bachchan is no longer the sole hero, or even the leading man of all his films. Never mind, even a few minutes of Bachchan is better than a couple of hours of many others. So, over the next month or so, four films of Amitabh Bachchan will hit the screen, one after the other. Amitabh fans can queue up to watch Nihalani's "Dev" where Bachchan plays a cop, Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya" where he is a commanding officer, Luthria's "Deewaar" where he is a prisoner of war, and Karnik's "Kyun?... Ho Gaya Na" which is a comedy.
Amazingly, the directors are not too worried about fatigue setting in among the Bachchan faithful. It seems one cannot have enough of Bachchan anyway.
``There is no risk involved. Every film is a brief for itself,'' says Akhtar, looking to repeat the success of ``Dil Chahta Hai'' with ``Lakshya,'' scheduled to hit the screen on June 18.
``Amitabh Bachchan does not have a lot of screen time but his role is important for the effect it has on Hrithik Roshan's (the hero) character. Hrithik learns from him about single-mindedness of purpose, devotion and other similar aspects.''
The die-hard fans of Bachchan need not worry. He is not sidelined in the film, nor is he bumped off before the interval, as Honey Irani did with disastrous results in "Armaan" last year. Says Akhtar, ``Amitabh Bachchan is there from the beginning to the end. He has got very important scenes in the film.''
Amitabh Bachchan is the life, soul and breath of "Dev," says Nihalani.
He might be over 60 but roles are still written for him, and there are many who feel there is nobody who can carry out a certain character the way Bachchan can.
``The level of performance this film requires, nobody else could have handled. There is a lot in his role that is to be conveyed through his eyes, his body language. His is a quiet, stable personality in the film. Normally, he is associated with action and histrionics. In this film you will find him calm. This aspect of his personality has not been tapped in recent years. The fans will find a different Amitabh Bachchan in the film,'' Akhtar promises.
No such promises are made by Luthria whose "Deewaar" is awaiting release. Said to be first of the block, the film is now likely to be released only a week after "Lakshya."
``I have made an earnest film. It is a multi-starrer and has one of the better performances of Amitabh Bachchan.''
In "Deewaar," Bachchan is a prisoner of war left behind in Pakistan who has to be rescued by his son. How he manages the act is what promises to be the `earnest' part Luthria talks of. Incidentally, Luthria has a lot of redeeming to do in the wake of "Kacche Dhaage" and "Chori-Chori."
Nihalani is taking no such chances. Bachchan is the life, soul and breath of "Dev," likely to hit the cinema halls on June 11. ``He plays a joint commissioner of police. When I described the role to him, he told me that he was playing a cop in two other films too. I asked him if my script was similar to others? He said no and we agreed. After all, a cop in one film is not like a cop in another.''
Nihalani who gave us another cop story, the hard-hitting "Ardh Satya" two decades ago, this time claims to have made a film that is realistic without being didactic. ``Most cop films are action oriented. In my film action is limited to the situation. It is realistic in the sense the hero does not jump from the 15th floor of a building. An attempt has been made to project the inner life. And Bachchan plays the police officer who realises how an individual can affect the system and how he is affected by it. It is about how an individual in certain position of power should be thinking about the repercussions of his decision.''
Nihalani's film also brings back Om Puri and has the handsome Fardeen Khan and lively Kareena Kapoor providing the youthful element. Yet he believes Bachchan is the hero of the film.
``Working with him is a treat for everybody. It was no different for me. When he is on the sets, there is nothing else on his mind. No tantrums, no starry airs. He keeps everybody in good humour. And is relentless in his pursuit of excellence.''
If Bachchan plays a prisoner in one film, a cop in another, and a defence officer in the third, he has also kept some space for comedy in "Kyun?... Ho Gaya Na." Also starring Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi, the film is likely to be released after the three action thrillers, and is said to be generating good vibes in the industry.
But that is not all. Not much later Bachchan will appear for the first time in an Anil Sharma film. "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo" is eagerly awaited, considering Sharma's penchant for loud, over-the-top cinema as was evident in "Gadar."
A prisoner of war in "Deewaar."
Here Bachchan plays a retired Army officer and a grandfather to Bobby Deol.
Then there is Bachchan's very own "Ranvir" and "Black." Not to forget N. Chandra's film where he shares screen space with Jaya Prada and Akshaye Khanna.
All that is for later. For the moment, history is being repeated. It is 1978 once more. There is a note of caution though. More than a decade ago Manmohan Desai's "Toofan" and Prakash Mehra's "Jadugar" vied for the same piece of the cake.
The films were released within a fortnight of each other. Both bombed despite the popularity of the "Don't worry, be happy" number in Desai's film, and Kumar Sanu trying to fill in for Kishore Kumar in Mehra's film.
Earlier this year, two films of Bachchan were released together. "Aitbaar" and "Khakee" hit the silver screen a little before Republic Day.
Vikram Bhatt's "Aitbaar" failed to woo the Bachchan faithful and Rajkumar Santoshi's film only gradually picked up. However, no such fears surround Nihalani. ``Finally, it is the quality of the film that matters. Clashes between films are bound to arise. One has to take a chance.'' And that is exactly what Nihalani, Luthria, Akhtar and company are doing in this busy, very busy Bachchan season.
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