February 6 2015
Perhaps describing Amitabh Bhachan as a legend is something of an understatement and that indomitable voice has a character all of its own…
BOLLYWOOD icon Amitabh Bachchan jetted into London, straight after receiving the Padma Vibhushan for his services to art from the President of India during the recent Republic Day celebrations, to talk about his forthcoming film, “Shamitabh” at a press conference .
‘Shamitabh’, alias the Big B (as he is affectionately known) informed the waiting audience – is an amalgamation of his name as well as that of his co-star, Dhanush.
“A lot of people have actually been intrigued by the title,” he said in that deep baritone of his. The title comes out of the script of the film, and if you see the film you will know why.
“I am giving my voice to Dhanush as a character in the film, why that voice is given and in what manner it is given, that, I’m afraid, we can’t disclose right now.”
The story is about two individuals who are brought together by a journalist (played by newcomer, Akshara Haasan – daughter of the actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika Thakur).
Bachchan plays an aging alcoholic who helps a movie mad boy from a small town make it big by lending him his voice – giving the whole idea of playback a new meaning – and teaching him to “emote” in that old Indian phrase.
As always, the plot was shrouded in secrecy but no matter – the audience just came to hear that magnificent voice and Senior Bachchan was even asked to recite some lines from his famous 1976 film, “Kabhie-Kabhie” where he played a sensitive poet. (Later, he repeated this feat on the Sky Living soap, “Desi Rascals” serenading Arshina mother, Jyoti with the same poem).
It was clear from the outset that the voice was a central character in “Shamitabh”.
www.asianculturevulture.com wanted to know the secret for keeping it so well oiled.
How do you look after your voice, do you gargle with glycerine, do you eat pickles or what do you do?
Bachchan explained that he didn’t really do anything special.
“I don’t take any precaution. I need to speak a lot; seriously, there are times when your voice goes down you become very husky and very soft, almost like a whisper. So I asked some people in the medical field why this is happening, and they said you need to use it more often so maybe I need to do some more press conferences.”
Apparently, the idea for Shamitabh arose quite spontaneously by the director, R.Balki (with whom Bachchan has already worked on two films, “CheeniKum” and “Paa”).
As Balki puts it, he was on his way to meet the actor for his 70th birthday and thought a new movie might make a good birthday gift.
When asked about this unusual present, Bachchan joked that he had also begun to hear this story as well.
“Actually during the process of these promotional activities I am also coming to know of this. I didn’t know about this before, but he keeps saying he was on his way to my house and he was stuck in a traffic jam and he felt he should be giving me a gift so he thought of this story and that’s how it happened.”
Jokes aside, Bachchan credits Balki with having an intellectual and sensitive mind who tells unusual stories and the message of Shamitabh, if there is any, is that two people with different qualities can achieve much more than one person and teamwork is the key to success.
Apart from the story, the way this film was made is also quite complicated and detailed, as Dhanush – a well known and admired actor in the Tamil cinema working on only his second Hindi film – explained.
Firstly, the entire script was recorded in the dubbing theatre by Bachchan, and then Dhanush had to act according to the lines recorded by Bachchan, a process, which the actor found daunting.
“I mean I can’t take prompting,” he confessed. “If somebody prompts me I stop and I can’t perform, I have to know my lines but to have constant prompting in the beginning was a little weird for me to and his voice is so majestic. We’ve grown up watching his films and learning from him and to hear his voice and not perform like him that’s even a bigger task.”
Dhanush told the audience that the challenge for him “was to be myself” and perform“like how I would really do it,” and so after the filming Bachchan had to go back into the studio to redub some of his earlier lines taking into account the performance.
Bachchan praised the younger star’s efforts in this film, explaining that this process is rarely seen in Indian cinema.
“I went and redubbed the entire film again, because his facial expressions are going to be different to my voice.
“What he has done is that he has remained himself as an actor and as a character in the film but performed according to somebody else’s voice, I think that is rarely done.”
This film sounds a bit like the play, Cyrano de Bergerac by French dramatist, Edmond Rostand, where the lead protagonist considers himself too ugly to woo the woman of his dreams and therefore enlists a friend to mime his words – it’s where conventional drama meets verbatim theatre (where actors perform the precise words of real people whose story it is), in some respects.
Picture: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshara Haasan and Dhanush
‘Shamitabh’ is released by Eros International and out on general release worldwide from Friday, February 6