AT HOME WITH AB ON HIS B’DAY

In a first, Amitabh Bachchan al­lows Brunch into his home to cel­e­brate his 74th birth­day. Join us for a very special birth­day bash!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Brunch - By Mark Manuel Photographs: JITU SAVLANI Photo cour­tesy: CINE BLITZ Makeup & hair: DEEPAK SAWANT Styling: NAZNEEN HARIANAWALA

ON TUES­DAY, Oc­to­ber 11, Amitabh Bachchan played meet-and-greet-the­fans, pop­ping in and out of Pratik­sha and Jalsa, his im­pos­ing res­i­dences in sub­ur­ban Mum­bai’s JVPD Scheme, and Janak, his arty of­fice a stone’s throw away.

It wasn’t ex­actly open house. The fans, sev­eral hun­dreds of them, main­tained a rest­less and buzzing vigil out­side all three places. Some were there from 6am. The out­sta­tion ones. Com­ing from as far as Kolkata. They wouldn’t leave till the lights went out. All wanted a dar­shan of Bachchan. It was the ac­tor’s 74th birth­day.

But this is a day Bachchan is al­ways re­luc­tant to raise a toast to. True, he wasn’t shoot­ing. That’s a con­ces­sion he rarely al­lows him­self. But he wasn’t par­ty­ing, ei­ther. He’s no­to­ri­ously ret­i­cent in this mat­ter.

In ex­as­per­a­tion al­most, he told me, “I’m not in­ter­ested in cel­e­brat­ing. There’s noth­ing special about the day. Another year’s gone by. I’m step­ping into 75. This thing about age ex­ists only in the media. What a lot of fuss and un­nec­es­sary at­ten­tion is given to this day. It’s not as sig­nif­i­cant as, per­haps, say­ing a film has com­pleted 50 weeks. Or even 25!”

THE BEST PRESENT

A quiet time at Jalsa was all he wished for. With ev­ery­body present, ex­cept his grand­kids Navya and Agstya, daugh­ter Sh­weta Bachchan Nanda’s teenagers who are study­ing abroad. I went to wish him around noon. And, since he had be­gun the in­ex­orable march to 75, to find out what was

on Bachchan’s mind in these ad­vanc­ing years. Does he think of old age and re­tire­ment? Worry

about mor­tal­ity? These are most peo­ple’s fears at 60. When life has tired them out. And all they want to do is en­joy their sun­sets in peace.

Out­side, the city cel­e­brated Dussehra. Jalsa’s gates were dec­o­rated with a heavy marigold toran. Fans from Kolkata added pink bal­loons in cel­e­bra­tion of his last film Pink. Fans oc­cu­pied the foot­path, they spilled onto the road, cell­phones in hand, wait­ing to take pictures and videos when he made an ap­pear­ance. It was like that at Pratik­sha and Janak, too. When the crowds be­came a hin­drance to the traf­fic, the po­lice re­quested Bachchan to step out. He did that fre­quently at all three prop­er­ties, go­ing to the gates to wave to the fren­zied fans, send­ing up an ap­pre­cia­tive and ex­cited roar that could be heard half a mile away.

Seventy-four isn’t a mile­stone year; it doesn’t call for the kind of fes­tiv­ity that Bachchan’s 70th birth­day did in 2012, which Jaya Bachchan brought in with the mother of all parties at Anil Am­bani’s Reliance Me­di­aWorks in Film City. That party was a black tie af­fair that lasted four hours and in­cluded an In­dian bal­let per­formed to po­ems by Bachchan’s fa­ther, Dr Hari­vansh Rai Bachchan, the launch of a cof­fee-ta­ble book of paint­ings of the ac­tor by 70 great artists, and a doc­u­men­tary on his life and times. Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, the fam­ily’s cou­turi­ers, dressed Bachchan for the night.

That was a defin­ing day in his life. Overnight, he be­came a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian. Even as his last film, Ram Gopal Varma’s

Depart­ment, had him play­ing a gang­ster and politi­cian and ex­hibit­ing some spark of that old anger, re­bel­lion and con­trolled vi­o­lence that he is fa­mous for.

Age had been kind. He didn’t look a day older at 70 than he had on his 50th birth­day two decades ago when Sh­weta and Ab­hishek, both still in school, sur­prised him with a party at the Taj. Bi­pasha Basu told me she found Bachchan “ex­tremely hot” and “far too sexy” for 70. “She’s jok­ing!” he re­acted. “At my age, peo­ple only want to take a selfie with me.”

He isn’t amused at con­cerns for his age. Or talk about his in­de­fati­ga­ble spirit. And his in­ex­haustible en­ergy. “So what if I’ll be 75 next?” he ar­gued. “I want to con­tinue work­ing. Why? Be­cause I’m get­ting work! Of course, it’s not like be­fore. I don’t en­joy the same pop­u­lar­ity and at­ten­tion. But I can live with that. Act­ing is a pro­fes­sion con­nected to phys­i­cal­ity. Like sports. Ath­letes can’t per­form be­yond a cer­tain age. Look at Usain Bolt, at 30 he knows he can’t com­pete in the next Olympic Games, if he does – he won’t win. Ac­tors also de­pend on phys­i­cal pres­ence. If my face is ac­cept­able, and my body re­sponds, I’ll go ahead. But I can’t do cer­tain char­ac­ters and films. I tried in

Nishabd. I ex­plored a sen­ti­ment no­body talks about. What hap­pens when a man of 60 gets phys­i­cally at­tracted to a girl of 16? The au­di­ence didn’t ac­cept me! We must learn to sep­a­rate an ac­tor from his char­ac­ter. Peo­ple should un­der­stand an ac­tor’s work gets lim­ited due to the phys­i­cal changes that come with age.”

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