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!
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.”