It's not easy being Abhishek Bachchan. Especially with people constantly taking jibes about him living in his illustrious Dad's shadow or having a superstar wife. But trust me, when you meet this man, his frank honesty and simplicity completely bowls you over. He has hits and flops, both to his credit but Abhishek maintains that he is here to stay!
I catch up with the actor at his suburban office where he talks about his upcoming 'Housefull 3', the pressure of being a part of a successful franchise, why he is yet to sign another film and much more.
Excerpts from the chat-
Q. How does it feel to be a new addition to the 'Housefull' family?
A. I think that kind of goes with the territory. When you do a film like this you know it is going to be a lot of fun. It's important that you have fun making the film. That's something that you can't fake.
Q. Was there any kind of pressure on you since it's such a successful franchise?
A. When I first heard the script it was an instant yes because I liked the set-up and the premise of the film. I thought it was very funny. But when we were preparing to start shooting that's when we started realizing that 'oh wait a second, I am the new one' and 'I will be the one who will mess it up'..you know..they have done well for 'Housefull' and 'Housefull 2'. Now I finally understand why the villains in 'Dhoom' get nervous. For them the pressure is they don't want to be the ones who ruin the franchise. There is a lot of expectations. Even with 'Housefull' there is a huge audience out there that is actually looking forward to this film. You will be shocked to know what different quarters they come from. There is a lot of excitement for this because you all have really tough and hectic lives, you just want to go and have fun in the cinema once in a while. This year we had such wonderful work come out, but predominately must of it being very serious. Ours is the first out-and-out family outing that's coming. So people just want to go there and have fun. That's what they did in Part 1 and Part 2 and now Part 3 is coming up. So when you start thinking of all of that, that's when you start saying that 'Okay I am going to work hard because I can't be the one who can be blamed for messing it up.'
Q. You have been highly appreciated for your comic timing in films like 'Bol Bachchan' and 'Dostana'. Every film requires a different tone of comedy. Was there any kind of unlearning or trying out something new for this film?
A. 'Housefull' as per me falls under the umbrella of slapstick and situational comedy which is something I haven't done before. So that was new for me. I have always found physical comedy very difficult. Because naturally for me deadpan humour comes a lot easier. For example say in 'Bluffmaster'. But I won't say that there is any unlearning. Instead there is a lot more learning. That much more energy you need to put in it to get it right. Especially when you are standing shoulder to shoulder as per me with two of the best comedic actors that we have. So you have to match up to their energy levels and comic timings. It's a constant work in progress.
Q. For someone who really likes to prepare a lot, does comedy require one to be more spontaneous in that sense?
A. Comedy is where you can actually have the least amount of elbow room for spontaneity. A comedy scene or a comedy film has a particular pace. It has a particular energy and most importantly a meter. I remember Rohit Shetty telling me this because the first couple of days of 'Bol Bachchan' I was performing the character in the way I thought it should have been done and he wasn't getting it. He wasn't agreeing to it. Finally he sat me down and explained it to me. My comic timing is a bit offbeat. In comedy if your timing goes off even by a milli second then your joke will fall flat. So first of all you need to understand the pace and the meter of the film that you are doing and secondly, you and your co-actors have to be on the same page. Otherwise you will ruin the joke.
Q. Can we say that comedy is the genre for Abhishek Bachchan?
A. No I find comedy the most difficult. But then it's a part of your craft. You should know what you are doing. Comedy is one genre which is most dependent on writing. Whereas in drama, action or romance you can create a moment with your performance. In comedy very seldom can you create a moment which isn't written. That's why it is very difficult.
Q. Inspite of putting so much effort in a comedy film do you think that it's a little bit of an unfortunate reality that sometimes in films like this or to say the films that are put in the 'commercial' bracket, the actors are taken for granted?
A. Sadly comedy is never given the weightage of a dramatic performance. I don't think that's correct. But then that's just the way it has been. Any actor will tell you that comedy is as demanding as any other genre. But then it's not only an Indian phenomenon. It's world over. A dramatic performance is considered as a 'wow' but a comic performance is considered very frivolous.
Q. Sometimes do you think that subtlety in a performance gets unnoticed or the minute detailing in saying a lot through just say the eyes?
A. I remember a very senior actor from the film industry said something so beautiful to me. He said- 'You know sadly in our industry a great role is misinterpreted for a great performance.' So you could be screaming, shouting or whatever but if the role is good then people will appreciate it. I think but now that's changing. But again it goes back to the sensibilities. Indians by heart are melodramatic. So when suddenly when somebody comes up with a subtle performance they are like 'he/she isn't acting at all'. I have done so many films where people said I am expressionless. But then that's the point. Sometimes people don't get that. But then again that's my flaw. At the end of the day the audience has to receive your communication.
Q. Has there ever been any dilemma between what you want to do and what the audience wants you to do?
A. Every actor has that dilemma. It's very healthy when director and actors indulge in discussing a scene because through that disagreement they will arrive with something new.
Q. Do you think that bonding off the sets with your co-actors always helps in filming?
A. Absolutely it always helps. It will be terribly torturous if you don't get along with your co-stars because you are going to spend 90-100 days with somebody day in and day out. Thankfully I have never been in that situation. If your off-set chemistry is not there, there is no way you can do on set. So there is no actor so brilliant that he can camouflage it entirely.
Q. How do you make yourself stand out when you have so many co-stars in a film?
A. I pity the actors who want to stand out. Your film should be good. Because if your film is good then you will get appreciation for it. It's not a solitary thing.
Q. How did you prepare yourself for the film?
A. Because I was playing a mute character we had two problems. One, I didn't wanted to make it caricaturish and secondly we didn't wanted to get into sign language. We decided to come up with our own way of making my character in the film communicate.
Q. What draws you to a film- the script or the director?
A. Both, the script and the director. A great script can be ruined by a bad director and a bad script can ruin a good director.
Q. You have been a part of three big franchise, 'Sarkar', 'Dhoom' and now 'Housefull'? Which one was the most easy and difficult one?
A. They all have their own challenges. It is tough to choose which one is most difficult. They all have their own set of responsibilities. I think what is important in doing sequels and being part of franchises is that you have to treat it as a standalone film. In 'Sarkar' and 'Dhoom' it's the same character but I think in 'Housefull' they have never carried forward their characters. I still remember when we were ideating about 'Dhoom 2' Adi (Aditya Chopra) said something really nice. He said that 'yaa..but what new are you doing in the film. If you are going to do the same thing and use the same formula then people will watch 'Dhoom'. If you are doing something new then you have to add to that.'
Q. So what's next in the pipeline for you?
A. Scarily nothing actually. It's the first time that I am yet to sign any film. I have always maintained that actors go through phases in what they want to do. I remember after finishing 'Dum Maaro Dum' and 'Game'..they were all very serious dark and intense films. Next I wanted to do something fun and light-hearted that's when I signed 'Bol Bachchan'. So then you are in that mood to do something happy and you enjoy that phase. I think I am done with that now. I think, for the moment, I feel satisfied with the comedies that I have done. I think now it's time to change into something different. Right now I don't know what that different is. I am still trying to figure that out.