The Cannes Film Festival got off to a blockbuster start on May 15. And we spoke to one of India's most enduring Icons, Amitabh Bachchan. Here are excerpts from an interview with Amitabh Bachchan, whose debut Hollywood film The Great Gatsby kick started the festival:
Noopur: Everybody has been talking about Indian cinema completing hundred years and you have been a part of this cinema for 44 years at least. Being here as one of the most important and biggest ambassadors of Indian cinema, how do you represent it to the world?
Big B: I had a small role in The Great Gatsby and it was opening in the Cannes film festival and it is purely coincidental that it has come at the time when we are celebrating 100 years, at a time when several of our films are going to be showed here as a tribute to that. And I just felt proud, just excited that I can make an international representation of the cinema in India. I am not officially designated but just because I am an Indian, I belong to the Indian film industry and I think it's a great honor for me.
Noopur: That's a very self-effacing way of putting it. Your fans here in Cannes who had been lining up since 5 am in the morning waiting to get a glimpse of you stepping out on that red carpet and you surprised them by talking in Hindi when you opened the festival, they were just ecstatic. But walking the red carpet often it's talked about something which is being done just for glitter and glamour. How was it for you? Isn't it something more than just that?
Big B: I think it's giving the opportunity to the rest of the world of the dignity that Cannes gives to all its artists the people who represents cinema that enter the festival, I think that's the wonderful way to do it. The amount of respect that is given to all of us wherever we go, the kind of escorts we get the kind of protocol that is observed. I think for this entire festival, the entire city is just what's happening to the people who are attending Cannes, how to look after that, how to treat them. I think it's such a wonderful gesture to have traffic stop for you when you are traveling and to have motorcycle escorts, this is giving us lot of dignity and I am just so impressed and so humbled that film actors and film artist that are connected with entertainment are given so much respect. So red carpet is really an element of that respect and it's a very daunting experience but how wonderful to be there and to be able to present there with rest of the cast and crew and an accumulation of several years of lot of hard work by Baz Luhrmann and his entire team. Read: Amitabh Bachchan, Leonardo DiCaprio declare Cannes Film Festival open
Noopur: You were really excited, working in this kind of thing (The Great Gastby) where everything is so meticulous. Do you think we, in India, are not able to do that because of budgetary reasons or do you think it's sought of culture, you think we don't need to put that much energy because perhaps our audiences are not that discerning which do think is these?
Big B: I think it's a combination of all these factors, I think budgets would reflect more on the making of this type of a film but preparing for it and having certain discipline, a certain kind of administrative order in the making process these are things you know you don't need to spend too much money over. So that's something we had lacked earlier on but I find in the past several years, a lot of our young filmmakers, our artists are educating themselves in cinema schools all over the world particularly in America, and they come back with wonderful ideas, concepts, procedures and now inculcating that in the films that they make themselves. In the early years, we never had things such as call sheet for example which is now novelty for us. It is wonderful to be able to know in advance about what is going on, what scenes we are going to shoot there, at what time we have to leave the hotel, when you need to get in the car, at what time you makeup is going to start and at what time you are supposed to be at the sets. These are disciplinary in nature but I think very essential for the business because your whole planning can go absolutely wrong if you don't follow them, the least we can do as the professional to follow them and I think that's wonderful, they are happening now, I am very glad that it is but yes the amount of budget required for the research is still lacking. Our subjects don't require that much research but there are lot of people who are making films who want to get into integrity want to spent lot of time in researching the subject all that subject is happening and I am very glad. Read: Amitabh Bachchan gives Cannes opening ceremony address in Hindi
Noopur: Also your character in The Great Gatsby is a dark character and sometimes actually in the book there are lot of references that could actually make him out into a stereotypical Jew, did any of this cross your mind? How do you deal with such an aspect?
Big B: This is something that has been asked for several times and I feel that cinema is much beyond all this , when we sit inside this darken we never ask what is the cast, religion color of the person sitting next to us, but we enjoy the same song, we sing the same song we cry the same emotion we laugh at same jokes. So cinema is really above that, I find that perhaps cinema really is one of the few institutions that integrates people rather than super states them because of their cast, colour and religion. I was delighted that I was asked to do this and I was asked by Baz luhman same question because I read something about it. I was unaware of it of course and he gave me very wonderful answer. He said if you were a Jew I would have given you this role so that it shows cinema needs to move above all these thoughts.
Noopur: Your public persona has been larger than life. But you tweet often and that allows people to see how you are in your personal space where you are not larger than life perhaps.
Big B: just felt good about it. I now blog, Tweet and Facebook every day and we have built up a lovely family where I have regular people that I can now identify with. I call them my extended family and have given them a little abbreviation called 'EF'. They are very dedicated and loving and they are with me every day. So it's like talking the way across just the way I am doing with you and it's wonderful to have their impressions, their ideas, their thoughts. Some of them are fantastic writers. It's pure literature. I come across criticism on my works, I come across ideas and thoughts about what is going on in our country. They would never had been heard before but it's through my platform they can you know find a larger audience. I feel very happy about it. Read: Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan open Cannes 2013 with a Bollywood bang
Noopur: So you are here in Cannes and India is the country of honor, you know, everyone celebrating 100 years of Indian Cinema. Your films have been watched by at least three generations, if I am not mistaken and you have worked with in fact two generations of film professionals of India..
Big B: Really and I say that because when I am on the sets these days in India, I find that the average age of everyone on the set is about 25 and I am 71 and I sometimes feel 'what the heck am i doing here' but it's wonderful to be in their company. It's a great learning experience for me. And I just enjoy the enthusiasm, the kind of aggression, the ambition that the youth have today, wanting to achieve, wanting to do something better, of being able to compete with the rest of the world. With some of the results that we are seeing of recent films where you will notice from the departure from the basic escapist cinema and coming down to more realistic stories, coming down to stories that are erupting from the interiors of the country, just is so wonderful, it's just a fantastic experience and I am just fortunate to be still around although in a much smaller capacity to be in their company and in their world and to be able to listen to the kind of music that they hear or talk the way they talk or just be with them. Read: Vidya Balan blows a French kiss in Sabyasachi at Cannes