Here’ a rare interview of Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachan together – second part.
QUESTION: Did you anticipate your success? Hunger for it? Did you will it to happen?
RAJESH: I never thought I’d be such a success. I was an actor. I will remain an actor. Somewhere, along the way I was a superstar.
AMITABH: I never expected to play lead roles! Primarily,because I was not the conventional good looking hero, and in fact, I used to feel I’ll never look as good as Raiesh Khanna. Why the hell I am going into it? Now that we are being frank and talking our hearts out, I’d like to say that I still remember a photograph of yours which came in Filmfare and I thought ‘yaar, ye aadmi kya khaata Pain? Iske gaal itne lal kaise ban?’
QUESTION: WOULD YOU attribute the acceptance of your conventional face to the changing phase in society which was veering away from romance to violence.
AMITABH: Art is A reflection of the state of the country. Film-makers depict characters which reflect their times. Like when Salim Javed wrote Zanieer, they must have felt the turmoil of the times and picked a character like me to represent those emotions. The people accepted me simply because they felt ‘this fellow fits the bill. We’ll back him.’ Plus the factor that people get sick of seeing the same thing all the time. They need a change.
RAJESH: I would like to ask you a personal question. People say that Raiesh Khanna is a manipulator and a very calculative person. I worked in two pictures with you. Was I ever mean as a senior to a junior?
AMITABH: Since we are meeting for the first time like this and talking our hearts out. I must have a few things to say as well. Whether it was on the sets of Anand or Namak Haram,we never ever bickered or argued or tried to upstage one another in any manner. On the contrary, Kaka doesn’t know this, but when I was working in Calcutta and keen to join films, the inspiration to get into films was Mr. Raiesh Khanna. At that time you had succeeded in the Madhuri — Filmfare contest and I said, ‘My God, here’s an excellent opportunity where somebody is actually auditioned and here is this gentleman who has made it and is doing so well. Then, wonder of wonders, Hrishida asked me to work with Raiesh Khanna in Anand.It was a dream come true for me because there was this great admiration for Kaka and his phenomenal success. The hysteria he evoked was witnessed for the first time in the history of Hindi films. And we were all part of that hysteria that followed Kaka. I got famous purely because I was working with Ratesh Khanna.People came and asked me questions like ‘How does he look?’ What does he do?’ So I became very important, thanks to him. And I’ve always maintained that the person who is my senior will always remain my senior. I have never ever argued about billings because I don’t think that they mean anything. And I have always had the greatest respect -for Kaka.
QUESTION: How do you feel about the fact that you replaced Rajesh Khanna in the No. I position?
AMITABH: It’s just a question of economics. It’s not that somebody outshone the other.
QUESTION: And you Rajesh? How did you feel about his ascendancy directly dislodging you?
RAJESH: When I saw Namak Haram at a trial at Liberty cinema. 1 knew my time was up. I told Hrishida, ‘here is the superstar of tommorrow.’
QUESTION: Both of you have had undisputed reigns as No. 1. Do vou foresee any single superstar in the future?
AMITABH: I don’t know. I don’t believe in those epithets of superstars. Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol and Jackie are ruling the roost already. I even have to watch some of the newcomers.
RAJESH: When it was Amitabh Bachchan at the top, no other star came anywhere near.You were No. 1 to 10, the next one was No. 11. Before that there was only Rajesh Khanna. I have nothing against the juniors but they aren’t superstar material at all. They are easily replaceable. Today, a film-maker says, ‘Jackie Shroff ki date nahin mili hai to kisi aur ko k lo.’ Whereas, they say, ‘Agar amitabh bachan nahi milta hai, we will wait or we will not make the subject,’
AMITABH: I think it’s more to do with economics. Earlier, one used to wait in queues for hours in the heat, trying to buy a ticket, to go and see Shammiji in Junglee or Dilip saheb in Ganga Jamuna. Whereas now, thanks to the video boom, one gets the stars in one’s bedroom at a snap of one’s fingers. There is no mystique left.
QUESTION: That video is a convenient spacegoat for flops. It has been proven time and again by blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya and Tezaab.
AMITABH: Can I cross question you on this Tezaab issue? You say Tezaab was a superhit because it was well made. I’d like to point out that, the story was the same, presented differently so what’s wrong with Agneepath? Whatever it may be that argument cannot stand. We went through that period when the mystique of cinema and its heroes still existed. Now the mystique has been reduced. India has become a smaller country, the world itself is shrinking. I’ll give you an example of how times have changed. As a school boy, I was in Allahabad when Kamini Kaushal and Dilip saheb were shooting tor Shaheed. The crowd almost overturned the train, and the thing that I still remember is, that it was the talk of the town ki air-conditioned coach ke jo kanch the, jismein Kanum Kaushal baithi thi, toot gaye the. I am talking about late 40′s early 50′s.That kind of mystique about film stars doesn’t exist any more.
RAJESH: Video or no video, suppose 8-9 films are released on the same day, including one of yours. Will people want to see Amitabh first or any of these youngsters?
AMITABH: I would say people will want to watch the younger lot. We need to give them more time. It will be a little harsh to put them aside. They are working in a much more competitive climate. They are working with many more disadvantages than perhaps we were. The audiences too, are not as tolerant as they were in my time. I think the audience gave me a lot of breathing space. I made mistakes and kept trying to rectify them in film after film. It takes a while to do away with the soiled laundry. But there’s no denying that it is the turn of the younger boys now, because today’s audiences are between 18 and 30. I was shooting with Govinda for Hum when a group of young kids came up to me and one of the boys asked for an autograph. Govinda was standing next to me. There was a young, cute girl who gave him a slap and said ‘Woh nahin, ye. Govinda ka autograph lo.’ So we have to accept it.
RAJESH: Of course the show has to go on. Trends are changing, people are looking for something new. But you can’t just have 2s, 3s, 4s. There has to be a No. 1. You still haven’t been able to pick out any one name. Neither can I. I feel that whoever will be No.1 next is yet to arrive on the scene. You see, people don’t take long to spot an outstanding actor because their need is there already.
AM1TABH: In one respect, I agree with this. In a country which lacks so many things, people want to look up to an idol. They want to feel this is their hero. In exactly the same way , as they would want a whipping horse, to put all the blame.
RAJESH: Exactly! We have both been in the same industry. I too have enjoyed a certain status, yet I was looking forward to meeting you. I may even have missed a heart-beat! Like I said, you have to be born with that charisma, you cannot be made. And since this is a hero-oriented industry, the next superstar will again be a man.
AMITABH: It could be ET!!! Sincerely, at that point in the history of Hollywood, there were no stars. Paul Newman has said on record, ‘What’s the point in my being an actor? The three greatest hits have been mechanical gadgets!’ There was a shark in Jaws that crashed the box-office, there was this peculiar animal in ET and there was that robot in Star Wars. I saw it millions of times. And everytime I see ET I find it’s a lovable person. So maybe you don’t need an actor, it’s going to be a computer! Look, one of the poignant scenes in 2001 Space Odyssey was the death of the computer. The computer on board is programmed to take the spaceship to a particular planet and also manage everything, right to the food of the astronauts. Then they realise that this very same computer is actually programmed to sabotage the mission. So this astronaut unscrews the computer. It dies with the voice going fainter ‘Don’t kill … me … don’t … kill me’ (He mimics in a low drawl). If just mechanical gadgets are going to be moving us to tears, then Paul Newman is right.What is the need for actors?
QUESTION: Both of you married talented actresses who stopped working after marriage. Why did you curb them?
RAJESH: I had no problems about my wife working. But when I married Dimple, I wanted a mother for my children. I didn’t want them to be brought up by servants. And I had no idea of Dimple’s talent; Bobby was still not released. Recently when I told one of my daughters Twinkle, that if she would like to act in a film, I would produce one for her. She said, ‘You will let me act but to mummy you say no.’ I said, ‘For the simple reason that I am your father and not your husband.’ Besides, if I knew at that moment that Bobby would prove her talent, I wouldn’t have stopped her. To curb talent is cruel. By the time I saw Bobby our first daughter was already born. But later, when I lived with Tina for seven years, I made a film for her. We acted in so many films together. She was not even that interested but I said, ‘Work, get it out of your system.’ I did not want to repeat the same mistake.
AMITABH: Kaka, you have been more specific about how you handled your married life. But I feel that how I want my married life to be conducted should really be between Jaya and me. Anyway, I have never objected to Jaya working in films. But she herself said, ‘I don’t feel nice working in films.’
RAJESH: Why did she work in Silsila?
AMITABH: I left it entirely on her. If she wanted to work, she did. It’s a question of how one wants to conduct one’s life. What happened voluntarily in my case, happened specifically in yours.
QUESTION: The audience lost out on two good actresses for 10 years.
AMITABH: Maybe. But the audience is not married to Jaya or Dimple!
RAJESH: So we cannot be expected to sacrifice our lives for cinema. It’s a matter of the children’s lives. Today my children are grown up, Dimple is working in my film, Jai Shiv Shankar.
QUESTION: Do you think actors who dabble in politics do justice to either career!
RAJESH: You have to give your 100 per cent. When an actor neglects the family, the wife, the children, because he is busy playing the star, how can he do justice to politics, which demands so much time and dedication? When I was asked by the ex-PM, Rajiv Gandhi,to get into politics, I replied that out of 365 days, if one has in put in 200 odd parliament days and if I have fifteen odd films,that means I’ll complete those films in 5 -6 years. And what’s the fault of the producer? So I promised to try and make as much as I can manage and carry out my party duties on a voluntary basis. My willingness is there but an actor cannot really cope. When Amit got into politics, I knew it wouldn’t work. Unless he leaves acting and then dedicates himself completely.
AMITABH: He has brought out an aspect of the technicalities involved. I would say that either you break away totally or you don’t at all.
QUESTION: You said that the people need an idol to look up to. Does not an actor politician exploit this factor?
AMITABH: Absolutely. You are, in fact, cheating the masses. Because of your popularity and mass appeal you draw crowds which is one of the first priorities of a politician. And then you go and tell them to vote for your political ideology. You say, I have spent 20 years of my life trying to impress my personality upon you. In return I want your votes.’ I think that’s wrong! We will create a divide in families. For example, in Allahabad there were people in the same household who had different ideologies yet because they love the actor, they wanted to love the politician as well.
RAJESH: But if they love the actor so much and you show the right ideology, why will they not follow it?
AMITABH:The problems of this country are not going to be solved by one actor or even 10 actors. The problems are far too big. On the screen we get poetic justice in three hours. Poetic justice doesn’t come in a lifetime.
RAJESH: In my opinion, if there are about 2000 problems in India, and if I can solve just one problem, then I have achieved something.
AMITABH: But Kaka, what is to stop you doing that without advocating a particular ideology?
RAJESH: But Amit, only a political platform can give you that reach.
QUESTION: Can’t you adapt yourself to new trends?
AMITABH: I couldn’t possibly do a love story like Maine Pyar Kiya. I can perhaps do a more mature love story. Then again, we tried a love story with Silsila but it didn’t work. One thing is for sure, we can’t be doing what Salman is doing.
RAJESH: You’re right I can’t do an Aradhana today.
AMITABH: Romantic films are in, which means we are out of jobs!
RAJESH: Stop saying you are finished! People feel you are probably trying to buy sympathy. Listen to me, recently I attended a show with you and you were superb. A superhit. You went on stage to sing one song and people were going mad. They insisted on song after song.
AMITABH: Maybe I should meet von more often KAKA ! You are very complimentary!
Part 1 | Part 2