Amitabh Bachchan on Sarkar 3: 'I found Ramu more receptive to discussion, exchange of ideas'
It’s not very often that the star of the millennium goes out of the way when it comes to promoting his films. But Amitabh Bachchan made an exception when the person in question was his dear friend Ram Gopal Varma.
It was a departure from the usual stereotypical promotional gimmicks when he became a viewer, along with select media, while watching scenes from his upcoming film Sarkar 3. A stickler for time, the superstar (attired in a crisp white kurta pajama with a yellow jacket), sauntered into a suburban preview theatre in Mumbai on Tuesday evening, 9 May, to show glimpses of his Sarkar 3 to a group gathered there.
The fact that it was not a formal media event made the star and the director let down their guards — by just a little bit!
Just before the preview, while Bachchan did found himself surrounded by senior journalists, RGV interacted with everyone present. The almost hour-long session showed facets of the star, which aren't always seen at regular media events. It was followed by a Q and A session that touched on topics beyond Sarkar 3; edited excerpts follow:
How have things changed in Sarkar 3 if we trace Sarkar’s journey from 2005?
Sometimes when sequels are made, the protagonist changes. There are different circumstances that happen with Sarkar 3 during this period of 12 years and therefore this should be treated as a different story. If Sarkar was made in 2005 and if the same actor is working (on it) in 2017 then the progression of the story and the circumstances and the events that happened in Sarkar’s life have aged. Circumstances that were there in 2005 with the kind of state, the issues and the problems that came up to Sarkar, are now different. This ageing is visible in the ageing of the main protagonist. Even I have aged from 2005 to 2017, so the temperament of his acts, his deeds or whatever he does, hopefully will convey that process of ageing. Sarkar was the first film I did with Ramu but we always met before that. Several times we used to talk about what kind of films he was making and what I was doing. I was always intrigued by palace politics — what goes on inside the realm of an individual who is in the seat of power but also leads a very normal life.
What’s seen more in Sarkar 3, is it the mafia or is it the family element?
When Ramu made Sarkar he very honestly admitted to the fact that it was inspired by The Godfather. Recently we came to know of another incident that Ramu told me. Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather, in the beginning was not very keen to make The Godfather. When the concerned studio offered him the film, he refused initially... He refused to make a film on the mafia. It was only later when the studio people informed him that it’s not a film on the mafia but more about a family that he accepted the offer. So I think a lot of those sentiments are there in the film. We wanted to treat the film from a family perspective rather than a power centre where justice is done. The other factor in Sarkar 3 is that other than his wife none of the people that were there in Sarkar and Sarkar Raj are present in Sarkar 3. They have been annihilated and he has none of his associates and he has lost both his sons. The location of his house has changed and it's bit more elaborate and that’s because his wife told him that she does not want to live in the house where she lost both her sons. The only person from his family who is there is his grandson who had gone away.
RGV is known for his innovative camera angle techniques; how different were things in Sarkar 3?
He has always been innovative. For someone who has never learnt direction or never understood the technical side of it, it's extremely credible that this is his viewpoint if he wants to convey something not just by expressions or the words that are given to the character. So the shot taking of the film is in that mood. Many a times in the past, I have read some criticism about Ramu’s films where people had said that there is too much of background music but I think what he is saying is that sometimes it's important to convey the emotion through the music therefore sometimes its gets a little excessive. If it’s conveying what it is, then so be it.
You were interviewed by RGV as part of the Sarkar promotion. What sort of feedback did you get?
Well before coming here for the preview, I got congratulatory messages from many journalists. When I met Ramu I told him that you have become the envy of journalists. Ramu got another message from my son Abhishek, which said that Ramu should stop making films now and become a journalist.
You mentioned about the prevalence of rings in society and family, can you please elaborate more on this?
It becomes very important for people who work under power centers to know how they behave and how they conduct themselves because inadvertently they are conveying to the public that this is how their master is. Yeh bada ajeeb hai. This is especially true for those people who are in power – they will always have to differentiate because inside their house they are sometime tamed by other family member(s) while outside they might have to show their bullying attitude.
I still remember an incident that happened with Mahmood Bhai, which I was a witness to. Mahmood Bhai’s first wife had delivered a stillborn child and he was coming out of Nanavati hospital, carrying the dead body of his child, towards his car. Several people had gathered there to get a glimpse of Mahmood Bhai and suddenly someone from the crowd shouted — Aye Mahmood comedy kar naa yaar — for the audience he is a comedian and they are not able to understand his grief and his tragic moments. How does one behave like that?
Taking a cue from the same question, you never seem to react during sombre moments...
We go to crematoriums when someone dies in the family or in the fraternity. The media too is there and they are doing their job and want (to capture) the reactions of people. This looks really strange, as we are there to express our condolences. I am sorry if you misunderstand me, I feel that I am commercialising the moment by giving my reaction or an interview. You will take that interview and put it on your channel, which in turn becomes content that will drive the channel commercially. So I feel hesitant to do it and therefore I never speak. I recently lost a very dear friend (Vinod Khanna) and within five minutes of getting the news, I got calls from 20 channel people, all very senior and dear friends, asking for my reaction. I feel offended by things like this. Though they are all my friends, I didn’t respond. I just feel that it’s unethical.
How big is the role of women in this film?
When you will see the film you will realise it. I have always found that if it’s a domesticated home, then there is one member of the family in which the elder master or the senior of the household always confides. Sarkar confides in his wife and this is being deliberately done because there has to be some kind of catharsis. The catharsis can be violent which we all will see in the film but what are those moments that he wants to share? He shares those moments with his wife. He may be nasty, he may be violent but that is the moment in Sarkar’s life when he feels vulnerable and with his wife he makes his confessions. It's not a film about mafia, it’s a film about family.
You have been part of three Sarkar films now, how has the journey been?
When I was working in Sarkar, I was working with Ramu for the first time and therefore I was unaware of his technology, his technique and how he was as a director. I followed what he asked me to do and it all worked out very well. In Sarkar 3, I found Ramu more receptive to discussion, exchange of ideas and thoughts. The other thing that I have observed in the past few years is that there are a lot of things that a director presumes that this will be a good directorial touch but I still feel that there are moments in a story where you need to explain something, a little more elaborately. There were moments, during the making of Sarkar 3, when after the scene was done, several days later we sat and discussed about it after what we saw. I found Ramu a lot more receptive to what we said. So later we extended that moment a bit more and I found that very helpful. In one of my earlier films many questions came up and got reactions like yaar samajh mein nahi aayi/picture kaise bani hai. So I think its better to explain it out in the film rather than have such questioning at the end of the film.
You talked about palace politics, is there any real-life palace politics saga that really intrigued you?
It would be unethical of me to talk about it but I am sure you being journalists and (having) seen the world, you know what goes on. I am sure you would be able to decipher what I'm referring to or talking about. It happens in everyday life, you and me, see and read about, say for example, things happening in Donald Trump's family. His wife Melania being criticised or what his son-in-law Jared Kushner is (doing)...these are things that reflect on the leader. What happens inside (a family) we don’t know.
Any book on palace politics that have intrigued you?
I am a bad reader. I collect a lot of books but that’s more to impress people! (Actually) it’s because of paucity of time... You pick one book, read few pages and then you move to another book, that’s how it happens. So I never remember the books.