February 16, 2002


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Subhash K Jha

It looks like 2002 will belong to Abhishek Bachchan.

The film industry cannot stop talking about his performance in Dharmesh Darshan's Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya.

Abhishek is upbeat but cautious. "Of course, I'd like Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya to be a success. But it would very presumptuous of me to think of this as my career-making film. The audience will decide whether they like me in the film or not. Shall we leave the final verdict to them?"

Whatever Abhishek’s reservations, there’s no doubt he has given a distinctive and individualistic performance as the exuberant, happy-go-lucky guy whose life and attitude changes when his lady love (Karisma Kapoor) is nearly taken away by another man.

Says Abhishek, "I'm totally indebted to my director Dharmesh Darshan for my performance in Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya. He asked me to trust him about how to play my character and I surrendered to his vision, no questions asked. He made sure that I didn’t subconsciously slip into my father’s style. Everyone involved with the film has given a hundred per cent. I’m sure the film will be appreciated." Abhishek Bachchan>

Abhishek is all praise for his co-stars Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor. "After so many years in showbiz, they’re still so charged-up and enthusiastic about their work. Akshay was very helpful. He has always encouraged and supported me. As for Karisma, watching her emote in front of the camera, inspired me to pull up my socks."

Though last year Abhishek had only one release Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai (of which he’s very proud and possessive), 2002 sees an impressive lineup of films.

Rohan Sippy’s romantic flick Kuch Na Kaho has Abhishek playing an NRI who comes bride-hunting to India. His bride is the lovely Aishwarya Rai.

Then there’s JP Dutta’s ambitious and prestigious film on Kargil, LoC. To Abhishek, this film is a home coming. "Since I debuted with JP's Refugee, he and his crew are like family. What’s more, I got a chance to face the camera with one of my senior colleagues whom I really admire: Sanjay Dutt."

Abhishek’s Refugee co-star Kareena Kapoor joins him in two forthcoming films: Satish Kaushik’s Dil Chorand Sooraj Barjatya’s Main Prem Ki Deewaani Hoon.

Finally, there’s friend Gurudev Bhalla’s long-delayed Shararat, a film that Abhishek is very proud of.

Then there are three films with dad Amitabh Bachchan. Abhishek says he isn’t afraid of comparisons. "They are comparing me with him anyway. Which other actor would they dare to compare with him except his son?

"I'm honoured to be working in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Kutumb and two other films with dad, my childhood hero. I think I’d emerge a better actor after the experience." Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherji in Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai

Abhishek says the automobile ad that he did with his dad was "like a screen test for how we look together."

Speaking about his unfortunate brush with some members of the press during the shooting of Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai in Delhi last year, Abhishek says, "In my heart, I knew I had done nothing wrong, so why was I dragged into the ugly incident? Ironically, when we went back to Delhi two months later, the same gentleman from the press who accused me of roughing him up, was our PRO for Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai. He even apologised for the incident."

Calm and non-judgemental, Abhishek says he’s in the film industry to act, not react to controversies and rumours. "To anyone who asks me which side of the bed I sleep on, my answer is: none of your business!"

On a more professional level, barely had the reports of his playing Chandrashekhar Azad died down, that rumours of Abhishek Bachchan stepping into the role of another national leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose began making the rounds. "I was supposed to play Chandrashekhar Azad in a film directed by Priyadarshan. But that project has been set aside. As for playing Netaji in Raja Sen's film, there’s no truth in it at all."

Abhishek has done a couple of days' work in Sen’s Bengali film featuring Jaya Bachchan. In spite of no box office success, Bachchan Jr is present in various projects. "Though it’s very comforting and reassuring to know that directors have so much faith in me their acceptance doesn’t mean much until the audience decides to open its arms for an actor."

Abhishek and Karisma in Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya All eyes are now set on Abhishek in Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya where he’s paired opposite the strongly saleable Karisma Kapoor. The gossip press has been busy linking the two together but Abhishek doesn't think it would affect the box office.

"The audience is far too smart to get taken in by such talk. Nothing except instrinsic merits helps sell a film to the audience. Fortunately, Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya has plenty going for itself other than the stars. It doesn’t need cheap gimmicky speculation about the star pairs to bring the audience in," says the actor.

At the moment, the only new project Abhishek has signed will be directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. "It’s a fabulous father-son-best friend story. Madhur and I have known each other from the time he assisted Ram Gopal Verma. He wanted this to be the first film of his directorial career. But at that point of time neither of us was in a position to work together. Now after Chandni Bar, Madhur is very eager to start this film."

Abhishek wants his parent company AB Corp Ltd to produce this project. He vetoes the idea of the Big B playing his father in Bhandarkar’s film. "We already have two projects together on the anvil," says the 26-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on 5 February quietly with his family.

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