Whenever I am asked to write about Mr Bachchan I am reminded that I know him so well. But I wonder if I really know him at all.
Does anyone know the real Mr B? Even Jayaji, the Bachchan I am closest to and the one HE is closest to, says she has to read the silences because he likes to remain quiet when at home. That is when he can really be himself, though I am yet to understand what it means for him to be himself.
What I do know is, this phenomenon named Amitabh Bachchan is genuinely a force of Nature, incomparable with anything that I’ve known in my entire life. I’ve known him for 20 years. His energy and enthusiasm level remains unchanged. Even today he gets as excited about his work as he did when Mohabbatein was offered to him in 2000. It began his second innings in cinema.
I remember how excited he was about doing the film, and how grateful to Yashji for giving him the opportunity. And I know how upset he was when earlier this month he couldn’t attend the National awards to receive his Dada Saheb Phalke award. To Amitji, every honour is of great importance.
I don’t know if every friend is special to him. But he has always treated me as someone really special. On one of the earliest episodes of Kaun Banega Crorepati, the game show which was a game-changer for Indian television, Mr Bachchan when introduced to a contestant from Bihar, proudly told the contestant that he has a dear friend in Patna named Subhash K Jha.
I won’t pretend. It was a golden moment for me. To have his endorsement while millions watched…it meant a lot. Not too many of my friends in the film industry would do something like this. It is his generosity of spirit that I admire the most in his personality. As an actor, he may fail someday (although that’s hard to imagine). But as a friend he can never fail you.
“Meet the film journalist from Patna who doesn’t like travelling to Mumbai,” he’d introduce me whenever we met on his sets. But most of my most memorable meetings with Amitji have been in the Bachchan home Jalsa where Jayaji presides over a household that runs with clockwork precision. The meals served in silver thalis with innumerable katoris of vegetables are unforgettable.
There are numerous incidents etched in my mind illustrating his generous spirit. Two of them are more special than others. Once when I was at the airport in Mumbai to catch my flight back to Patna after the premiere of Black, I was informed my seat had been given away to someone else. In a panic, I did the first thing that came to my mind (this was a Sahara flight and at that time he was associated with the Group).
I rang up Amitji and complained hysterically like a child. He heard me out and calmly asked me to hand the phone over to the lady at the counter. Within five minutes I was on the flight.
The other incident happened at my residence in Patna when Mr Bachchan came home for dinner. He had come to Patna for the promotion of his film Aarakshan. And director Prakash Jha tried his utmost to dissuade him from breaking the schedule. When Prakash couldn’t convince Mr Bachchan, he called and urged me to dissuade Mr Bachchan as, Prakash claimed, his visit to my home posed a security hazard.
I had no choice. I reluctantly told Amitji that it’s better to cancel the visit to my home.
“No, I had promised you. Whenever I came to Patna I’d come to your house,” he replied calmly.
And that was that.
By the time he arrived with his entourage, it was late evening. The entire road and stadium in front of my home were plastered with humanity, not space anywhere …How did they come to know?! I panicked. How would his car reach my gate? When he arrived the sea of humanity parted like the Red Sea and the cars sailed by. After he got out of the car he walked straight into the sea of humanity with folded hands. Not one person tried to touch him or get close to him.
That evening I realized why he is who he is.