While Aamir-SRK-Salman turn 50 this year, Amitabh Bachchan is just a few years away from completing his half century in Hindi cinema. The biggest Bollywood star of all time spoke with familiarity and fondness about the three young men who took over the mantle of superstardom from him. Excerpts from an interview.
How has your relationship been with them over the years, since you met them first.
I have known Salman from the time he was a little kid in shorts and shirt. I still see him in them, though often without the shirt! I worked with his father Salim Saheb and would get a glance of him whenever I visited their home. Then he joined films and became hugely successful. I came to know Shahrukh and Aamir when they had already joined the industry and achieved success. Despite their stratospheric status and success, they have always been most respectful, gracious and kind-hearted and have oodles of regard for me. I am most humbled by it.
How are they as individuals?
They are normal individuals in an abnormal profession. Shahrukh, I find determined and energised beyond words. He keeps visualising and achieving fresh horizons, all with an enviable self-confidence. Remarkable coming from someone who, metaphorically speaking, jumped from nowhere onto the stage of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet and accomplished the task of the prima ballerina!
Aamir comes from a film family and has a penchant for studied opinion. You may never have reason enough to gather what he thinks and how he thinks, even when he may spend hours with you, but you shall eventually find the results in his final creativity, his conduct or act.
Salman is his own adage. Someone who lives without a care in the world. And what a wonderful asset that is for any human being to possess! A line from one of my songs in the film Naseeb would perhaps...perhaps aptly, describe him—“Hun yaaron ka main yaar, dushmanon ka dushman.” An executive who worked with him on a TV show very succinctly put it: “That’s not Salman, that’s Salman unplugged.” As an individual, he is always ‘Salman unplugged’.
And how has it been working with them professionally?
I have worked with Shahrukh and Salman as co-actors and with Aamir I have done the mahurat shot for a film (Indra Kumar’s Rishta) that did not materialise. I also did the commentary (voiceover) for his film Lagaan. Obviously working with them has been professional and competent, otherwise they would not be where they are today.
What do you think makes their stardom unique?
Stardom has many facets to it: talent, presence, deliverables that matter, and above all, audience acceptability. All three of them came at a time when there was a generational change in the country. The young of the nation, tired and fatigued by the ageing concepts of anti-establishment and anti-heroes, of familial procrastinations and the universal poetic justices of a moral society, wanted to breathe free from it all. They wanted love and romance, have freedom of thought and independent avenues. The audiences saw them in these three, grabbed them, possessed them, obsessed over them and discovered a fresh voice in them. A voice they all wanted to make audible with abandon. Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir gave the audience that voice and they, in turn, gave the three their unique stardom.
How different has it been from your own reign?
Excuse... This question reeks of monarchical vicissitudes. I do not, have never and will never subscribe to such conditions and so will not answer this query.
What makes the three similar and different as people?
Their similarity is their surname. Their dissimilarity is their surname too! All three have their own creative ethos and capability, one that has impressed and continues to impress billions of well-wishers and followers throughout the globe.
Where do you see them go from here?
I don’t know. I guess when they finish their day at work they go home! I am no visionary or astrologer but I imagine they would continue to work as long as they like.
What would their legacy be for the future generation of stars?
A legacy that is inspirational. They are idols for millions of young. Surely that is what most would want to acquire from them—their achievements.
What would your birthday gift for them be?
May they live to be a 100 years and continue to be as they are now and may they make sure that when they appear in public, their fly is zipped! (Shahrukh knows of this, what it implies. I once told this to him when he had asked me a question. It contains a somewhat literal but greatly more metaphorical meaning; me to know and others to find out!)