Where did the idea for Black originate?
In 1993/4 during Khamoshi when I was interacting with physically challenged children.
How did you zero in on Rani Mukherji as the heroine?
Because of her capacity to be normal like you and me. I saw she would be able to play the role without feeling the lack of star trimmings.
Feeling the lack of star trimmings?
The role required letting go of the norms of a popular heroine. Rani took it on without any fuss.
Then doesn't the Big B have excess baggage?
No. His simplicity of approach was touching.
What made you take on such an offbeat film at this time?
When Khamoshi failed, I waited till I felt that I had an audience of my own—then I made Black.
Explaining the role must've been difficult. How did you convey it to your actors?
If you can understand suffering, if you are compassionate, trying to be a better human being and can communicate this honestly—it gets through.
What did it teach you?
That I want to live life fully, go past sorrows and handicaps and live thankfully with what I have.
Working with Bachchan?
Effortless communication. He understood the character and I didn't have to even direct his straight-from-the-heart performance. He's a true actor.
He learnt sign language, I believe?
Yes, and his teacher says among the many stars he's trained, no one learnt it with greater conviction.
How would you define the film?
A positive film about overcoming your suffering, your limitations and achieving your one moment of glory.