I designed 'Sarkar' for Amitabh: Varma

Jul 5, 2005 Subhash K. Jha, Jul 4

Mumbai, July 5 (IANS) "I designed 'Sarkar' for Amitabh Bachchan," says filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma.

"In 'Sarkar' I wanted to recreate the intensity that he exuded in 'Zanjeer' and 'Deewar', obviously keeping his age in mind. I think he's the only actor in Indian cinema who can hold the camera without saying a word," Varma told IANS in an interview.

"To me Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan are completely different actors. And even if they weren't related I'd still want only the two of them for the two roles in 'Sarkar'. For me the characters dictate the actors. 'Sarkar' demanded Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan."

The director says he had the film in mind for some years. "By the time the script crystallized, a lot of time had passed. But I knew I wanted the senior Bachchan in the title role."

Excepts from the interview:

Their combination does generate a lot of curiosity?

I don't care. I made them do exactly what the script required without worrying about what the so-called market expected from me. Let's be honest. I designed "Sarkar" for Amitabh Bachchan. Abhishek came in later.

I was too much in awe of the senior to concern myself about the junior. Like most moviegoers I grew up watching the senior Bachchan doing amazing things on screen. To do justice to his presence in my work I had to design something that was as good as his best works. Whether I succeeded or not is secondary. I took my time to conceive a role that would showcase Amitabh Bachchan the way I wanted to see him. Were it not for (Amitabh) Bachchan I wouldn't have made "Sarkar".

After "Black" his performance in your film would be carefully watched...

Personally I don't like seeing (Amitabh) Bachchan in a film like "Black". For me he's a superstar. I'm not interested in seeing him as an actor. I want to see him larger than life. To me his stardom is what his talent is all about. I want to see him as a super hero all the time. I'd hate to see him as a physically disabled person. I hero-worshipped him, and still do.

In "Sarkar" I want to recreate the intensity that he exuded in "Zanjeer" and "Deewar", obviously keeping his age in mind. I think he's the only actor in Indian cinema who can hold the camera without saying a word. He always seems to be communicating directly with every member of the audience. You're awed and inspired by that one impenetrable stare. That's awesome.

What have you done with that stare?

It's my 'stare'way to heaven. To me (Amitabh) Bachchan drinking tea from a saucer is more incredibly performance-oriented than some other actor doing a complex emotional sequence. Like I said, he can hold the camera with his personality.

In "Don" audiences clapped when he walked down the hotel lobby. What's that! Not a performance, but the persona. I've tried to recreate the same aura in "Sarkar". Amitabh Bachchan would've made the same impact even if he was a salesperson or a taxi driver instead of an actor. It's in the way he carried himself.

He doesn't need camera props and technique to make him look magnetic. He's impressive from within. Other actors can wear the best designer clothes. But they can't equal the intensity of Bachchan who came with grime on his face in "Kala Patthar" and "Deewar". His unwashed appeal is amazing. He's one of the masses and yet larger than life.

I had the arrogance to think I could make him do things he had never done before. What happened was the opposite. Bachchan has taken "Sarkar" much beyond where I could ever take it. The one-liners in "Deewar" and "Namak Haraam" were missing in subsequent films. In "Sarkar" I wanted to recreate that tense aura of the one-liners.

I wanted to let his silences speak louder than his words. Even in real life he has the habit of looking blankly at you, so that you don't know how his mind is working. Yes, the interaction with him was definitely exceptional. I'm the lion who has tasted blood. I'll work with him again and again.

And Abhishek. What do you mean when you say he's a better actor than Mr Bachchan?

Abhishek came in as Amitabh Bachchan's son, so the expectations were

extraordinarily high. When Abhishek came he wasn't being given the chance to develop his own identity. In my "Naach", which was done with a modicum of realism, his capability was tapped, though not fully. I think I've done that in "Sarkar". I've understood his potential here. (Amitabh) Bachchan would've done this kind of a thing in the beginning of his career. To see Abhishek do the same was a shock to me.

But you came close to working with Abhishek on several earlier occasions.

Yes, I knew there was an incredible dignity in him. When I finally

worked with him, his novelty struck me dead-on. I think Abhishek is a very, very different actor from his father. Though there's a genetic likeness their approach to a scene and mode of performance are remarkably different. He's extremely involved on the sets. I'd listen more to Abhishek's than his father's suggestions. Abhishek is extremely perceptive. His understanding of life is more contemporary than mine or (Amitabh) Bachchan's.

I believe if Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan belonged to the same generation they would've given very stiff competition to each other. Yes, the two Bachchans' roles are inspired by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in "The Godfather". In "Sarkar" Amitabh Bachchan plays an incredibly self-righteous man. He does what he believes in regardless of society or law.

So is "Sarkar" inspired by Bal Thackeray?

It's fictional. But it's based on real situations. Therefore Bachchan's character is based on someone real. If a man like Bal Thackeray can evoke the respect, awe and fear of thousands of people to the extent that they are ready to lay down their lives for him, irrespective of which political party he belongs to, then, yes, "Sarkar" is also of a man who evokes the same passionate loyalty from the people around him. In other respects "Sarkar" is completely fictional.

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