BBC World show 'Talking Movies' features Big B

MUMBAI: He is known for great acting skills and charismatic personality. The latest from him - the alzheimer-striken teacher in Black - has been a revelation! BBC World’s Talking Movies presents Amitabh Bachchan in coversation with presenter Tom Brook. Bachchan, who was recently in New York to receive a tribute to his film career from the American Film Institute, speaks to Tom Brook in an in-depth interview about his long and distinguished film career.

The show will feature the illustrious film career of Bachchan, which spans over 35 years and over 150 films to his credit. The Big B special will air on 4 May at 1 pm. The repeat telecast follows on 5 May at 10 pm and on 8 May at 8 am.

According to a media release, when asked by Tom Brook about the fact that most people on the streets of the United States wouldn’t recognise him as a superstar, he replies: “Thank God for that. Well, they don’t know about me and they don’t know about Indian cinema. It’s just like Brad Pitt walking around a city in India - no one would know who he is. That’s not to say I don’t have that freedom within my own country. If I chose to walk on the streets I’d be okay.”

Through the interview Bachchan says, “It’s always a great honour to be recognised by an institute that comes out from the West. [I’m] a bit surprised that the Americans would take such an interest in Indian cinema, and pay me a tribute in particular, but I’m very happy that something like this is happening. It bodes well for Indian cinema, it bodes well for the marketing of Indian cinema, for the future of Indian cinema, and I hope that there are such tributes paid to many other artists of my nation.”

According to a media release, he adds, “I think that Indian cinema got its recognition overseas because of its unique content… there is a great deal of interest now in India beyond seeing films. The economy has opened up and we are being looked upon as a powerful nation… I believe that every time a nation progresses economically and changes economically, everything about it becomes fashionable and likable. Our food suddenly becomes world-widely acceptable, the clothes that we wear, the music that we make and the films that we make. So I think that the acceptability of our films is now largely due to the fact that we are a growing economic power.”

Expressing his views on how interest in Indian cinema can be increased in other countries such as the US, he says: “Certainly a better system of marketing [is needed]. I think our systems are very individualistic, we’re perhaps not aware of the potential of how films need to be marketed as do the Americans, because they are really masters of it… I think now as visibility improves, we’ll have to get our house in order, get our management procedures in place, so that they can be marketed well and have a greater reach.”

Asked if he feels that Indian films have to be less rigid in their approach to issues such as sex and morality in order to gain international acceptability, Bachchan replies, “That isn’t the only ingredient that makes them acceptable in other parts of the world – I think it’s more to do with your screenplay and your story and the content. Yes, Western cinema does have a greater permissiveness than Indian cinema, but I don’t think that is a constant and I don’t see any necessity for loosening our morals, so to say, just to accommodate a new territory.”

Bachchan, who has also had a brief stint in Indian politics as a Member of Parliament, says he would not like to go back to politics, adding: “I don’t know politics, I just don’t know it... it was an emotional decision, and I felt that emotion really has no place in politics.”

Bachchan is also the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and he speaks about how a celebrity’s involvement has added to the effectiveness of the organisation’s cause. Quoting the example of the hugely successful polio campaign he has been a part of, he says: “The number of polio cases came down to almost four or five instead of 3,000, and the number of mothers going to the booths increased almost by a thousand-fold…. if by my association with UNICEF we can bring about some relief for India, then I’m happy to do something.”

Asked why he doesn’t like the Indian film industry to be referred to as Bollywood, he says: “I feel it’s a bit demeaning to the Indian film industry. It’s a word that doesn’t sound very good.”

On whether he considers retiring from the film business, he says: “Someday I will, of course, because it’s impossible to retain your physicality for the rest of your life, and movie-making depends a lot on your physical demeanour. Once my face loses shape and my body loses shape, I’ll retire, but as long as it’s working and it’s moving I’d like to carry on working.”

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