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Abhishek Bachchan on 'The Big Bull': So many protagonists in Hindi cinema these days are grey characters

Actor Abhishek Bachchan on making 'The Big Bull' for theatres and releasing it on OTT, playing Hemant Shah, growing as an actor and 'The Big Bull' Vs 'Scam 92' comparison

April 09, 2021 / 12:01 PM IST
Abhishek Bachhan in 'The Big Bull', releasing April 8, 2021, on Disney + Hotstar.

Abhishek Bachhan in 'The Big Bull', releasing April 8, 2021, on Disney + Hotstar.

Twenty years after his debut with Refugee (2000), Abhishek Bachchan made his digital debut with the series Breathe: Into the shadows (2020). A few months later, his film Ludo had an OTT release and now he’s also set to unveil his latest avatar as stockbroker Hemant Shah. Bachchan leads the cast of The Big Bull, a crime drama set in the 1980s. Directed by Kookie Gulati, it also stars Nikita Dutta as Shah’s love interest Priya, Soham Shah as his brother Viren, and Ileana D’Cruz as the journalist investigating Shah’s dealings, along with Ram Kapoor, Supriya Pathak and Saurabh Shukla.

Excerpts from an interview with Abhishek Bachchan:

Why does the story of a character like Harshad Mehta, on whom ‘The Big Bull’ is supposed to be based, become universally interesting?

Firstly, the character’s name is Hemant Shah. He’s a composite and not based on any one person. When Ajay (Devgn, producer) and Kookie first discussed the film with me, I loved his journey. I think I have a penchant for playing characters with a rags-to-riches journey (such as Gurukant Desai in Guru). I liked that Hemant has dreams and also he has the steely determination to achieve those dreams. That makes him aspirational. What I liked even more is that he has flaws and frailties. Imagine a man who comes from a chawl and then buys a duplex in the most expensive apartment building in the country. Certain sins come with achieving all that he has achieved. There is a dialogue in the film that describes him as someone who doesn’t believe in walking. He believes in running fast. He wrote a cheque for Rs 26 crore in the early ’90s. A certain power and megalomania has to creep into a character like that.

What did you enjoy most about playing Hemant?

I enjoyed playing all of what I have already mentioned and also showing the progression of a simple middle-class man and how it affects him in different ways. So many protagonists in Hindi cinema these days are grey characters. The definition of heroism has changed. It’s not about being morally superior and holding the high ground. It’s about having flaws and still achieving extraordinary things. That sums up Hemant Shah.

Are you interested in, or do you dabble in, the stock market?

Yes, I am interested in the market. I have invested in stocks for a long time now. It's a world that intrigues me.

Are you prepared for people asking you for stock 'tips'?

That's already started happening. My response to that is: ‘Tip kay liye paise lagte hain’ (You need to pay for the tip).

How do you feel about a film that was designed for the cinema releasing on digital?

There was a bit of conflict initially. We had announced the release date for the film as last October. Then, in the very early days of lockdown, Ajay called and said we don't know what is going to happen. There is a great deal of uncertainty. He asked me what do you think about going the digital route. There was trepidation at first, but Ajay made a lot of sense when he said that at least this way we know that the audience will get to see the film. Yes, we did make the film for the big traditional cinema hall and I am going to take solace in the fact that even given the penetration of digital into households, many more people are going to see our work.

ALSO READ: Review: The Big Bull | Why we love on-screen rogues

How different or alike are 'The Big Bull' and the 'Scam 1992' series?

There is a big difference between writing for the web and writing a movie. For the web, you get nine to 10 hours to tell your entire story, which gives you the time to delve into the subtext of your material and details of characterisation. A two-hour film does not offer that liberty. So there is a lot you will omit, and there will be other things that you might have to tell more dramatically because you don't have the time and space to go into the details, so you compensate with drama. Films and series have different disciplines and processes. When Ajay first spoke to me about this film, in early 2019, it was visualised as a big screen spectacle. The characters, therefore, are larger than life and it is shot in that way. Plus, there are songs. In that aspect, The Big Bull is different. I saw Scam (Scam 92, SonyLIV). It was such a pleasure to watch and it’s so reassuring to know that good work will be appreciated.

Are you prepared for the comparisons?

There will be similarities, comparisons and differences, but none of that is in my control. As I say, a bit facetiously, I am used to comparison. I take it in my stride.

Do you still re-watch your films and make notes? Which roles did you think were on point?

The really good thing is that, in retrospect, none of them were on point. In all humility, I would like to believe that means I have grown as an artist. I can see certain flaws, certain aspects where I could have done better. I might like some of the films, I might not like some of them, but as an actor, to be able to revisit your work and say I can do this better, that’s the silver lining. It means you have improved as an actor and found newer ways to perform. I have been reviewing my work and making notes since my first film. I know a lot of actors don't like to view their work again, but I have stacks of books with notes. Seeing my work is the best way I know to improve myself.

The Big Bull will be available DisneyPlus Hotstar VIP from April 8, 2021.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is a Mumbai-based writer, film critic and festival programmer.
first published: Apr 1, 2021 10:22 am

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