CHENNAI: Francis Ford Coppola famously said, “Sequels are not done for the audience or cinema or the filmmakers. It’s for the distributor. The film becomes a brand.” The same thing can be said about spinoffs too. Given how superhero franchise films have turned into money-spinners, can we really blame the studios for going down that path? Almost every social media list of prospective Hindi film characters that deserve spinoffs, had one name prominently featured in them: Kahaani’s Bob Biswas.
Come December 3, this story is set to unfold on ZEE5 with Abhishek Bachchan stepping into the huge shoes of actor Saswata Chatterjee, whose eight-minute role achieved cult status. “He is more than just a contract killer. He is a father, a husband, and a patient too. There are contradictions in this character. How can someone so nice and soft-spoken be a contract killer? I’m grateful that there are people who consider me worthy of such a challenging role,” says Abhishek.
Life has come full circle for Abhishek, given that this character was originally written by Sujoy Ghosh with the former in mind. Kahaani was supposed to be a two-person story featuring Bob and Vidya Bagchi. However, fate had other plans, the script was reworked, and the rest is history. “It is definitely flattering that characters are being written for me, but I don’t read too much into it because at the end of the day, the work we do talks more about us than the work we didn’t,” says Abhishek, who has had a golden run with the characters he has done recently.
After a self-imposed break, Abhishek played an accommodative romantic in Manmarziyan, a street thug with a strong emotional core in Ludo, an untameable stockbroker in The Big Bull, and now a soft-spoken contract killer in Bob Biswas. He thrived in roles coloured in grey shades — be it Beera Munda or Gurukanth Desai or Shankar Nagre or Roy Kapoor or Rakesh Trivedi or Lallan Singh. If Big B said the line begins from wherever he stands, Junior B flourished in operating between the lines. “I am attracted to flawed characters.
I am excited by these characters rising above flaws and realising their inner potential,” says Abhishek, who plays yet another flawed character in his next, SSS-7 — the official remake of the Tamil film, Oththa Seruppu Size 7. While his previous Tamil remake (Run) had him trying to establish commercial hero credentials, this time, the film is an attempt to stand out from the rest. “When Parthiban (the director of OS 7) met me on the sets of Ponniyin Selvan, which stars Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan), he was so humble and showed the film to me. I loved it; it was a work of pure genius. When he asked if we should make it in Hindi, I knew it was an opportunity I shouldn’t miss,” he reveals, adding that it is such “huge challenges” that he enjoys.
‘I am attracted to flawed characters’
The rise of OTT has made these challenges more frequent, and Abhishek has been at the heart of bridging the divide between content for theatres and OTT. He wastes no time in shooing away questions about the possibility of his OTT sojourns being detrimental to cinema ‘stardom’. “It is an exciting medium and it is here to stay. There is a lot of impactful storytelling that is happening in this space,” says the actor, who also touches upon the blurring linguistic boundaries due to the spread of OTT in India.
Notably, Abhishek has a strong emotional connection with Tamil Nadu courtesy of owning Chennaiyin FC, the football club that represents the city in the Indian Super League. “Language barriers are immaterial today. Last year’s Breathe 2 had a Tamil dubbed version. My dear friend Suriya is doing such wonderful work, and his last two films—Soorarai Pottru and Jai Bhim—had Hindi dubbed versions. The lines are definitely blurring.”
These observations are also a result of Abhishek active on social media. Perhaps one of Indian cinema’s most active Twitter personalities, the actor’s responses to his fans and trolls alike is well-documented. His Twitter bio reads, “Actor; sports fan” and it is on social media that the sports fan in him runs rampant. Though he owns football and kabaddi teams, his sports tweets are not just limited to cricket, football, and kabaddi. “That’s because we have immense sporting talent in India, and if I can aid it in any way with my tweets, I will do it.”
He is, however, clear about compartmentalising his various personas. ‘Sports fan Abhishek’ is as distinct as ‘actor Abhishek’, and his bundle of positivity on social media is quite far removed from his acting roles that are mostly nuzzled in the grey zones. “With my films, I am just telling a story. Each actor has their own approach as to the subject matter they want to be part of. As for the whole morality debate, with all due respect, I am not your parent. If you want a lesson in morality and value, speak to your parents. Our job is only to entertain you!” signs off Abhishek Bachchan, with a characteristic