(2008) Ash/Abhi Unplugged
Ram Gopal Varma, who made some awful mistakes in 2007, looks set to return with a bang this week with Sarkar Raj.
“It is not a political film,” I heard the filmmaker admonish a RJ yesterday morning, “but a film about betrayal, about relationships.” In his wisdom, Varma has cast the lovely Aishwarya and dashing Abhishek Bachchan in the lead roles, but has not given a love angle to their relationship. For that, Varma has provided Tanuja’s bubbly daughter Tanishaa. The Sarkar, of course, is Amitabh Bachchan. I met the Bachchan khandaan at Mehboob Studios in Bandra earlier this week where promos for the film were being done. The Big B, strangely dressed like the Undertaker in black and on the sets of Alladin, asked curiously, “Going to see the kids?”
The ‘kids’ were next door, waiting for me in Ash’s vanity van, she dressed in long white kurta and jeans, he still in character for the film. Giving me a Shankar Nagre look, Abhishek said, “There is no romantic involvement between us in the film, but there is mutual respect, and admiration.” Ash added, “There is a connection.” I asked, would they now, as husband and wife, be able to enact romantic scenes before the camera with the same ease and passion as they did in earlier films like Guru? Or had one year of married life taken the edge off that chemistry? Ash answered, “By the grace of God, yes, that’s still there. We love our craft, that’s what we do best, but we love each other more intimately.” He joined in grudgingly with, “When the camera comes on, we are professionals, we just do our job.”
Who did his job better in the prequel to this film, I asked Ash, her husband or father-in-law? “That’s a trick question,” she shot back, “but, while you cannot take away from the fantastic job Pa had done, Abhishek’s commitment to his work did not slip my eye. Pa played his role with restraint, he gave a powerful performance without screaming for attention, but that’s expected of him. While Abhishek, who shared screen space with this stalwart who is also his father, delivered what was attributed to him as an actor. Which was also a silent but powerful performance without four pages of dialogue to back it.”
But if you required one of the Bachchans to act for your life and the other to entertain you, who would you choose for either roles, I pressed. Ash hummed and hawed, then replied, “That’s tough, because both have the incredible ability to switch between immense intensity and straight-faced comedy. I don’t know about either acting to save my life, but, believe me, they both entertain me at home from time to time.”
What was it like to watch each other at work when they were not doing a scene together? “Before we got involved,” said Abhishek, “it used to be appreciation. But after we got married, and I further got to know Ash, it’s confusing. Because I know how she thinks, I know what she puts into her scene mentally and physically, how she pays attention to the minutest detail. Ash is like Dad, even when they blink, it’s consciously thought out. She’s my wife, and I love her, but as an actor I don’t have that ability, I’m more nonchalant… and I can’t understand how she does it.” Ash rose to her confused husband’s defence, “He’s spontaneous, his scenes are given at the last moment, but he needs to be comfortable. I was shocked to see the transformation in him on the sets of Guru. So quick, I was genuinely super-impressed and wondered when did he prepare for the scene.”
But now they have grown comfortable together, they know each other’s minds, they have in them the common ability to become the characters they are supposed to be as actors. “The audience can see if there is a disconnect between the character and actor,” Ash said. This comfort level has come after quite a few not-so-famous attempts at acting together. Abhiash, as the couple is known, have done Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, Kuch Naa Kaho, Umrao Jaan, Dhoom 2 and Guru together.
What’s the best thing about working together, I asked. “Our relationship is real, so our reaction to situations is not conventional, it’s not mush but deep and caring. And as a co-star, he’s magic, I look to create magical moments with him,” she said. “I get pampered on the sets,” Abhishek laughed, “but, that apart, she’s very giving and selfless. Actors are selfish and save the best for their individual performances. But Ash always gives 100 per cent, she has respect for her co-stars and is dedicated to her work. As my co-star and wife, she allows me a lot of bad behaviour. Actors get het up, a lot gets to us on the sets, and we need to let loose. Ash understands that. And I don’t have to pay for it by sleeping on the couch at night.”