After his de-glam role in Raavan, Abhishek Bachchan returns to the screen with another performance-based character in Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. In his second release of 2010, Bachchan has collaborated with Ashutosh Gowariker on a period film set during the time of the Chittagong Uprising. Steven Baker spoke to the actor about playing a freedom fighter, working with Deepika Padukone for the first time and why he is not in competition with Aishwarya.
How did you prepare for your role as freedom fighter Surya Sen?
This is your second de-glam role this year. Do you prefer more glamorous roles or something performance-based?
I am actually equally comfortable with both. It just so happens that you get these sort of characters back to back because of the way your schedule works out. I enjoy doing both, whether it is glamorous or de-glam, as long as it pushes me creatively to try and do a job that is more challenging than my last one. I happen to be half Bengali as well so I think that all helps.
What did you know about the story before signing the film?
One has been brought up on stories of freedom fighters and what they did, but never knew actually – shocking and shamefully – about Surja Sen and the Chittagong Uprising, because very little is documented about this. There are very vague references in our history books of maybe a paragraph or a page, so when I heard the story I felt it was a story that needs to be told and a film that should be made so that more people can acquaint themselves with it.
To what extent is the film a true story?
It is completely a true story. The book it is based on 'Do or Die' is a historical account of what happened in Chittagong during the uprising in 1930. On the 18th April 1930, Surya Sen, the character I am playing who was a school teacher, coupled with five of his friends who were freedom fighters, and close to fifty eight schoolchildren started a revolution to overthrow the British from the nerve centres of Chittagong. So for example they raided the police lines, the armoury, the telegraph office, the European club and the railway station. They basically took over entire British cantonment. This acted as a huge inspiration all over the country for freedom fighters. So this movie is based on that incident, what happened, and how they prepared for it.
It sounds like the film has a social message?
I really believe at the end of the day, regardless of how noble you are intentions or how patriotic the film might be, it has to serve as entertainment in order for your audiences to come into the theatre and watch it. Otherwise audiences will wait and see it a few months later when it is premiered on television. You know the main objective of our cinema is to entertain. If you can pass on a message at the same time that is fantastic, but if the audience does not feel they are going to be entertained by the film, they are not going to watch it. There are many examples of very responsible and great films that are being made, but nobody goes to watch them.
How was the experience of working alongside Deepika Padukone?
Wonderful. This is my first film with Deepika actually. For someone who is relatively new in the industry, to take on the role that she has done is very brave and challenging. I am very glad that our actresses are also very open to doing these kinds of roles, where in today's day and age playing the glam queen is so rampant. I think it is wonderful that an actor with Deepika's experience has managed to pull it off, and she has pulled it off with great ease and dignity, which I think is very nice.
This is also your first production with Ashutosh Gowariker...
It is. I have known Ashutosh from when he used to be an actor in the eighties. He has been a dear, dear friend and he did a film with my wife called Jodhaa Akbar, as well. Ashutosh and I have always expressed a want to work with each other and I am very thankful that he chose me for the film and I was more than excited to do the film once he told me the script as well.
How has the music been integrated into the story?
The majority of the songs barring two are all background songs, because Ashutosh said it would not be true to the plot and the era to just break into song. But there are two songs which are lip synch, one is on Deepika and the other is the title song which the children sing. But apart from that they are all background songs.
This is only your second release of 2010. Do you feel in competition with Aishwarya, who has had a number of back to back films this year?
No not at all. I have never been that kind of a person. Next year I actually have seven releases. You have to do the work and dedicate the amount of time the project requires.
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