Blog Monday, June 01, 2015 - 05:30
  Somewhat extravagantly being popularized as the interview of the year, Arnab Goswami's interview of Amitabh Bachchan certainly succeeded in keeping even the reluctant TV viewers like myself glued to the idiot box. I was quite keen to acquire new facts about someone who strode like a collossus in the enertainment world, and in many ways still does! Coming from myself it may appear incongruous. My own interest in the films can be guaged from the fact that the last Amitabh Bachchan movie I watched in a cinema theatre was over 35 years ago. But he is one of our major public figures and despite my lack of enthusiasm, I have keep abreast with the progression of his career through newspapers and other media. Although I always regarded his late father as far more inspirational ( he also happened to be my late father's teacher at the Allahabad University) , I have to concede that there is a certain mystique about Amitabh and I had some hope that Arnab might serve to clear that for his viewers. His larger than life persona made it inevitable that his influence extends far beyond the film world with an interlude into politics which according to him was eminently forgettable. Nevertheless even for a non-patron of Bollywood , I have watched his career with interest which has not always been panegyric as there have been several issues on which his stated public positions have not been convincing at least to myself. It is the latter on which I expected Arnab to illuminate me and I watched the entire episode with great anticipation. Sadly the episode did not completely satisfy me . The only unequivocal revelation was that Amitabh Bachchan regarded the Emergency as a mistake and came out as candidly as he could. This came as a relief. Amitabh's support to Indira Gandhi and later to her offsprings was always something that many of his admirers had problems with given that it continued even immediately after the Emergency era. His mother's friendship with Indira was a well-known fact. My generation would also recall that it was his parents who performed Sonia Gandhi's kanyadaan at her wedding. I also clearly remember that one of the very few guests at his hurriedly arranged wedding was Sanjay Gandhi . The Bachchans themselves were never tainted with any of the Emergency crimes but their close proximity to those who were identified with excesses did raise a few hackles. I am delighted that Amitabh has revealed his own personal position. But apart from this, the entire interview was a very unconvincing effort by Amitabh to appear candid while retaining a very defensive attitude very much along defensive lines. His position on the film fraternity's insensitive outrage over Salman Khan's conviction was far short on what I expected from him. At the very least , he could have taken a strong stand on Abhijeet Bhattacharya's toxic rants which offended many including myself. His position that the film fraternity was just trying to be supportive towards one of its own was unimpressive. Arnab did mention a case of a young actress who was falsely accused of flesh trade and ignored by the film folks.  His attempts to appear conciliatory towards Amar Singh were gracious considering that Singh has lost no opportunity to badmouth him whenever he can. But did we get to know the real reasons for their fall-out or Amitabh's disappointment with the Gandhi's? I do not think so as he appeared so defensive. He also skirted questions on his political connections with consummate skill leaving us no wiser.  But here I do believe Arnab lost out on an opportunity. Amitabh has time and again appeared fawning towards Bal Thackeray.We now know that Bal had forged personal links with him. But here was a person who believed in unapologetic thuggery and mobocracy in the most demogogic manner injection parochialism and I would have liked to have known the Bachchan stand on these very undemocratic and illegal positions of his. His prime targets were film fraternity and I I was sorely disappointed that no effort was made to pin him down on that. The other aspect where Arnab goofed up was his attampt to draw parallels between the Salman Khan case and the Sanjay Dutt case. In the Dutt case, there was at least no evidence presented to suggest that he was directly involved in any loss of life. Moreover , Dutt ,admittedly on his father's instructions himself surrendered to the police (unlike Salman) and even admitted to buying a gun and destroying it which completely incriminated him (although the gun was never found with him by the police). Most importantly Dutt did not attempt to pervert the trial by presenting false witnesses. I have myself written a column stating that 'perversion of justice' is a recognized crime in England which can carry life penalty. Renowned novelist Jeffrey Archer was found guilty of this in a civil case and had to spend four years in gaol. Salman should consider himself lucky that this crime is not recognized in India. The two cases had only superficial similarities. There were the obligatory references to the philanthropic and social consciences of Bollywood but apart from this,there were no real questions asked on the films he had acted in which I certainly would have liked. All in all,I would not give the interview more than a B plus!