I’m at Film City in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood movies, and I’m here to meet Amitabh Bachchan, one of the most influential actors in Indian cinema. Bachchan has appeared in over 180 films since he started his career in the 1970s, but has also performed as a singer, and worked as a film producer and television presenter.
I meet him in his trailer on set, where I find him sitting in a semi-lotus position on a sofa bed, dressed all in white. “Please sit down,” he says as he points at a chair. “Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, please,” I reply.
“I understand you are on a storytelling expedition around the world,” he says. “As an actor and film producer, I am a firm believer in the power of storytelling. Now, what would you like to discuss?”
“Well, what I would really like to ask is: what’s next? You’ve achieved so much. You’re on top of your game. Are there any challenges left?”
Mr. Bachchan sips at his tea and answers. “I personally don’t believe that I achieved so much. When I think about my father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, and his poetry, I feel very humble. If you’re talking about the film business, I might say I had a successful career. But there is something I would like to do which was not possible until recently.
“In 1982 I played in the film Coolie in which I did my own stunts. In one scene I had to fall onto a table and then onto the ground. But as I jumped, I hit the corner of the table with my abdomen, which caused a splenic rupture and a lot of blood loss. I was transported to the hospital and the filming was stopped.”
“I was critically ill in hospital for many months, at times close to death. Millions of people started praying in temples around the country and there were long queues of thousands of well-wishing fans outside the hospital, hoping and praying for me like I was part of their family.”
He pauses and takes another sip of tea. “After a long revalidation period, I made a full recovery and I finished the film. But the director changed the ending: my character was originally meant to be killed off, but now he was left to live.
“I’m telling you this story because to me it shows the extent of support I get from my audience. They’ve always been there for me. I’ve had quite some lows over the years, but my fans always stayed by my side.
“And so now, to come back to your question, I feel it is time for me to give back: thanks to social media I can connect with my audience. Through Twitter and Facebook, I interact and answer every comment or message.
Among those who follow my blog, there are a number of people with whom I’m in touch on a regular basis. I keep them informed of my travels, so we can meet in real life. I call them my ‘Extended Family’!”
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