Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has an old affinity with Pakistan. His mother, Teji Bachchan, was born in Lyallpur [now Faisalabad], and graduated from Government College Lahore. His mother’s family hailed from Karachi and he was a toddler when he visited Lahore and Karachi with his mother. Thereafter, he never had a chance to visit Pakistan.
“I’d like to visit Pakistan,” said the Indian cinema star, in an exclusive interview with Express News, his first-ever with a Pakistani news channel. “You invite me and I’ll come now,” he said when asked when he plans to travel to Pakistan. “Whenever I get a chance, I’ll certainly come to Pakistan.”
The living legend, given the moniker ‘Big B’ by his fans and admirers, is equally popular among cinemagoers on both sides of the border. “I’m very happy to know that I have a lot of fans in Pakistan,” he said.
Relations between Pakistan and India have been strained by distrust since the 1947 partition. Bachchan wants to see good neighbourly ties between the two countries. “We belong to the same land. We’re one people,” he said. “I have many friends in Pakistan. Whenever I meet them abroad, I feel like I’m talking to my own people.”
Regarding any political ambitions, Bachchan said he quit politics a long time ago and has no intention to indulge in it again.
Talking about cricket, he said the Pakistani team has some good players and he enjoys watching matches between Pakistan and India. Recalling cricketing legends like Fazal Mehmood and Mushtaq Ali, Bachchan said he has been following Pakistani cricketers since the 1950s.
The 71-year-old doyen of the Indian silver screen said that he watched a lot of Lollywood flicks featuring Muhammad Ali. He added that in the past, the standard of Pakistani TV serials was high and he liked the characters. He called for frequent exchanges between the two countries in the field of art and culture, ‘so that both nations can learn from each other’.
Bachchan has won many major awards in his career, including three Indian National Film Awards as Best Actor (a record he shares with Kamal Haasan and Mammootty). He also made his Hollywood debut in 2013 with The Great Gatsby, in which he played a non-Indian Jewish character. However, he remains humble; “I’m just a small actor. Success comes through a synchronized teamwork,” he says.
Discussing his new film, Bhootnath Returns, Bachchan said that it is a sequel to Bhoothnath, and its story starts where Bhootnath’s story ended. Bachchan plays a ghost who is jeered at by his peers for his inability to scare a child – therefore he is sent back to Earth and told to scare children to get rid of this ‘stigma’.
Asked if he has any message for Pakistanis in this film, Bachchan said the film addresses the common man. “Where there is politics there are issues like corruption and malfunctioning of the system. So this film applies to the common man anywhere in the world,” he said.
(TRANSLATED BY ARSHAD SHAHEEN)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2014.