Article

Abhishek Bachchan: The son, husband and father captured in pictures


Photojournalist Pradeep Chandra delves into the life of Abhishek Bachchan in his new book, Abhishek Bachchan: Style & Substance.

Photo: Pradeep Chandra

Sonal Pandya

Amitabh Bachchan has close to a dozen books written on him, not to mention the ten of thousands of pages devoted online and in print to him and his films. Photojournalist Pradeep Chandra who published AB: The Legend: A Photographer's Tribute to Amitabh Bachchan in 2006 now focuses his lens on his son, Abhishek.

The coffee-table book, Abhishek Bachchan: Style & Substance, by publishers Niyogi Books is mostly a pictorial journey of Junior Bachchan’s life and career. The book has a foreword by journalist Malavika Sangghvi, who notes, “Abhishek has carved his own path in filmdom today. His image is of a high-spirited, zany, full of mischief and droll humour, loving, responsible actor, husband, father and son.” That persona is evident with Abhishek’s candids and film stills across the years.

Pradeep Chandra with Abhishek Bachchan

Chandra says he never thought he would do a book on Abhishek. He has been photographing Amitabh for about 30 years. While photographing Abhishek on the sets of Delhi-6 (2009) one day, he recalls, “I watched him closely for a few days in Bombay and in Delhi. I found him [to be a] nice person. [When] you meet someone, take a picture and go away and then you watch somebody for eight-ten hours, it’s a different thing. I had a liking for him.”

They kept meeting during the shooting of the film and while Chandra was pondering on the subject of his next book, he thought of Abhishek. He rang up Amitabh and asked whether he could do a book on Abhishek. Amitabh told him to ask Abhishek when the latter returned from London. When Abhishek protested and asked why him, Chandra told Abhishek, “I think you’re a very interesting person. People like you and [I would like it] if you would give me permission to write a book.”

Chandra also believes it is important to do a book while the subject is still around. He said, “A lot of people told me that don’t you think it’s too early to do a book on Abhishek Bachchan. I said you should always do a book on somebody [when] he’s progressing, halfway, or even [at] the beginning.”

Abhishek as a toddler with his superstar father
Courtesy: To Be or Not To Be

Chandra has put together a series of photographs from different critical stages of Abhishek Bachchan’s life – from his well-catalogued childhood to his own path to becoming a celebrity. The areas of interest to most film fans will mostly be of his adolescence – Chandra even includes a handwritten note from mum Jaya Bachchan to Abhishek's school asking for him to be excused for not being in proper uniform as his shoes had not dried.

The handwritten note by Jaya Bachchan

In his author’s note, Chandra says he was drawn to Abhishek because he has persevered despite the enormous weight of expectation upon him. He writes, “Ever since his launch, Abhishek has lived under a cloud of expectations – ‘The son of Amitabh and Jaya’; then came ‘The husband of Aishwarya’. It can be daunting to live under such sororities that refuse to acknowledge you as a separate individual and attach your being to another’s persona. But Abhishek was unperturbed, sure of himself, making decisions that have brought him immense success.”

Photo: Pradeep Chandra

Despite the focus on the star son, there isn’t much input by Abhishek himself other than his past interviews. The book also deviates to introduce Abhishek’s equally famous family, including his wife Aishwarya, and their own histories. A considerable section of the book also zeroes in on Abhishek’s interest in sports – both as a keen fan (he was the first Indian to take part in the NBA All Star Celebrity Game in 2015) and as one of the owners of the Jaipur Pink Panthers, a successful team in the Pro Kabaddi League.

With Aamir Khan and his daughter Ira at a charity sporting event
Photo: Pradeep Chandra

Abhishek Bachchan: Style & Substance contains a few write-ups on Abhishek by Narendra Kusnur, Ayaz Memon and Vikas Chandra Sinha. One chapter also features sketches done specially for the book by Mithun Singh that show the actor's different moods and characters.

But as the book concentrates more on Abhishek through photographs, it is the ‘behind-the-scenes’ look that will keep Abhishek Bachchan’s fans interested. One black-and-white photo, shot just before his first press conference for Refugee (2000) at the Ramada hotel, is especially interesting. Chandra’s own favourite is a photo of Abhishek’s mundan (shaved head) when he was a toddler. “It’s a great picture because the photographer was there and captured it. It is from their personal collection. I thought these photos would interest audiences.”

Before his first press conference for Refugee (2000)
Photo: Pradeep Chandra

If you are keen to gaze upon the amiable actor at various moments from his life, pick up this book.