Article Hindi

Amitabh Bachchan turns 75: What an AD learnt while giving him cues

Ashish Desai, an assistant director, recalls his association with the veteran actor which began with a complaint by Bachchan.

Amitabh Bachchan and Ashish Desai. Courtesy: Ashish Desai

Keyur Seta

Many actors and other leading members of the film fraternity have an Amitabh Bachchan story. It could be an encounter or just an inspirational anecdote. On the actor's 75th birthday, we heard of an interesting and amusing experience of an assistant director who worked with him over a longish period.

Ashish Desai got the chance to watch and work with Bachchan for 14 months during the filming of director Ribhu Dasgupta and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s TV series, Yudh.

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Desai’s first meeting with Bachchan came about because the veteran actor complained. “During the first three days, I didn’t have any interaction with him," said Desai. "The next day he complained that his team was getting a call sheet but he wasn't. Director Dasgupta asked me to give the call sheet to Mr Bachchan.”

The young man's first meeting with Bachchan was a mixture of fear and amusement. “I went in and that was my first face-to-face meeting with him," he recalled. He said, ‘Bhaisaheb, aap teen din se thay kahan [Where were you for three days]? I was waiting for you. What is your name?’ After I introduced myself, he said, ‘I am Amitabh Bachchan.’ I said I know. I felt funny thinking he was being too grounded."

Photo: Courtesy Ashish Desai

Desai got the chance to give cues to Bachchan during telephonic conversation scenes: “I asked my director if I could do so. He said if Mr Bachchan had no problems, I could. When I asked Mr Bachchan, he said, 'Aap mujhe cues doge [You will give the cues]?' He could have said no. But he asked me to recite a dialogue from different directions. He told me, ‘I made you do this because when the camera is at different angles, you will have to give cues from different places. So I wanted to see if your voice is powerful enough.'”

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It turned out to be an enjoyable experience for Desai, who ended up giving Bachchan cues for 14 months! "Fortunately, there were many phone cuts in the serial. It was fun to give cues hiding in a car whenever a scene was taking place in a car," he said.

Working in close quarters with the veteran, Desai learnt about the minute details Bachchan would look for during a shoot. “For example, if a scene involves eating samosas and the actor is allergic to samosas and tells you about it just before the scene, you are in a mess," he said. "Therefore, Bachchan said you should ask the actors beforehand, ‘Kal khaane ka scene hai. Aap kya khaoge [Tomorrow we shoot an eating scene. What will you have]?’ He is also ready to do a number of rehearsals if his co-actor wants them.”

Photo: Courtesy Ashish Desai

Desai saw Bachchan lose his cool once, but he said it was all for the good. “Not once did he use abusive language in all those days," he said. "He did get angry, but it was for the right reason. His anger is to make you learn something. It is not about him throwing his weight around.”

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What struck Desai the most was Bachchan’s commitment and discipline. “I feel he has survived this long because of his discipline," he said. "There are many talented people, but it is discipline that counts. Coming on the sets every day and working with the same enthusiasm, passion, involvement and commitment is very rare.

“To get into a character and forget on the sets that he is Amitabh Bachchan the superstar is a big thing.”