In a career spanning over 22 years and 71 credits [as per IMDb], Abhishek Bachchan has charted a difficult yet impressive path. His decision of taking a career break post Housefull 3 in 2016 raised eyebrows, and yet the actor found his voice back two years later, with Manmarziyaan, followed by Ludo. On his birthday, we revisit some of his interviews where the actor spoke about his journey, the challenges and stereotypes that his profession carries and how he defines his craft.
"I'm an actor, I'm from a film family; dare I say it's in my blood. At the end of the day, it's what I love doing. It's all I know how to do. Coming from a film family, that's the environment around the house, that's what wakes you up every morning. I never said no, I'm going to stop acting. I said I need to reboot, I need to re-evaluate, I need to get back to doing work that scares me. I need to get back to doing work that doesn't allow me to sleep at night. It's very convenient to do a film, which you know when you sign that it is going to be a Rs. 100-200-300-crore film. You know the onus is not on you, somebody else is shouldering the burden. You know that it's going to work wonders and that literally you can sleepwalk through the film and it's going to work. And that's a good space to be in, I'm not going to complain. I did quite a few of those. And I'm thankful for them, because they were the most successful films I've ever made and I'm immensely proud of them. I worked very hard on them. But I know somewhere that I was beginning to get complacent when I was getting offered more and more such films."
"You never forget [acting] because you never know it to start with. I firmly believe that acting can't be taught. You either can act or you can't. You can polish your craft, which I feel is essential. Also, I feel that somewhere, there's a certain emotional bankruptcy involved. For example, if you have an emotional scene or a dramatic scene, you delve into whatever you have inside to bring it out. After a while of doing it long enough, you just know how to do it. I don't know if the audience figures it out but as an actor, you know you're not being genuine about it. It's just a recreation or a reprogramming of something that you just know how to do really well. The fun of it is when you really feel it and it damages you somewhere."
"I've always believed on some level that acting is a bit of a power trip. You have something which is raw, which can really hurt you, and most of the time, it ends up doing that. It's like a volcano. Your emotion is simmering, it's ready to come out. Actors love shots when we get to scream our lungs out because you just let out everything, it feels good. The reason I say power is because a true craftsman will never give a hundred percent of that emotion. You hold back, you have to control it, that's your craft.
Today, I can be very upset and just let it out. When that emotion comes out in its raw form, it comes out as Abhishek Bachchan. It's not coming out as a character. The power is when you're able to control that anger that's pushing to come out and you control it say, 'No no, you don't come out this way. You do it this way.' So, it's a bit of an ego tussle with your video inner self. That's exciting. It's like riding this huge wave. That's the true beauty of acting and the only the greats manage to do it."
"I think it's [taking a break] the best thing I've done in my entire career. It just sorted my head out. I never knew what I didn't want to do. Now, I definitely know the kind of work I don't want to do. You'll never get full clarity, but it's the correct amount of clarity that you need as an actor. I think somewhere, as an actor, I've always just coasted along. There's never really been a plan. I've just been this excited kid who got the opportunity to make films, which has been his lifelong dream. It's a lot more than that. It shatters a lot of ideal beliefs that you want to hold on to. It's not an ideal place, it's not the best place on earth, but guess what? Utopia does not exist. You can't just be Mr. Nice Guy and then be successful. That's not the way the world works, that's not the way mother nature intended it. You can't have everything in life – sacrifice is a huge part of being a successful actor and that's something that I've I finally come to terms with."
"When you see someone like dad [Amitabh Bachchan], mom [Jaya Bachchan] or Aishwarya [Rai Bachchan] at home, it's not even discussed or thought about. I think everybody realizes in our family, me included, that at the end of the day, it's what you do in front of the camera that's going to matter. You do that well and the rest of it, we can just deal with. It's not going to be there forever. We've all been in situations where you've walked into the room and you're the center of attention. You've walked into that same room a couple of years later, and there's a new kid on the block who's the new sensation, and you're sidelined. It crushes you. But that's the way it is and it's the same for everybody in every field. It's just that we do it on a public platform. There's a certain masochistic streak about actors – you like to suffer on a public stage but that's the life you choose."
"People see the glamorous life of an actor. They see the red carpets and the Instagram posts. All of that's very nice but very seldom do you get to see the hard work that people in films put in all round, and not just the actors. It's a very difficult job, a very competitive job. It's a job where you need to be switched on 24×7. It's very demanding, and this industry demands everything from you. If you're not willing to sacrifice a lot, you're not going to get much. Anybody who's been a part of a film set in whatever capacity is going to tell you that. It's not easy but that's the way it is."
"In an ideal world, you'd want everybody to love you. That's not going to happen, so once you accept, that you get on with it. I look upon it as, 'here's a road map for me to improve.' But if somebody's going to say something which is not flattering, then yes, it's going to hurt. I'm not going to take it that personally that it'll stop me from doing what I'm doing. It's going to egg me on to improve myself."