Abhishek BachchanWas history your favourite subject?
- young, talented and yet highly underrated is all set to venture into yet another daring adventure in his Bollywood career. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
, an Ashuthosh Gowariker film is slated for an early December release in which Abhishek dons the role of an inspiring school teacher who leads a revolution against the British.
Let's take a look at what the Junior Bachchan has got to say…
As you said, there is not much documented about you character. So how did you prepare yourself to get into the skin of the character?
History was one of my favourite subjects and still is because I love to study about different cultures and past lives. I really enjoy the subject, especially Indian history. Unfortunately I didn't do much of my studies in India as I was sent to boarding school and so, I have learnt more of European history. So there definitely is a lot more that I have to know about Indian .Shamefully, I didn't even know about the Chittagong Revolution when Ashu (Ashutosh Gowarikar
) first told me the story. Also, he went on saying that not much has been documented about the uprising. It is not dealt with in great detail in our history text books and not much is known about Surjya Sen and the kids who participated in the uprising. When I read the script, I felt that this story is something that should be told and brought to the common man. I really believe that people like Surjya should be spoken about like how people talk about Chandrashekhar Azad.
The film is based on the book 'Do and Die' by Manini Chatterjee who also happens to be the daughter-in-law of Kalpana Dutta, which is the character Deepika plays in the movie. Her uncle was also one among the revolutionaries and is also portrayed in the movie. The book is a detailed account of the Chittagong uprising and we abided by the book and the author's interpretations and research. Apart from that there was the Calcutta and Surja Sen Bhavan in Kolkata from where we gathered a lot of information. Unfortunately, there is not much photographic evidence of Surjya, apart from one or two which were taken after he was captured three years after the uprising. So to interpret the physicality and to recreate it was difficult because we didn't have any references and it had to be built by ourselves. KHJJS will see you in a never before avatar. How challenging has it been to play Surjya Sen?
Because it was based on the book and we were following the book as our reference, the work was made that a lot easier because we had our research developed. Ashu had already researched about the entire era- right from the buildings to the architecture. So when he came up with the film, we all were given the book to read which we did. Whatever we could find out about our respective characters we did and tried our maximum to portray it.
Actually not much. On a weird level it was much easier because you work within a definite framework and because it is filmmaking it is one of the ways with which you can transport it to a time and you can be fully into it. The environment is made for you so that it is a lot more easier to get into it. For example, we shot 95 % of the film is Sawantwadi, which is just north of Goa on the border of Maharashtra and the entire area was made into Chittagong of that period. We actually wanted to shoot in Chittagong, but when we went to the British cantonment over there, all the buildings have been modernized and hence we couldn't use it for the set of 1917. So we had to recreate the entire set and we found the landscape in Sawantwadi very similar to Chittagong and we recreated Chittagong. The minute you drive every morning and get out in makeup and costume, you see everybody is in their costume and even the cars are the same; that makes it very easy to transport yourself into that zone. So it was comparatively easier because we are surrounded by that kind of environment. Have you ever felt in real life that you would put in your full strength into what you want?
Well, we put our full strength everyday when we work, but I never felt that patriotic feel that came out while I was doing this film. Because when you are doing the film, you are in the character with the others. That brings in you a mental build up which the real revolutionaries might have felt and thought. So when certain things happen on the sets, it really moves you.The film was shot almost entirely in Goa and Mumbai. Was there any memorable incident that happened during the shooting?
I keep saying this, there is a scene in the film where all the revolutionaries hoist the flag of India in the cantonment and when we did that, everybody had tears in their eyes and we had goosebumps. Because at that time we realized what these revolutionaries must have felt when they actually fought for the country and hoisted the flag. We could feel the struggle they went through to be able to just hoist the Indian flag. It does awaken the huge patriotic sentiment and even the film can do that. There have been a lot said about Bhagat Singh and others so what importance do you think is there in this concept?
I just hope that after this film, people take the name of Surjya along with Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad because Ashu had told me that this is probably the biggest revolution during the freedom struggle. There were 64 people who have participated in the revolution, out of which 58 were children. So I really feel what they did was fantastic and they should be given the same position as Chandrashekhar Azad and the other freedom fighters.
When you are in a character from history what are the responsibilities attached to it?
A politician in Paa, an eccentric forest hero in Raavan and now an inspiring school teacher in KHJJS; is there a conscious decision on your part to focus more on unconventional roles?
Taking up a character like this is a huge responsibility because you do not want to bring dishonest or disrespect to the person who was a legend and I was very conscious of that. Surjya was a great man and what he did was great, he made the supreme sacrifice for his country and I didn't want to disrespect that. Also at the same time I represent a person about whom the current generation does not know much about. So may be after the film they might understand the person and relate it the character that I played. For example, when we hear of William Wallace we connect him to Mel Gibson because he did Brave Heart. This is because we start seeing that character as we see them in film. And hopefully somebody who hears Surjya tomorrow will connect to the character Abhishek Bachchan
played in Khelein Jee Jaan Sey and will realize what he did for the country.
I have always done that and all my films has always been different from each other. I think that is very important for an actor in order to grow as an actor and to keep improving. And also you need to do films that push your creativityWho is your favourite revolutionary?
Chandrashekhar Azad because what he did was great and I was attracted to the heroism of the character. The fact that he shivered the British Raj to the extent that they were scared to go near his body for hours even after his death is not something that most revolutionaries could do. For anybody to instill that kind of a fear is next to impossible. Is there anything about your role in this movie that has been a sort of learning for you or is there something that you will take away from the entire experience?
Well, I think as an actor you bring back a lot of things as you invest a lot in your films. And also you do come away learning something from your film.
As a character I think what was fantastic about Surjya was his focus and passion for what he wanted. Possibly for me the toughest thing to do as an actor was to deal with the double standards of Surjya. Because here is somebody who planned the Chittagong uprising and also someone who is a teacher and you never put those two things together. A teacher is somebody who teaches you non violence, principles and morals and Surjya did that But at the same time he was fighting for the freedom of the country. During the day he is a school teacher and after school he goes and plans, possibly the biggest revolution in the Indian history. I found that balance of the character very interesting and I felt it interesting and dynamic to work emotionally for a character. I used to do that with great amount of dignity and surprise because what we got to know is that he was never a very aggressive or vocal person. He was very much introverted, calm and collected which is very opposite to the freedom fighters whom we normally see. And as an actor where you get the material of fantastic scenes, you automatically gravitate towards the actions. At times I used to get a little carried away with the character and sound a bit aggressive. Ashu then stresses to me that I have to cut down the theatrical actions because Surjya was very calm and cerebral as he was a school teacher and there should be a grace in him. So when you see the film you will rarely find Surjya's emotions coming out because he realizes he is a leader. But he also realizes that he has to be calm at the surface because he is dealing with children. So if he is out of control and emotionally alone in the place then he would not be a representative to his children. So people really looked up to this imagery about him and for the way he conducted himself. So to maintain a certain calm and focus despite so many things around you being adverse, is fantastic and that is something I have taken back with me.The movie tells about teenagers who fought for the struggle, so when you were at that age what were you doing?
Ashu asked me the same question to which I said I played and had fun and then he said these kids were fighting for your freedom. It made me think that these kids, in their teenage, were ready to become martyrs for the country and also Surjya was in his early twenties.Do you think the present generation of that age is disillusioned about patriotism?
Not at all, you just need to speak to them in their language and engage them. Patriotism is a very strong emotion and I don't think that they are disillusioned about it at all. It is also one of the interesting facts about the movie that for the first time you get to see a patriotic film from a child's point of view.Did you have personal chat with Manini Chattergee after you have been offered the role?
Yes we did have a conversation. She herself is a Bengali and knows Surjya because in Bengal he is a very big deal and she said better do a good job. (laughs)The Chittagong uprising was a revolutionary movement that was seldom highlighted in India's struggle for freedom. To what extent does the movie relive this tale of valour?
The film is based on the Chittagong uprising and the book explains everything and we have tried our best to put across the whole tale. Ashutosh Gowarikar has said that KHJJS is his shortest film ever. Was it a challenge in terms of the story narrative to limit the movie to less than three hours?
It is a thriller so honestly Ashu felt that he did not require a long explanatory manner like how Jodhaas Akbar was made because it had some pace about it.This is your first movie with both Ashutosh Gowarikar and Deepika Padukone. How has the experience been?
It has been wonderful and I have known Ashu for very long and we have always had a very casual relationship. He is also a very wonderful director and I feel he is very similar to Surjya because he doesn't get upset and has an answer for everything. I really enjoyed working with him and as a director, he is very prepared.
Working with Deepika was great. She came in halfway through the film because she was busy with other movie, but we had already started the shoot because there were scenes without her also. So, by the time she came, we had already become gang but she fit in very easily. She is a thorough professional and for somebody who has only done four or five films to take on a role like this is very challenging and still retain the strength of the character was wonderful.
The music of KHJJS is packed with high energy numbers as well as soothing melodious songs. What's your favourite track from the movie?
The title track, because there is a josh in it.
Reporter and Author: Saranya Valsarajan