I did a lot of homework: Amitabh Bachchan
Sreya Basu

Amitabh BachchanAMITABH Bachchan, who plays a whimsical Shakespearean theatre artiste in The Last Lear, says that it is psychologically very difficult for a film actor to play a stage actor.

"See, the craft of a theatre actor is superior to that of a film actor. This stage actor (I play) — Harish Mishra — has a huge ego and arrogance in him. It is psychologically very difficult for a film actor to portray such a character. People from stage are a bit louder than normal people. Mishra actually shakes his hands while talking. He speaks in a manner as if his real life too is an extension of the stage," Bachchan said in an interview during a visit to Kolkata for a special screening of the film.

The actor, who has been in the film industry since the late 1960s, said he was made to do a lot of homework by director Rituparno Ghosh for the role of the 75-year-old Shakespearean actor.

"Ghosh took me back to my schooldays and made me do my homework to prepare myself for the character of Harish Mishra. He made me read William Shakespeare’s plays, watch DVDs of plays from across the world. He piled my reading table with books. Besides, there were thorough discussions on the sets. There was no escape for me but to become Harish Mishra aka Harry for him," he said.

The actor said the USP of the film was the loneliness of the character and the mundane theme.

"The Last Lear is a strong emotional film with laughter and tears from real life," he said.

But Bachchan was quick to clarify that character in the movie did not carry any of his personal traits.

"I have just played the role depicted by the director. The story carries real life traits, but not Amitabh Bachchan’s real life traits. The character of Harry is a believable one, but I can’t say if it exists in the real world." The Last Lear is based on Utpal Dutt’s play Aajker Shahjahan.

Shot in theatrical style, not only is it Bachchan’s first English film but it is also the first time he plays an actor in a movie. It also stars Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal.

Asked about his experience of having worked with Utpal Dutt, he said: "I have been privileged to work with Dutt from the beginning of my career — be it giving commentary in his Bengali film Bhuvan Shome or having him as a co-actor in my debut Hindi film Saat Hindustani.

"This film has been inspired by his play Aajker Shahjahan. But I cannot even attempt to be in his shoes. He is a true Shakespearean stage actor." Many critics have termed Bachchan’s performance in The Last Lear as his best so far.

"I don’t think it’s just to categorise my films and label them as good, bad or best. It is not healthy for the career of an actor ... it limits his creativity. I have done more than 150 films so far and if you ask me all of them have been my best performance irrespective of box office results," the actor quipped.

This is the first time Bachchan shared screen space with popular Bengali actors like Prosenjit and Jisshu Sengupta.

"I am lucky to get such an opportunity to work with some of the most popular actors from the Bengali film industry. Every one of them has experiences worth listening to and came up with suggestions to better the script before a shot," Bachchan said. — IANS