"One is normally used to seeing this on television. But to be a part of it was a huge surprise," says Amitabh Bachchan about carrying the torch at the London Olympics this year. The actor talks to us about how he was surprised when he was approached for this, and how he has been closely following India's prospects. Amitabh also talks about how he would love to play a historical character at this juncture of his career...
What did carrying the torch mean to you?
The Olympics is the ultimate sporting event. And to be asked to be a part of it is a huge honour. I don't know why I was chosen. It feels wonderful that Great Britain, the hosts of the Olympics, has chosen people from different communities, different parts of the world. It shows the spirit of the Olympics, where it preaches the coming together of caste, creed, religion, colour, nations to compete in a friendly atmosphere. And just to be a part of it is a moment of great pride.
Were you surprised when they contacted you?
Yes. One is normally used to seeing this on television. But to be a part of it was a huge surprise.
Have you been following India's prospects?
Yes. We have the largest contingent ever so far in any Olympics. And one wishes them the very best. There are many routines where there were no representatives ever. Initially, India came just as a hockey team and that was it. But now they are in track and field, boxing, wrestling, archery and shooting. These are all routines which were never heard of or at least never heard of as being associated with India. But they all hopefuls.
Today, you are not merely a filmstar, but a legendary Indian. Do the issues that confront India make you think about the way India is progressing?
We are just normal human beings. And just because we happen to be in a profession where you are loaded with the title of a celebrity doesn't mean we are acquainted or equipped or knowledgeable enough to be able to answer some of these questions. But somehow it is just because you are a celebrity it is assumed you will have this great solutions to some of the greatest problems the country is facing. I would just say I am an aware citizen of my country. Yes, what develops in the country affects all of us and we have our opinions. I just feel that expressing it is not what I would like to do because I am not knowledgeable enough.
Any historical character you might like to play?
I haven't played any historical characters. Yes, that would be one of the important options.
Hindi cinema has grown bigger. Today, it is as big abroad as it is in India. How do you see it get better as the years go by?
I don't like this word ( Bollywood) which describes the Indian film industry. Cinema was almost looked upon as infra dig, parents used to go and vet a film before we were allowed to get inside a theatre. Cinema in general was held as an institution where children from good families were not looked as being associated with. But look at the change that has happened now. I don't know if this is good for the country or not; but it's almost become a part of our culture. There are more people who know about the Indian film industry. So, that bodes well. The West was very cynical about our quality of cinema. We made very escapist fare. But one of the points the West did not recognise was that cinema as a medium of entertainment for the common man. I do see Indian cinema progressing very well; gradually, our talent is being recognised, whether in Great Britain or Hollywood, in festivals in Cannes, London, Venice. So, I think we are on the right path.