"Don't be late, Mr B is very punctual," was the line we gave each other the day before the shoot. Early Sunday AM, we were all on the sets, making sure everything was in place before the superstar arrived. Director Shoojit Sircar walked around like a man in control. "I've just finished a 3-month schedule with Mr Bachchan. There can be no better person to recite this poetry than him," he announced confidently.
The set is a chai ki dukaan that could be on either side of the border. There's a tea boy with a cloth duster slung carelessly over his shoulder, serving two women who've stopped by for chai and conversation. Swirls of smoke waft out of the giant pan in which tea is being brewed. The menu has pride of place on a wooden board. 'Born Vita', 'Om Late' and 'Nes Coffee' are a few of the gloriously misspelt items available. At a slight distance stands a makeup van, simple and understated, much like its famous occupant.
Repeated light and sound checks later, the team seems ready to welcome Mr B. Confirming all rumours about his punctuality, Amitabh Bachchan drives in exactly at the allotted hour. His car rolls up to the makeup van and Sircar hurriedly follows him in. Minutes later, Bachchan walks onto the set. A hush descends. He is dressed casually in a navy blue tracksuit and funky orange slip ons. His back is straight, his strides long and his voice is strong. "Dikhai dete hain door tak aaj bhi saaye koi, magar bulane se waqt laute na aaye koi" are the lines Gulzar has penned for Aman Ki Asha. Mr B rehearses his lines and walks back to his van.
The director calls for order on the sets. Final checks are in process when the actor returns, this time in a spotless white kurta pajama. He motions for his assistant to get something from the van and the man returns with two shawls. After a short discussion with Sircar, Amitabh Bachchan drapes himself in a beige printed shawl and is ready to roll. At least a dozen people call for silence on the sets, one after the other. An over enthusiastic biker is stopped in his tracks by security who inform him about the proceedings. The biker joins a large group of onlookers who're all there to see AB shooting.
"Patang udaein chhaton pe chadd ke mohalle wale, falak toh sanjha hai usmein paiche ladaye koi," says Bachchan. "The severity of words will always be a delight to speak," he tells us after the shoot is wrapped up. "But these are such casual lines about simple habits, they touch the heart. Unfolding a durree, bringing out the dholak and singing folk songs together, these are things we have done as children." Bachchan recalls the days he and his friends would enjoy the carefree pleasure of flying kites in Allahabad. "There's also a line in there about playing kabaddi across the border. At the heart of that line is that if they came over to our side while playing, we would not let them return, and keep them here as our guests."
Pakistan is close to Bachchan's heart. His mother was born there. "The only time I have visited was when she took me to Layallpur, where she was from. I was about two then and of course, I don't remember that trip," he says. His ties with the neighbour country, though, have remained intact throughout. "I'm in touch with my mother's friends and their families. In fact, when my daughter got married, my mother's friend sent her a traditional shaadi ka joda all the way from Pakistan. That's the sort of bond we still share."
Lauding the Aman Ki Asha initiative, the actor adds, "I believe it is more important to build bridges than to complain that the road is bumpy. This campaign will help the two countries hold hands in friendship."
The essence of this distinct idea stayed with him and late Sunday night, Bachchan posted these lines on his blog: "We are now two different countries, India and Pakistan, but our cultures match, as do our food and living habits and our speech. We have been in dispute and rancour on many an occasion and continue to be so, but how wonderful for the media of both the nations to want to start this unique move in building each other's confidence and faith in the other."
The shoot is pronounced perfect in just a couple of takes. And Amitabh Bachchan leaves the sets exactly the way he had come in.
Quietly and without any fuss. Director Sircar looks pleased with what he's canned and strolls about unhurriedly. "It's time to bury the past and look ahead," he says. "Pakistan is another country. We must celebrate our similarities and embrace our differences."
(Courtesy Times of India)
Friday, January 01, 2010
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Page 113 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw