Take Three With Pink: In Conversation With Big B & Shoojit Sircar
(This piece has been republished from The Quint’s archives on the first anniversary of Pink’s release. It was originally published on 21 September, 2016.)
Some years ago Shoojit Sircar directed Amitabh Bachchan in Shoebite which is yet to be released. In 2015 they came together again in Piku and in 2016 it is Pink. Pink is path-breaking not just for its content and message, but also because with it, the director and the actor confront tradition. While Amitabh Bachchan breaks some rules of stardom as an actor, producer Shoojit Sircar addresses social issues - something his films are reputed for.
I meet up with both and discover Bachchan is nursing a severe cold but his spirit is intact, and Sircar is soaked in Pink, unable to contain his adrenaline rush.
Did you anticipate such an overwhelming response to the film?
Shoojit Sircar: We were confident of the product, confident of the power of the message, but did we expect this kind of universal love and appreciation? No, not to this extent. Which is why my team and I are so happy that we cannot stop smiling. Suddenly my favorite colour is Pink (laughs).
Amitabh Bachchan: You know journalists would ask us during the course of the interview why the film was titled Pink and there was no way to explain that before the release. As it is there is little to talk about when the film is a thriller, so we worked on a different strategy for promotion. Pink is a powerful film and we are happy that everyone is appreciating it.
This is your third film together. How easy or tough is it to work with the same team?
SS: People will watch Shoebite whenever it releases, but the truth is neither Piku nor Pink would have been possible without Mr Bachchan . Having worked with him in two films, I knew he would approve of Pink, but for Aniruddh, it was his first and he was jumping with joy when Bachchan said ‘Yes’. It is easy to work with him in first, second or third because he gives his best to every shot and does not take a single day of shooting for granted.
AB: I’m privileged that Shoojit is still considering me for films; it was an absolute privilege to work with him on Piku and when he approached me for Pink, I had made up my mind within five minutes of narration. The content and message was so powerful and I had faith that as a creative producer, Shoojit will do full justice.
As an actor, Pink is the first film where you have not taken top billing.
AB: Yes, because the subject deals with women, it is their story and it is only fair that they are introduced first. Besides we say ‘ladies first’, so why not put that into practice? I discussed this with my producer and director and both Aniruddh and Shoojit understood and accepted. Time has come when we need to rise above old concepts. Why do we take it for granted that blue is for boys and pink is for girls? Who decided this and why must everyone follow it? They are colours and colours cannot have descriptions.
This is also perhaps the first instance when your entry on screen is late and silent?
AB: Yes, because that is the demand of the story and the character. Deepak Sehgal is an observer, which is why for a long time I don’t speak a single dialogue except a line of caution to the girls. Also, I don’t agree that this is the first instance. I have done many films in the past with Hrishikesh Mukherjee where he has always introduced me as a character and not as a star. These things are relative and depend on the genre of the film. Ram Gopal Verma does it differently from Manmohan Desai because they make different kinds of films.
That makes me curious. Why do your stories keep returning to Delhi, Shoojit?
SS: I have spent my growing up years in Delhi and I know the capital like the back of my palm. I’m familiar with the streets, the dialect, food and mentality, which is why I presented the city as a character in both Piku and Pink. The message of the film is universal but the manner in which the incident unfolds, the supporting characters react is quintessential Delhi.
Your protagonists are empowered women and also compassionate seniors. Is there a personal story here?
SS: All films are personal. A filmmaker or a writer is forever storing all that he observes and experiences but all stories are also borrowed – from life, from society, from what you read, watch and talk to people. Pink is based on many case studies in Delhi and outside; we have referred to newspaper headlines, court cases and real stories that were brushed under the carpet. My women are empowered because that is the fact of India today. In Piku, the father broaches the topic of virginity; in Pink it is again a senior lawyer who raises the issue in the court.Today majority of the films we make are youth-centric but we cannot overlook the fact that our senior citizens form an important part of our society and which is why they are a recurrent motif in my films.
Pink is probably the first courtroom drama without histrionics and Amitabh Bachchan Hindi cinema’s first soft spoken lawyer.
AB: In my long career associated with so many writers and directors, I was repeatedly told was that if it is a courtroom drama, there has to be dramatic dialogues delivered loudly with a lot of anger to get claps from the audience. In Shahenshah, we wanted to do it differently and experimented with an alternative. But eventually director Tinu Anand felt that it was too understated and we shot the climax the way it is now. In Pink, the original draft did feature few exaggerations in the court scenes, but then all of us deliberated and after the brain storming, everyone agreed that we needed to revisit the scenes suiting the character and his personal condition and we are happy that our endeavour has been appreciated by the audience.
As a producer and as a director you have always gone against the tide. Were you always a rebel?
SS: I was always like this, not sure if you can call me a rebel but I was always myself and ready to address what was disturbing. The films I make have to reflect me but the credit for these go to the entire team because everyone contributes to the creative process.
You play the patriarch and interestingly all the women characters in the film are rooting for you.
AB: The credit goes to the writer for conceiving interesting moments and relationships. Deepak Sehgal volunteers to fight his neighbour’s case because he believes they are in the right and then travels the anxieties with them. My argument with the cop Sarla, superbly performed by the actress, is one of my favourite scenes in the film. Lot of people told me they feel choked when the other lady cop offers a handshake in the last scene. It is a special moment, a special film and a special experience I will cherish forever.
(Bhawana Somaaya has been writing on cinema for 30 years and is the author of 12 books. Twitter: @bhawanasomaaya)