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Rani’s given a magnificent performance in Black: Big B

PAROMITA CHAKRABARTI

Posted: Feb 03, 2005 at 0107 hrs IST

His co-star was in a quiet mood. But there was no stemming the stream of words from Amitabh Bachchan during a press conference to promote his latest film in Delhi, and later when we had a tete-a-tete with him.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black stars Bachchan and Rani Mukerji and will be released this Friday. ‘‘Is the audience mature enough to accept older heroes like you playing their age?’’ he was asked. Came the reply: ‘‘Well, I presume you have invited me here because you want to see me.’’

The film is about a deaf, mute and blind girl (Mukerji), and her teacher (Bachchan) who helps her come to terms with her life. It has been shot mainly in studios in Mumbai, while the outdoor scenes have been shot in Shimla.

Bachchan was effusive about his co-star’s work in the movie. ‘‘Rani’s given a magnificent performance. She’s outdone all that she has done before. I’m sure she will agree that this has been one of the most challenging roles in her career,’’ he said. He also had words of praise for Bhansali. ‘‘This film and Sanjay will take Indian cinema several notches higher,’’ he proclaimed.

Both the lead actors underwent training for this film for about seven months at the Hellen Keller Institute in Mumbai. ‘‘In fact, the lady who trained us was herself physically challenged, and she went on to assist Sanjay in the movie,’’ Bachchan informed us.

He also took care to steer clear of mouthing stereotypes. ‘‘It’s not a different film, it’s got all the ingredients of commercial cinema. It’s only the treatment which is unusual. It’s not been made with any moralistic viewpoint,’’ he said.

He was also at pains to point out that Black bears no resemblance to Bhansali’s debut film Khamoshi, which was released in 1996. That one starred Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas playing Manisha Koirala’s deaf-mute parents. Though Khamoshi had a musical theme, Black has no songs. ‘‘What music can you play for a deaf, blind and dumb girl?’’ Bachchan remarked.

If wit was one aspect of Bachchan’s persona through this interview, then humility was most certainly the other. Sample this. ‘‘It’s been a humbling experience. The fact that there are people who don’t have all their faculties working and still want to accomplish everything on their own makes you feel a bit small because we have all ours intact and still misuse them so often.’’ And this. ‘‘I feel very happy and humbled that people still want to work with me.’’ And this. ‘‘When I read Sanjay’s script I felt very humbled that he had offered me such a wonderful film.’’

RaniSpeak

While Bachchan held court, the usually bubbly Rani Mukerji remained uncharacteristically quiet during this press interaction. When she did speak, here’s what she said:

‘‘My role is of a physically challenged girl, who is becoming violent, and how her parents get in touch with this teacher to give her a last chance before putting her into an asylum, and how he changes her life.’’

‘‘When Sanjay came to me with the role I said no. I had no reference to do a role of this sort, and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to carry it off. Sanjay convinced me to take it up. When your director has that kind of confidence in you, you can’t help but deliver.’’

‘‘I have never met anybody with all three disabilities. It was very difficult for me to get into the role. I had to master Braille as fluently as I speak. It was like speaking with my hands and my fingers.’’

‘‘When we interacted with kids and people with such disabilities at the Hellen Keller Institute, I was amazed at their spiritedness.’’

‘‘The USP of this film is certainly Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It’s a remarkable film by a remarkable man.’’

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