SyndicatedHindustan TimesThis is why I don't have a photo with Mr Bachchan

This is why I don’t have a photo with Mr Bachchan

I hate that everyone in Mumbai seems to have a picture with Mr Amitabh Bachchan which they flex on social media, and I don’t.

As a fresh publicist in Bollywood, I had recently suffered mental trauma due to a bizarre meltdown by a fashionista star kid because I had asked her if she would do a (normal) TV interview. “You want me to THINK? Why should I think? Its YOUR job to think. YOU think ..and you TELL me, I cannot be thinking”

So imagine my mental stress when the next assignment was from a film Producer client who, initially wanted me to handle Mr Bachchan’s event in Delhi, but later asked me to “create a controversy”. In hindsight, I suspect this controversy was designed to be at Mr Bachchan’s cost.

I invited Delhi media for the press conference and assigned one on one time at the office, in agreement with the client. As for the controversy, I was repeatedly explicitly clear to the client that the launched content will not generate controversy. Press conference was successful but the client was raging.

Back at office this client screamed (away from Mr Bachchan’s earshot) that he, the client, only wanted controversy, not regular coverage. Unpleasant words were exchanged by us both. I asked him to bring out Mr Bachchan for scheduled interviews. He huffed off angrily, telling me he wanted no media interactions now.

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This office was packed, barely any breathing space left, everyone wanted a pic or video with Mr Bachchan. Media began questioning me since I had invited them. A mini stampede was about to happen, tempers were rising, my boss was on the phone asking why the producer was complaining, the building was slowing being surrounded by crowds from all sides, clock was ticking, while the producer and promoters sipped tea and took pics with Mr Bachchan in the room guarded by his security personnel.

I was new and minutes away from being banned by Delhi media if they discovered this last minute cancellation by the client AFTER the media has already arrived and set up cameras.

Seeing no resolution in sight unless Big B came out to talk to media, I reminded myself of my thick skin, clenched my fists, expecting more insults and screaming. Still, I had to atleast try and get back to original plan. If the fashionista could have a meltdown over nothing, one couldn’t just assume sanity from others in Bollywood.

Nonetheless, it was Delhi, who would even know if I got in another fight? Thus emboldened, I went past security and entered their room uninvited, matter of fact-ly. Mr Bachchan did not know I existed till then.

I loudly said “Mr Bachchan, this way please for the scheduled interviews”, Mr Bachchan sprung up to follow me out, so it was clear that he wasn’t aware of his producer’s nasty tantrum outside, just as I had suspected. Absolutely shocked at myself, and avoiding eye contact with the producer, who was now livid, I had just stolen India’s biggest acting legend away!

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Not only was Mr Bachchan polite, classy and courteous but most importantly, he was respectful. For the next hour he followed my exact timelines, if I said time was up, to a journalist, he would stop mid-sentence to say humbly “inhone jo kaha wohi ho payega”.

I had gone from “Don’t make me think” to “Whatever she thinks best” !

The peace, however, was short lived. The producer came to claim Mr Bachchan much before the flight time, just as a senior editor was scheduled for the final slot. Arguments ensued again, this time in front of Mr Bachchan.

The producer wanted to cancel the senior editor’s scheduled slot and leave with Mr B. The thespian could see this was all around unprofessional. He overrode the producer to tell me not to worry, the senior editor could travel with him in his car and conduct the interview. A regular situation for Mr Bachchan but a huge saving face for me.

Relieved, having successfully completed my work, I too left as the 5000 strong crowd parted to let Mr Bachchan’s car leave for the airport. Delhi coverage was wonderful.

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And since it was the absolute last thing on my mind that day, I could not get a picture with Mr Bachchan.

Two weeks later I was scheduled to conduct a few more interviews for Mr B and was happy to see him accompanied by his publicists. Expecting smooth sailing we began the interviews but his publicists were sitting far away instead of in his vicinity while the interactions progressed.

As the questions became more intrusive and unrelated, I asked his publicists if they would be standing close by, to intervene when needed. His publicists explained that Mr B was experienced in handling press and didn’t need anyone to intervene, he would handle whatever the press throws at him. It didn’t sit well with me but again, I was new and his own team was telling me to relax.

This was 2010 and Shah Rukh Khan had got into trouble for asking why we couldn’t take Pakistani players for IPL. A TV anchor asked Mr Bachchan his view on this issue. My first instinct was to stop the interview and request the anchor to keep unrelated politics away from the movie interview. However, since his own team didn’t, and I didn’t want to appear disrespectful, I didn’t intervene either.

Mr Bachchan replied that this issue had nothing to do with his film, for which he was talking to the press, hence he would not be saying anything on the subject. The anchor concluded that Mr Bachchan had refused to support SRK.

After this no other questions were asked about the film. A perfectly regular movie promotion event had turned into “Amitabh Bachchan-doesn’t-support -SRK” event. I was left second guessing if I should have intervened even if his own team didn’t. The next day all headlines stated that Mr Bachchan had declined to support Shah Rukh Khan.

It seems I had been right all along, because the said publicists were soon removed, the film producer was later embroiled in various scams, and its best not to mention the promotors of the production house ..but most tragic of all, once again I felt that it wasn’t the appropriate time for me to ask him for a picture!

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