Comedy has the least amount of elbow room for spontaneity – Abhishek
Known for his animated expressions and excellent sense of humour, Abhishek Bachchan sits down amidst a bunch of recording machines to give us a glimpse of his own ‘Housefull’. Through anecdotes on real life chemistry verses comic timing on screen, varying relations between an actor and a director, and his personal journey of growth, Junior Bachchan talks about Housefull 3 and what it is like to be a part of comedy movies in general and franchises in particular.
Working on this new installment of Housefull seemed like a lot of fun. What was it like to be part of this film?
It was a lot of fun. Both off and on set. And for a film like this, that kind of goes with the territory. It is important that you have fun while making the film. That’s something that you can’t fake. The camaraderie has to be there naturally. Only then does the film feel real.
I have always found physical comedy very difficult because for me, deadpan humour comes a lot easier
Every comedy film requires a different tone of comedy. How would you describe the comic timing in this film?
Housefull, as per me, falls under the umbrella of slapstick and situational comedy. And this is something I haven’t done before. I have always found physical comedy very difficult because for me, naturally, deadpan humour comes a lot easier. Something like say, Bluffmaster. This is a huge effort, and there’s a lot more learning. And there’s that much more energy you need to put into getting things right. And plus, you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with two of the best comic actors that we have today, Ritesh (Deshmukh) and Akshay (Kumar). So you have to match their energy levels, their timings, and it’s a constant work in progress.
How did you prepare yourself for the role?
There were quite a few things since I am playing a mute character. We had two problems. First, I did not want to make the character caricaturish, we’ve done that several times for a mute person. Secondly, we didn’t want to get into sign language because the timing of the comedy would be lost. Also, if I am doing genuine sign language, how does the audience understand what I am saying? So we decided to make up our own way of the character communicating, which we hope will be funny.
If your timing goes off by even a millisecond your joke goes flat
For someone like you who really likes to prepare a lot, doesn’t comedy require a lot spontaneity?
No. Comedy actually has the least amount of elbow room for spontaneity. I remember Rohit Shetty telling me this during the first couple of days of Bol Bachchan. I was performing the character in the way I thought it should have been done but I wasn’t getting it. He sat me down and said, “I get what you are trying to do, and it’s wonderful, but my other actors are on a certain level and if you are not there on their energy scale, you’re going to be the odd one out. You are going to ruin the joke because the timing will go”. When I tried it his way out, I understood what he was saying.
In a comedy, if your timing goes off by even a millisecond your joke goes flat. So first of all, you need to understand the pace and meter of the film you’re doing. And secondly, your co-actors have to be on the same page as otherwise you will ruin the joke.
With the effort that goes into comedies, do you think that it’s unfortunate then that in these comedy films, especially the ones that fall in the commercial bracket, actors are taken for granted?
Sadly yes, comedy is never given the weightage of a dramatic performance. It’s not correct, because every actor will tell you it is as demanding. Not just in India, but the world over. But that is something only the audience can change. There is little that actors can do about it.
Comedy is never given the weightage of a dramatic performance
Would you say that subtle performances go unnoticed in actors?
A very senior actor once told me, sadly, in our country, a great role is mistaken for a great performance. Although that is changing, it goes back to sensibilities. I think Indians by heart are melodramatic. So sometimes when performances are very subtle, it’s said ki yeh toh acting hi nahi kar raha hai. I was told that during Sarkaar. They said that Abhishek is expressionless. But that was the point. My character didn’t react. It was cold. But sometimes people don’t get that. But then, that’s my flaw. I perhaps didn’t manage to communicate my cold-heartedness. If you manage to communicate it properly, the audience will respond to it.
Can we say that comedy is the genre for Abhishek Bachchan?
No, I find it the most difficult. In comedy I am dependent upon the written material. If it’s not written on page, there’s very little you can do to make it funny. In a drama, action or a romance you can create a moment through your performance. Where as in comedy, very seldom can you create a moment which is not written. That’s why it’s very difficult.
Sadly, in our country, a great role is mistaken for a great performance
Housefull 3 sees you teaming up once again with directors Sajid Farhad. How has your chemistry evolved with the two of them over the years?
It’s the same, you know, they’re wonderful. What’s wonderful about them as writers and as directors is that they’re very animated. Their narration is performed with punches and music, and everything. That makes your job very easy as an actor because at the end of the day, you just need to blindly follow what Sajid or Farhad are doing.
Did your bond with Akshay Kumar and Riteish Deshmukh help you on the sets of the film and alter your performance in any way?
It always helps. If your off-set chemistry is not good, there is no way you can pull it off on-screen. There is no actor who is so brilliant that they can camouflage things entirely. Especially in a comedy, where there is so much give and take, it is almost imperative that you have good chemistry.
With so many co-actors and the same principle, how do you make yourself stand out?
I pity the actor who wants to stand out. Your film should be good. If the film is good, you’ll get appreciation for it. It’s not a solitary thing.
I pity the actor who wants to stand out
You’ve been a part of three different franchises. Which was the toughest amongst the three?
They all have had their own challenges. It’s difficult to choose which is more difficult. What is important in doing sequels and being part of a franchise is that you have to treat each film as a stand-alone film. I still remember when we were ideating about Dhoom 2, Adi (Aditya Chopra) said something really nice. He said “If you’re going to do the same thing with the same formula, people would rather watch Dhoom 1. So what new are you presenting this time?” That’s something you have to keep in mind.
What draws you to a film, the script or the director?
They both have to. A great script can be ruined by a bad director and a bad script can ruin a good director. It’s as simple as that. They’re the two most important things for me.
A great script can be ruined by a bad director and a bad script can ruin a good director
So what is next on your plate?
Scarily, nothing actually. It’s the first time that I have not signed any film yet. I have always maintained that actors go through phases in what they want to do. I remember having finished Dum Maaro Dum and Game and they were both serious, dark, intense films and I wanted to do something fun and light-hearted. That is when I signed Bol Bachchan. I think I am done with that now. For the moment, I feel satisfied with the comedies that I have done. I think it’s time to now change and do something different. What that different is, I still don’t know.
Transcribed by Shradha Aswani