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Balki , Bachchan 14 Years Of  Paa




Amitabh  Bachchan  playing his son Abhishek Bachchan’s son…It’s still hard to believe!!! Fourteen  years after  its release  the  director R Balki  of Paa  wonders at his  own audacity.

A happy film on a child named Auro suffering from a rare genetic disorder which tends to age him four times faster than normal?  How does  Balki manage it? It could have something to do with his deep but never burdensome understanding of the single-most critical mystery of existence… That you make of life what you want it to be.

In many ways Auro reminded me of Anand. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand, Rajesh Khanna enters into people’s mildly troubled lives, fills them with joie de vivre and vanishes into the oblivion of mortality.

Auro is a far more complicated act. Amitabh Bachchan has to transform into a rapidly-aging child, throw the manipulative  tantrums of an adolescent and yet keeping from appearing caricatural or grotesque. The actor manages all of this, and more, with a fluency that makes you want to grope for new superlatives. Mr Bachchan’s Auro act qualifies as one of the finest most nuanced and sharp performances ever in the history of the motion-picture.

It’s hard to define in words the warm knowledge of the inner workings of a 12-year old child who knows he’s dying, that Mr Bachchan brings into this film.

Paa could be bereft if not orphaned without the Bachchan’s counter-domineering presence where he simply vanishes into Auro’s wrinkled body. From that credibly modulated voice to the sagging walk, he makes the child’s inner beauty mock his ugly exterior in almost a spiritual synthesis of soul and body.

 Shudders director R Balki, “It took the make-up man four hours every morning. Once the makeup was done Amitji could’t eat, drink or go to the bathroom. We were all petrified about his health. But this is not an ordinary man. He went through the long and painful process day after day for four hours.”I was recently look at  Paa   for  a showreel to  be prepared on  Amitji  for  the film festival in Goa.And  I said to  myself, ‘How the hell did we do  this?’  Because everyone  except  me and Amitji thought the idea was  not workable.”

Balki remembers  flying to Hyderabad  for Mr Bachchan’s looks  test. “Amitji had to do  the last day’s shooting of Shoojit Sircar’s Johnny Walker(which never  got released) in Hyderabad. He asked me to  come to the Novotel hotel. I reached with my cinematographer  P C Sreeram. PC very categorically said what  I  was attempting—to  cast  Amitji as Abhishek’s  progeria-stricken  son—was  not possible. Since I trust PC’s judgment more than my own I decided we would call  it off.”

But then something  happened.  “PC got on   top of a table in the conference  room  of  the Novotel and shot Amitji from above  , with his head  prominently in the frame.Then  PC said, ‘Now  it  will work.’  That’s how we made him look much smaller than his  tall height.We shot  from  the above, lots close-ups of his his eyes, etc.”

The unbelievable  prosthetics went a  long way  in enhancing  the credibility  of  the theme.

Recalls Balki, “We had  no idea  of what the  prosthetics would do  to Amitji.That it would actually transform him into the  character Auro was  not something we planned. Each morning  it took four  hours for the prosthetics  to  be put on. After that  Amitji couldn’t eat anything only sip liquids  with a  straw until  the  shooting for the day was done late  in the evening. At  64, Amitji was  the portrait  of patience.”

Abhishek had a  lot of questions on the sets.

Recalls  Balki, “He  would  ask many questions about what we were  doing. Mr  Bachchan who could barely talk through his  prosthetics would say, ‘Abhishek,just act.’  I think  Abhishek gave a  very fine  performance as  his  father’s father.”

Vidya Balan who  played Mr Bachchan’s  mother had serious reservations about the role.

 “But once she saw her screen -son all her  apprehensions evaporated. What she saw was  Auro, the character, not  Amitabh Bachchan, the actor,” says Balki.

Balki  also got  Jaya Bachchan  to appear at  the  start  of Paa announcing the cast and crew  .

Laughs Balki, “When  Amitji saw Jayaji reading  out the credit titles he exclaimed, ‘She  looks  so beautiful.’”

What inspires  Balki  to be  so audacious  time  after time?

“Mr Bachchan,of course every time I  team up with  him I want to do something he has  never attempted before. What we  pulled  off  was incredible. Of course  he insists  we do something mass-oriented. But again I will  do something with him that  everyone  would  reject as  impossible,” says Balki.

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