Abhishek Bachchan returns as a financial wunderkid in The Big Bull, a man who would not think twice before bending the rules in service of higher profits. The man is definitely crooked, but he has charisma as well.
The film, inspired by the life of stockbroker Harshad Mehta, will be releasing on Disney+ Hoststar this week. Originally intended for the big screen, The Big Bull is coming out on digital platform and Abhishek calls it the biggest hurdle for the film. The actor has had three digital releases so far — Breathe, Sons of Soil and LUDO — but there are a special set of challenges that The Big Bull raises.
He facetiously calls himself ‘OTT ka Bachchan’ before explaining, “From digital to television to screen, there is going to have to be a variety on how you tell your stories. And there lays the biggest hurdle for Kookie (director Kookie Gulati) as he made this movie for the 70 mm screen and now because of the situation we were in and due to the pandemic, he had to now adapt his storytelling style to make it conducive to a digital streaming platform. When people watch it on different platforms, they go with a different mind-set. Hence, these are three totally different products that you end up making, so I think there is room for everybody, I think digital is the future and it is definitely here to stay and it is going to be a parallel avenue to cinemas.”
Talking about how the three platforms are different, Abhishek explained, “I think we have to be very aware that making movies, making a TV show and making content for digital platforms are three different languages all together. A similar discussion started at the advent of satellite television happened in the early 90s in India, and everybody said, ‘now that satellites have come in, nobody will be going to the movies’. Guess what, people still went to the movies and people still watched a lot of television. And now, a similar discussion has started with the advent of streaming platforms. People are still going to watch movies in the theatres as and when it is safe and it opens up, people are still going to watch television serials and people are going to watch a lot of content on streaming platforms.”
Abhishek, however, is glad that the film has found a home on Disney+ Hotstar. “We are happy that we are able to bring our work out to the audience. That’s the most important thing for us right now. These are difficult times, we don’t want anybody to be uncomfortable whilst watching our film. So, I think we’ve lucked out that, in the safety of your home, with the company of your loved ones and family, you can watch Big Bull,” he said.
The actor, who has had a career graph that keeps him grounded, is thankful that the last 6-8 months, as the world battled a pandemic, have been very busy for him as an actor. “As an actor, the fact that I am still getting to do what I love doing — making movies in such difficult times, when most people are losing jobs, I am thankful. In the last six to eight months, I’ve been busier than I’ve probably been in the last 10 years. I think streaming platforms have opened up yet another avenue for storytellers to do their work. It has opened up the floodgates for such wonderful talent to come into the system,” he said.
The Big Bull is based on the story of a controversial stockbroker, Harshad Mehta, who within five years time became from a nobody to a billionaire. It is not a success story that deserves glorification, so how do you work around a story with so many shades of grey? “You are portraying the character that has been written. You are not trying to crucify somebody, but you are not trying to glorify them either. You have to be as realistic as possible to your material,” he says.
Abhishek states that his artistic integrity is of paramount importance to him and they have taken a lot of pains to ensure that the character is not whitewashed. “When you’re making a film for an audience, there is a certain moral responsibility that have. I am an artiste, I am an actor, and my artistic integrity is of paramount importance to me. Now that’s when the balancing act starts, and I felt the most efficient way to do it is to be truthful. When I say truthful, I mean be truthful to what actually happened, don’t try to colour it through a particular lens,” he says.
“Every human beings have flaws. When I was discussing the film with Kookie, I had said that if you’re going to whitewash somebody then I am not up for it, because that makes a character very unidimensional, and that’s not what I am interested in doing. Today’s audience’s taste has also changed and evolved, from my understanding, they want to see the protagonist be more human, they want to see his flaws, they want to see grey characters,” Abhishek explains.
Calling off the morally superior heroes of the past, Abhishek maintains, “The morally superior hero is getting less and less importance and screen-time in our films today, because the audience wants to maybe see what they can relate to. When you make the protagonist a flawed character, you make the character more tactile to the audience, and that makes it very exciting for actors.”
In his career spanning 21 years, Abhishek has done some memorable films with a grey protagonist. About bringing these “humane” characters to life on-screen, he says, “I have been doing this for a long time now. The first time when I played a flawed character but people still went on to like him was when I did Yuva in 2004, where I played a character called Lallan Singh. He is actually not a pleasant person, but through that unpleasantness, you realise that it is the circumstances that are making him flawed. I have always been drawn to characters that have flaws. Because I genuinely believe that if through those flaws you can still emerge and find a place in the hearts of the audience then I truly believe you’ve done something special.”
Talking about The Big Bull, he adds, “So, in our film, we wanted to show the journey of a man from a chawl to the most expensive apartment in India, a journey of a man who is in a lowly job, and goes on to become India’s first billionaire within the span of three to five years. We wanted to show this journey, but make sure that we’ll be showing his pitfalls along the way. There were going to be trapping, there were going to be times when he gets carried away by his success. There was going to be an element of megalomania creeping into him because anybody who has achieved so much in that small a period will go on power trip. So let’s show that because that’s what is going to make him more human.”