Sunday, Aug 13, 2023

Abhishek Bachchan recalls giving 17 retakes for Refugee, feared people would call dad Amitabh Bachchan and say ‘ye toh gaya kaam se’

Abhishek Bachchan said he was a "wreck" when director JP Dutta shot the scene, as a misunderstanding led to him learning just one line-- when in fact it was a three-page scene. He was afraid Dutta would hit him.

Abhishek BachchanActor Abhishek Bachchan talks about his first scene from Refugee. (Photo: Abhishek Bachchan/Instagram)
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Abhishek Bachchan recalls giving 17 retakes for Refugee, feared people would call dad Amitabh Bachchan and say ‘ye toh gaya kaam se’
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Seventeen retakes, an excited audience from neighbouring villages, legacy of his father and one nervous actor. Abhishek Bachchan has recalled how was it like for him to get his first dialogue scene right from his 2000 debut Refugee. Abhishek said he was a “wreck” when director JP Dutta shot the scene, as a misunderstanding led to him learning just one line– when in fact it was a three-page scene.

In the romantic drama, Abhishek played an unnamed Indian Muslim who helps illegal refugees from India and Pakistan cross the border through the Great Rann of Kutch. The film also marked the debut of Kareena Kapoor.

In an interview with Humans of Bombay, Abhishek recalled how writer OP Dutta–the director’s father– had briefed him about his dialogues in a scene featuring him and actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who played Kareena’s father in Refugee.

“I remember OP sahab came and said let me tell you the dialogues and I was like ya sure. It was a scene between me and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. I had to fill jerry cans with water, as I embark on a trip with them. He asks, ‘Mr, what is your name?’ and I had to say, ‘Name? Refugee.’ I thought I got this, I am the bomb, I know how to do this.’ In my foolish, immature arrogance, the moment he told me the dialogue ‘Name Refugee’, I switched off! So I didn’t even listen to the three pages of dialogues after that! I had no clue,” the actor recalled.

Abhishek said when the camera rolled, he delivered the line and figured there was no ‘cut’ by JP Dutta and continued filling the cans, only to realise the pause was getting longer and awkward. Dutta, confused as well over why he is not saying the additional lines, gave him an input that he must not pronounce ‘refugee’ with a western accent. Abhishek noted the “variation” and thought he could easily do that.


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When the shot began again, Abhishek stopped at the same line, but now Dutta intervened and asked, “‘What about the rest of the dialogue?'” Abhishek said he asked him in shock, “What rest of the dialogue! That’s when I got to know there were three pages and oh my God, all hell broke lose!”

Abhishek said for the next few takes, he was “shivering” while filling the cans and there were “retakes after retakes.” Abhishek said “thousands of people” had gathered from neighbouring villages to watch the shoot as they had heard ‘Bachchan’s son is here!’

“All the actors were there, Reena Roy ji, Anupam Kher ji, who is also one of my acting coaches, he is sitting there and suddenly I started thinking all these guys would call my dad and say, ‘Amit ji, ye toh gaya kaam se, isko waapas bula lo.’ There were people whispering and all of that. I had to do 17 retakes and it was just chaos! I was sweating, panicking and JP sahab understood that this guy has lost the plot.”


The actor said, because JP Dutta was also a “hardcore taskmaster”, he would fear getting the shot wrong. “So everytime he would say cut, I would think, ‘He will now throw something at me, he will now slap me’. After the 17th take, he just got up, and I thought aaj toh padi (I am gone today), he will throw me out of the film, I am done.

“He came, placed his hand on my shoulder–I felt the heaviest of hand–and asked me what’s wrong. I told him I was really nervous, there were so many people. So he threw everyone out of the set. There was only our DOP, him, me and Kulbhushan ji. JP sahab said don’t worry, learn your lines, even if takes two days, we will be here till we get it right. It was so reassuring, in the next take, it was okay,” he added.

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On the film front, Abhishek will be next seen in Ghoomer, directed by R Balki. The sports dramas, co-starring Saiyami Kher, is set to release on August 18 and will be the actor’s first theatrical release post pandemic.

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First published on: 13-08-2023 at 18:56 IST
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