15 Years Later, Abhishek Bachchan is a Survivor. Not Easy

15 years ago, a tall, gangly boy was seen standing in the guest area of our television studios. He didn't ask when the interview would start, where the anchor was, for a chair to sit on, or even the basic cup of chai.

That he was the son of Amitabh Bachchan could have been the reason for his old-fashioned manners.

I was baffled, not being used to such grace especially from the Bolly Brigade, with Shah Rukh Khan being the notable exception (but he possesses unusually high quotients of old-school tehzeeb.)

This was to be Abhishek Bachchan's first-ever TV interview, his introduction to the world, with the debut of his film "Refugee". We were Star News then and Abhishek's clipped English gave competition to our anchor, the inimitable Sunil Sethi. As Abhishek, then 24, was leaving that evening, I told him he should have been a banker. I was convinced that the big bad world of Bollywood would not appreciate nuance and his style-and the film industry didn't disappoint me!

As soon as the film released, the comparisons started at the much-talked-about premiere of the film which was attended by every one and their daddies (after all, this was the launch of not one but two star kids, both from  illustrious Bollywood khandaans which were joined by marriage by then - Abhishek's sister Shweta was already married to co-star Kareena Kapoor's cousin Nikhil Nanda.) And the comparisons and pressure weren't just from the critics or his colleagues back then. His mother Jaya Bachchan actually said to our reporter "He has to make it ...doesn't have a choice!" That Abhishek survived this pressure is reason enough to applaud his grit 15 years later.

I have to confess I did not watch Refugee or any of his subsequent films till Bunty aur Babli, which I loved - NDTV was the broadcast partner for the film. Then came Yuva, directed by Mani Ratnam, where the first look and the song "kabhi neem neem" was reason enough to watch the film, and where I felt Abhishek really stood out despite the heavyweight ensemble cast which included Ajay Devgn and Rani Mukerji. After Bluff Master, I again cooled off Junior. Though I did feel his performances in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Delhi were notable-despite the fact that I watched them for reasons other than AB himself.

Then came Paa and talk of Abhishek having immersed himself in the new role of a producer started doing the rounds. He made a fine film, managed enough of a buzz for it, and made money too! There were comparisons again of him being as good as Aditya Chopra - the gold standard for all producers. I felt like Junior had finally found his calling and that the  renamed AB Corp would be soon be the next big studio.

And then, most recently, he went and discovered another pass-time (or is it time pass?) ...sports! I said to myself, "A Kabaddi team!" What was wrong with Junior?! Who gave a toss about a rural sport other than Uday Shankar? But Junior put all his might behind the Pink Panthers. He got stars, friends and family, to attend the matches and suddenly Kabaddi was hip and happening. A football team followed, and again it seemed like the time pass had become an effective past-time. You had to notice the all-new sports entrepreneur (one who didn't even own a sexy IPL team!) and was being hailed as the new sporting powerhouse.

So star son? Star producer? Star Sports entrepreneur? Will the real Abhishek Bachchan please stand up?

He may not have the dream career that many assumed would be within reach because of his lineage-but perhaps  other dreams have come true. He's happily married - to arguably the most beautiful woman in the world, he is a doting and protective father to their daughter (try trolling him to see just how stern he can be about 4-year-old Aaradhya).

And despite many setbacks, he remains in the game. Perhaps his resilience comes from the fact that he reserves some of his time  for a little thing called Life. He's a happy man. And a survivor.

(Sonal Joshi is a consultant with NDTV 24x7)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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