Abhishek Bachchan is happy that Bollywood continues to grow outside the country and has made Indian characters more accessible. But sometimes the characters become negative stereotypes. One example, is Apu, the convenience store owner on Fox television series, The Simpsons. The character has come under fire as racist and stereotypical.
Bachchan, who attended college in America and who has long watched The Simpsons, thinks the backlash may be going too far.
“I don’t make too much of a deal of it. I think somewhere we’re getting a bit too highly sensitive about everything,” he said. “Let’s not do something outwardly to offend a particular community. But look — it’s The Simpsons, OK? It’s not life changing. You have to learn to laugh at yourself a bit.”
Bachchan’s latest film Manmarziyaan is a quirky love triangle also starring Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal. It’s directed by Anurag Kashyap.
“I think it’s a wonderful bridge between quintessential Indian cinema with its usual tropes, and a cinema that is also coming out of India, which is more accessible and understandable,” he said. “I liked the fact that it’s a marriage of two worlds — Anurag’s more contemporary world with a very Indian backbone to the story.”
Bachchan also commented on India’s decision to decriminalise homosexuality after the Supreme Court last week reversed a colonial-era law that made the act punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“It shows the kind of progression that is happening in India, especially from the mindset of the youth,” Bachchan said, speaking at the Toronto Film Festival.
While Bachchan said some Indian films have dealt with the issue, Indian cinema is generally not political.
“Indian cinema, by and large, is very escapist by nature. You go in to a film, you want a laugh and a cry. You want to fall in love. You want to hate. You want to see some action,” he said. “I think the function of Indian cinema is to come in forget your worries for three hours.”
Bachchan has been called the Brad Pitt of India, something he finds “embarrassing.”
“He’s a wonderful actor, somebody, you know, we’ve all grown up admiring,” Bachchan said before laughing. “Sorry, Mr. Pitt.”
Manmarziyaan is out now in the UAE.