In his latest film ‘Bob Biswas’, Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan plays a nondescript contract killer who wakes up from an eight-year coma with amnesia.
The remarkably unremarkable man with a dad bod, diffident body language and nerdy oversized spectacles doesn’t remember his violent past and returns home to a gorgeous wife Mary (Chitrangada Singh) and his two children.
During the day, this reformed criminal masquerades as an insurance agent, while at night he moonlights as a cold-blooded assassin who nonchalantly burns holes with a bullet on his victims’ foreheads.
Apart from questions about his murky past, the film may make you wonder how someone as dull as Bob Biswas nabbed an attractive woman who married him and stayed committed for nearly a decade while he was comatose.
However, Bachchan has a bone to pick. Since morning, on the day of this interview, he has been fielding this prejudiced question as he promoted ‘Bob Biswas’, streaming on Zee5 Global now.
“I am happy you asked me that and I have to say I have a bit of a severe reaction to that. And unfortunately, you are going to be put under that bus for it. So many people have asked me how does someone like Bob get someone like Mary? But why not?” asked Bachchan in the most ‘carefrontational’ (confront with care) tone.
“What if it was the other way around? Would you dare to ask that question,” he asked, triggering a moment of self-reflection in this journalist.
We go back and forth on the unusual pairing in the 14-minute interview slot, but Bachchan, who’s married to former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, patiently tries to disrupt gender bias.
“But we digress. It’s all very romantic. She’s in love with Bob, the person that he is. He’s really a good guy. He loves his family, and he is willing to go and do whatever it is for them. He’s just a good guy … This message that your physicality doesn’t matter sublimely just slipped in … Bob’s a good-hearted guy and that’s what matters at the end of the day,” explained Bachchan. He also points out that the makers have also addressed it in their trailer.
“We’ve actually even used it in the film, where a third-party person wonders how these two can even be together and that’s not the only reference. In the film, Mary says: ‘he’s really a good guy, he takes care of me, he loves me, and what more do I want.’ And isn’t she empowered there?” Bachchan asked.
A large part of the film focuses on the seemingly reformed criminal and reluctant assassin’s attempt to return to his family and lead a crime-free life.
“There’s no material benefit that Mary gets from Bob … She’s an amazing example of women empowerment. When Bob is in a coma for X amount of years, she had to bring up the children by herself. And despite all this, she loves a man because he’s just a good guy. And that was such a nice, nice, subtle message to get across,” he said.
Directed by ‘Kahaani’ director Sujoy Ghosh’s 26-year-old daughter Diya Ghosh, ‘Bob Biswas’ is a spin-off of a supporting character featured in the 2012 Bollywood blockbuster starring Vidya Balan.
In ‘Kahaani’ — a riveting tale about a heavily pregnant woman in search of her missing husband in Kolkata — consummate Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee played the cold-blooded and chilling contract killer Bob Biswas with impressive precision. The scene in which he tries to push a heavily pregnant and unarmed Balan onto a railway track is one of the most chilling parts of that enjoyable film. Chatterjee was so on-point that it spurred calls for a spin-off on this wicked genius. But the spin-off ‘Bob Biswas’ didn’t branch out into the usual tangent of exploring the dark and twisted mind of a contract killer.
“We have humanised him. It’s a very different Bob than the one that you saw before. In ‘Kahaani’ you just a saw a killer … But here you get to see another side of a killer which we are not always privy to. When he’s not killing, what does he do?” said Bachchan. As an idea, it’s undoubtedly wicked, but the early reviews have been mixed with several critics panning the wobbly execution of a fantastic idea.
“We have intentionally gone out there to humanise the dilemmas that he faces. He’s a contract killer who has lost his memory and so he doesn’t even know he’s a contract killer. And that’s where his past catches up with him and he’s then forced to question why he does what he does. There’s a moral dilemma,” said Bachchan.
The actor, who has enjoyed an incredible run and career upswing on streaming platforms during the last two years with films such as ‘Ludo’ and web series like ‘Breathe: Into The Shadows’, found his role intriguing.
“The intention of making this film is to say, ‘Hey, he’s an interesting guy. But what do you think he’s like at home?’ It’s a crime thriller, but at the heart of it, it’s a family drama-slash-love story. I found it interesting how Bob approached his relationship with his wife Mary … The conflict, the contradictions, and his loss of memory in the middle of that was so interesting,” said Bachchan.
During this interview, the highly articulate and amiable actor kept pressing on the fact that Bob is inherently a good and sweet guy, when he isn’t killing people. Like any solid actor worth his salt, he gave his all to Bob. From piling on the kilos to downplaying his natural charisma, Bachchan worked on being a forgettable face.
“I was told that I have to look and perform in a way that if Bob was sitting next to you on the train, you wouldn’t notice him, and you never guess his profession. So that was what I was going for,” said Bachchan.
Apparently, his phone that employed facial recognition failed to activate when he was done transforming as Bob Biswas.
“When I reached Kolkata for the initial days of shooting, my phone did not recognise my face and I was thrilled … I had to leave my vanity in my trailer [vanity van] … But it was so much fun. How often do you get to deep dive into a character and have so much fun with it?” said Bachchan.
The actor and son of legendary talent Amitabh Bachchan, who made his debut with ‘Refugee’ over two decades ago, has seen a mixed bag of a career filled with hits and misses. But his career got a major boost in the last two years when he began taking on unconventional roles that challenged him and appeased his fans.
He’s understandably thrilled with all that adoration and adulation. More recently, his father sportingly gave him his thumbs-up claiming that the trailer of ‘Bob Biswas’ made him incredibly proud to know that Abhishek, the actor, was his son. And the actor is naturally gung-ho about it all.
“It was such a confidence booster. At the end of the day, what does an actor or actress look for? They are looking for praise. You just want appreciation, praise and that makes your day,” said Bachchan. Currently, he’s in a phase where he is enjoying this phase an artiste.
“The time has now come for actors, and they have the liberty to choose,” said Bachchan. “Liberty is not the right word, but audiences are now expecting us to do the unexpected and that makes it a lot of fun.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Bob Biswas’ is out now on Zee5 Global.