TORONTO (Reuters) - Working in English and simply growing old are offering new opportunities to Indian movie icon Amitabh Bachchan whose first English-language film, “The Last Lear,” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this week.
Bachchan, described on industry Web site www.imdb.com as “arguably India’s greatest ever superstar,” said making a film in English had brought back memories of school and college. An English-language film was different, but logical at the same time, given the role of English as a common language in India.
“It’s always wonderful to experiment with something different,” Bachchan, who has 171 acting credits to his name, told Reuters in an interview the day after the sold-out Toronto premiere.
“At 65 you get an opportunity to experiment with all kinds of films and that’s what’s happening, and I am happy that there are people that want me to work with them, and it gives me the chance to do something different.”
In “The Last Lear,” Bachchan plays Harry, a reclusive stage actor who quotes Shakespeare with relish and who — somewhat reluctantly — is making his movie debut at the age of 65.
He stars alongside Preity Zinta, who is also acting in her first English-language film, as are others in the cast.
Director Rituparno Ghosh has chosen to add subtitles, even for a North American audience.
“I did it because we Indians speak English in various ways — the same language can take various forms,” said Ghosh. “And the tongues of the various communities of India may not be so easily comprehensible to a Western audience.”
Bachchan said the role of Harry, and the way he used Shakespeare’s language to illustrate his points, had brought back memories of his own early acting days, including the role of Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello.
He named Hamlet as one role he has always wanted, but admitted that “at my age, I would probably be playing the ghost.”
At just over two hours, “The Last Lear” is short by Indian standards, and there are none of the song and dance routines that form the usual highlights of a Bollywood extravaganza.
Bachchan bristled at the idea that the new movie might be considered “Bollywood.”
“We don’t like that word,” he said. “It was coined by some smart journalist and it just stuck, and now it’s in the Oxford dictionary.”