Writer Jessica Hines on what drew her to Amitabh
He is Indian cinema’s biggest star, she is a UK writer with a love of all things Bollywood, but Jessica Hines has accomplished what many a Bollywood movie buff has only dreamed of. Meeting Amitabh Bachchan and writing about her experiences forms the basis of her first book ‘Bollywood, Bachchan & Me’. It’s a quirky and well-written account of her journey, and although the godfather of Bollywood warns her “You will never finish this book,” she delivers an account that is a must for any Bollywood book collection. In amongst her book tour of India, we caught up with Jessica Hines to find out why Bollywood and why Amitabh Bachchan…
The obvious question to start with, why Bollywood and why Amitabh Bachchan?
I became interested in Indian cinema when I was at university and I was lucky enough to meet Amitabh early on in my studies. My understanding of Indian cinema was filtered through him to some degree right from the start.
We all know what a major superstar Amitabh is, were there any nerves on your part knowing you would have to prize information out of a man who is known to be incredibly private about his family life?
Yes there were some nerves, but not about that. I don’t see a biographer’s job as ritually bringing my subject to his knees and demanding a carte blanche to riffle through their family life. My nerves were about the enormous amount of information there is out there.
The book is more about your journey in getting to know him rather than a biography of the great man. Was he happy with this form?
Yes he was right in believing that we can only really talk with authority about that which we have experienced.
In your opinion what’s the best thing about Amitabh Bachchan?
His determination to attempt to understand situations properly before moving forward with a decision. Someone in his situation could allow themselves to get lazy.
And dare I ask the worst?
He finds it almost impossible to switch off but this is something that is bad for him not others.
You’ve had an interest in Bollywood for some time now. Do you find yourself having to justify your fascination because you are white?
Yes. Indian’s can be as lazily racist as the rest of the world.
What do you say to those people who question your interest in the industry?
Get over it!
Finally, you’ve conquered Amitabh, any other Bollywood stars lined up for the Jessica Hines treatment?
Nope! The good citizens of North Bombay can heave a sigh of relief. I am off to see a man about a quark!
Looking for . . . The Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan and Me by Jessica Hines is published by Bloomsbury and priced £12.99.