With a career spanning 40 years and having starred in more than 180 movies, there’s been plenty written and said about India’s most iconic living actor, Amitabh Bachchan. But like many Bollywood and Hollywood stars, the Big B has been quick to embrace the social networking revolution and get his own viewpoint across. I caught up with him in London during the launch of a new mobile phone product called “Bachchan Bol” – the world’s first celebrity voice blogging service. Already with 2.5 million subscribers in India, what exactly will his UK fans get for the price of a text or phone call? Here’s what he had to say about his brand new way of reaching out to fans.
You’ve been an active blogger on BigAdda since 2008. How did you get drawn into that?
Somebody told me how a blog works and I just started writing. Then I started getting comments. I was really excited when I got one response and now I have two million in a month! There are five to six hundred very dedicated comments that come in every day.
So what’s Vogging™?
It started from blogging. When Inside India came up with a concept of voice blogging or “Vogging” I thought it was novel. Many a times when I’ve been on the public platform audiences have invariably asked for me to say something or recite a dialogue from a film. I used to think how wonderful if I could do that almost on a regular basis. So when the concept of “vogging” came up I immediately connected with it.
What’s the appeal?
It’s very personal. Blogging is a lot more expansive. You get more time to write hundreds or thousands of words. But vogging is much more challenging. To immediately have the facility to be able to pull out your phone and say ‘This is where I am and this is what I’m doing’. It’s intimate and instantaneously. In India we have the concept of fan letters and concerts where stars appear but here was an opportunity where you can get the impression that you are sitting across a table and talking to your favourite star.
Do you have complete creative control over the content of your voggs?
Yes it will be entirely my own. No editing. They’ll be in English and Hindi.
Give us an idea of the kind of things you will be talking about.
I’ve been vogging in India for a year and it’s the first things I do in the morning soon after my gym session. It’s the start of the day. I give them an idea of where I’m going or what I did yesterday. If there’s anything that has been troubling me overnight I share it with them. It could be anything. I could be driving and stuck in a traffic jam and pull out my phone and say so. The facility will soon become more interactive where people can ask me some questions, like how do I approach a certain role, what was going through my mind or why did you wear those white flares?
Any plans to incorporate some singing into your voggs?
You’ll have to buy my CD to hear that! (laughs) I mean it’s a free medium. I could be doing anything. Maybe I could record a vogg when I’m in a recording studio or something.
When did you record the first UK vogg and what did you say?
I did it this morning. It’s about being here in London and launching the vogg. To have a listen you’ll have to subscribe by calling or texting Bachchan BOL.
Millions adore your distinctive baritone voice. But whose voice would you like to hear in a vogg?
Most of them are no more unfortunately. I would have loved to have had a conversation with Lawrence Olivier, Marlon Brando or listen to a vogg by Dilip Kumar or Waheeda Rehman. This is why there is interest in this kind of a facility. Future generations will get to interact or listen in to a celebrity or idol of theirs. It keeps us in the eyes of the younger generation.
Your family often feature on your blogs. How do they feel about now featuring in voggs?
They give me the freedom to say what I want to say, as they do about me. My grandchildren feature too. It’s not a problem. They don’t see it as an invasion of their privacy.
It’s admirable that someone of your seniority is embracing new technology. Why do you want to communicate through this medium?
I don’t want to be walking behind my grandchildren or son in technology and be absolutely lost. I just want to keep up with them. I never want to overtake them – just know what they are talking about.
Do new forms of social networking like this diminish the role of traditional media?
This is in no way an effort to deprive the press of their importance. Many years ago I read the wonderful line that said ‘You never get funny with someone who buys ink by the bucket.’ So you just accept that fact. The press is very popular and you will not replace them. But yes there are times when, say at two o clock in the morning, when you just want to say something. What do you do? You can blog, twitter or now vogg.
Have you ever been bitten by something you’ve said in cyberspace?
Yes sometimes it happens but then you should be prepared to bare the consequences. In general if you’ve said something and somebody has got offended by it then you just clarify it. With regards to social issues, international or political affairs, yes you have the liberty to lend your opinion. But also be prepared to be hit on the head in case you take an extreme position on some issue. I normally like to keep away from that because I’m not knowledgeable enough about these areas.
Do you ever worry about over exposure or revealing too much about yourself?
Next year I will be stepping into seventy years. I couldn’t possibly be thinking about over exposure at seventy!
The media pursue you everywhere and with social networking the public can follow you too. How do you escape or log off?
When I go home or even when I’m here. You don’t know it but I’ve actually logged off as we’re sitting here (laughs). Only joking. But you know what I mean. It’s just something very personal. When your blogging you’re blogging and when you’re with your family you’re with them. For more info visit www.bachchanbol.com