Though they belong to totally different generations and have done a generation-challenged and challenging love story together, fate seems to have bonded Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu is an strange an inextricable clasp.
After doing Cheeni Kam a completely contemporary take on marriage and gender equations, the Big B and Tabu now go back to several centuries for a film on the life of Emperor Ashoka.
Entitled The Legend Of Kunal the film is to be directed by Chandraprakash Diwedi. It will be produced by Mr Bachchan’s company AB Corp Ltd
What comes as a surprise is to know that the progressively-reclusive Hyderabad-based Tabu has finally given the nod to a film after almost a year, her first since Balki’s Cheeni Kam which was not an easy project to go through for either the actress or the crew.
Chandraprakash Diwedi, completely consumed by scripting 52 episodes of the Upanishad for television, laughs off the rumours of problems between the Cheeni Kam pair.
“Tabu had not a moment’s hesitation in saying yes to the role of Emperor Ashok’s powerful wife Tishyarakshitra, so powerful she swayed the entire Mauryan empire with her politics and aura. We needed an actress with the strength of conviction.”
Interestingly when Raj Kumar Santoshi was planning a film on Emperor Ashoka he had cast Ajay Devgan and Bipasha Basu in the two roles. Santoshi abandoned the idea.
Says Dr Diwedi, “History and its cinematic treatment demand the characters to be true to their antecedents. And Emperor Ashoka who’s caught in his twilight years in my film had to be played by Bachchan Saab. Only he possesses the gravity sobriety and personality along with being the age required.
I wouldn’t make Ashoka without him. As for Tabu, she plays his young fiery assertive wife. She’s an actress I’ve wanted to work with for a very long time. Again, only she could play Tishyarakshitra.”
In addition the film will star Arjun Rampal as Emperor Ashoka’s son Kunal and Amrita Rao as Kunal’s wife Kanchamala.
“Again cast because for their suitability rather than saleability, ” says Dr Diwedi. “In fact Amrita was recommended by Mrs Jaya Bachchan. Tabu and Amrita have many dramatic confrontation scenes together. I needed an actress who could hold her own against someone as powerful as Tabu. Amrita is delicate but strong. ”
The director whose last and so far only film was the honorable Partition epic Pinjar is determined to make no compromises with history or with his creativity in making The Legend Of Kunal.
“It’s a big responsibility, not only to history but also to Bachchan Saab who has never in his long and distinguished career played a historical character. Isn’t that ironical?
It’s also a responsibility because after Cheeni Kam, audiences would want to see what has been done with the very unusual and striking pair of Bachchan Saab and Tabu. I can’t afford to slip up.”
Dr Diwedi is just about wrapping up the very complicated process of writing the Upanishad for television which his wife the very talented Mandira will direct.
“I’m now devoting all my time to The Legend Of Kunal. I’ll be accompanying Bachchan Saab to Bodh Gaya in Bihar, the birthplace of Buddha, for a visit. My film deals with those years when the warrior Ashok reforms into a saint. I need to get both Bachchan Saab and myself into the mood.”