FILM FESTIVAL: Actor-politician Jaya Bachchan takes time out to help launch Vancouver fest

GLEN SCHAEFER
VANCOUVER DESI

Indian actress-politician Jaya Bachchan talks about her life and her art while visiting Vancouver to help launch the South Asian Film Festival Canada on October 31, 2012. Ian Lindsay/PNG

In someone else’s schedule, travelling from Mumbai to Vancouver for a couple of days to help launch a new film festival would be something hectic.

But for actor-politician Jaya Bachchan, part of the hardest working family in Indian show business, it’s just another day.

“Can we have some more light, do you think? It’s so dark,” Bachchan says easily, taking quiet control as she takes a seat in a downtown hotel room.

She holds a seat in India’s parliament, and still does the occasional movie role, while also working on behalf of various Indian charitable causes.

Her husband of nearly 40 years is Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who celebrated his 70th birthday last month, a milestone that became a days-long public event in India.

“It was a bit tiring, a lot to do,” she says. “I needed some time to relax, and I’m here, relaxing.”

Bachchan agreed to act as the patron of Vancouver’s new South Asian Film Festival Canada after a request from festival director Hannah Fisher.

“I was quite impressed to be informed that they have films from Afghanistan and Bhutan. Afghanistan I know because I have colleagues from Afghanistan, I know there are people who are inclined towards cinema. Bhutan, I didn’t realize they made films in Bhutan.”

She was due to light a ceremonial lamp to launch the festival Wednesday night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and her two days in Vancouver will include an onstage question-and-answer session with former premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

As we speak, an assistant is sending a birthday message to Jaya’s daughter-in-law, Indian film beauty Aishwarya Rai.

Typical of members of this high-profile family, Rai was kept busy on her birthday, visiting India’s French embassy to accept France’s honour of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.

So you believe Jaya Bachchan when she says that her work as an MP doesn’t interfere much with family life.

“In my family everyone’s so busy working,” she says. “Even if I am in [Mumbai], it doesn’t really make much difference. My husband works, my son works, my daughter-in-law works.”

A rare break will come mid-month, when the family gets together for the first birthday of Aishwarya and Abhishek Bachchan’s daughter, Aaradhya.

“I’m very excited about that,” says Jaya. “Aishwarya is absolutely a hands-on mother.”

The young Jaya Bhaduri first started work in film as a 13-year-old discovery of legendary director Satyajit Ray, in the Bengali film Mahanagar.

She went back to school after that, including film studies, and then returned to acting as an adult.

She married Amitabh Bachchan in 1973, and managed to keep her hand in film while raising their daughter Shweta and son Abhishek. Along the way, she has lent her name and profile to various environmental and social causes, most recently a drive for transparency in India’s blood-donor program.

“I still am making films, but they don’t come that often,” she says. “I think that people don’t write very much for, especially, women of my age.

“But that’s my first love. If I get a good role and the script is good, then yes.”

Meanwhile, duty calls back home. “I have to get back because I have a parliament session coming up.”

——————–

A conversation with Jaya Bachchan and Ujjal Dosanjh
Where: Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St.
When: 3 p.m., Thursday
Tickets: $13/$11 at the door or at saffcanada.org

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