Your voice in Department is in tune of that of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan in Agneepath (1990). Why did you think of using this tone again?
The voice you heard in the trailers of Department is a result of cough and cold. The day shooting started for the film, I had a bad cold and this was the kind of tone that came out of my throat and I had to shoot with it. Then Ramu (Ram Gopal Verma) said this is the voice which suits my character (Sarjerao Gaikwad). So I said: ‘Chaliye yehi thik hai toh thik hai’.
You have played gangster-politician earlier in Ramu’s films – Sarkar (2005) and Sarkar Raj (2008). What made you say ‘yes’ to a same character once again?
Ramu comes to me and says ‘I am making a film and you have to work in it’. And I simply agree to him.
How did you prepare for this role?
All the preparations are done by Mr Ram Gopal Verma. He nearly guides me as to how it should be patterned, how the dialogues should be spoken, where to move…I just follow what he says. There is very little contribution that I do personally.
You were also seen shaking legs with Sanjay Dutt and Rana Duggubati in the song Kammo for Department. How was the experience?
I feel this is one of the important songs in the film, not just for the value it brings as far as the tune and picturisation are concerned, but the context in which the song comes. I cannot disclose further but when you see the film you will realize there is a lot more meaning than just the wedding happening and three real men with real power dancing.
You have played an effective role in India’s pulse polio campaign. What made you promote our health sector so vigorously?
Every time I have been overseas, I have often faced certain remarks from foreigners about India as a third world country or a developing country. It’s very sad for me. You will be glad to know that now we are number 3 in the world as far as the pharmaceutical industry is concerned. I wish those foreigners would check their statistics and our accomplishments and stop looking down upon us.
You were recently honoured with Polio Eradication Champion Award. Was it easy to convince people to vaccinate their children because of your star value?
The journey has not been easy…it has been very long and stressful. In the initial days, I think those who were listening to this campaign were not taking it seriously. The numbers came down a bit and went up again. It was at that time that the agency who was designing the campaign decided that may be we need to wake up the Indian audiences. So the first video campaign showed me getting very annoyed with people for their indifference to pulse polio. And quite remarkably, the numbers came down substantially. Some of the research teams who went out to find out why this happened (it was also part of my initiative because I too wanted to know the reason), said when they went to a village and asked mother of a child why she got the baby vaccinated, she said Amitabhji was very angry and so to cool him down, I thought to give those two drops to my kid.