It’s a question that has B-Town agog with curiosity. There has been a lot of speculation about Abhishek Bachchan’s exit from JP Dutta’s Paltan, 48 hours before the film was to roll. Everybody is mystified at AB Jr’s sudden exit especially as he’s always been very close to the Duttas. At present, JP, his daughters Nidhi and Siddhi are in Ladakh, shooting for the first schedule of the film and even found a replacement for Abhishek in Harshvardhan Rane. While both the Bachchans and the Duttas have maintained a dignified silent on both their fronts, nor indulged in idle banter, or given any clarifications, B-Town’s trade sources have their own reasons.
A trade source says, “Abhishek and JP Dutta have been discussing Paltan for almost a year. The actor calls himself the first-born in the Dutta family (before his elder daughter Nidhi who is also the Executive Producer of Paltan) since the time he debuted in Dutta’s Refugee. In fact, he was the first to be signed for it Paltan showed extreme enthusiasm for it. AB Jr would turn up at JP’s office and would get very involved in script discussions. In fact, a couple of the other actors finalized for the movie were insecure about their relationship as they felt Abhishek might get a meatier role and better scenes because of it.”
The Paltan team was to leave on Sunday, September 17 for the shoot and Abhishek even came and met JP Dutta and his family at their office on September 15 to discuss his look and scenes again. According to the source, “Everything seemed normal till Sunday night, when apparently a call from the actor’s office shattered the filmmaker’s dreams and turned it into a living nightmare for the next week. The call came from someone very close to Abhishek and informed JP that the actor could not make it for that schedule. “As a shell-shocked JP kept asking what happened and if he could talk to Abhishek directly, the caller disconnected. Buzz is that the Bachchan family and Abhishek’s close friends – nobody was happy with the actor’s decision to sign Paltan. The actor hadn’t acted in a film for over a year (his last release was Housefull 3 in June, 2016) and apparently they wanted the first film, that he started shooting for, to be a bigger, better and solo-hero one (Paltan is a multi-starrer). Abhishek loves JP and his family dearly (he was even with them on Ganesh Chaturchi this year) and he was feeling so guilty about it that he didn’t have the heart to call them directly to inform them his decision.”
The source says that Abhishek is an extremely loyal friend who is always the first to stand up for his friends. “From his well-wishers side they are right too in wanting him have the best as they love him. But post his walkout from Paltan, Abhishek was in such an emotional turmoil that he didn’t know what to do. He was like, ‘JP saab is my mentor and he gave me my break and it’s not in my genes to be ungrateful. It’s the legacy my father has taught me.’ But friends and well-wishers told him that all that was fine but his legacy will survive when he was a star no? Tum apna dekho, they advised him. Abhishek is a star and a great actor. He needs a good film to come back with and they felt Paltan was a film, with lesser-known actors – the film would benefit from him and not vice versa. If he’s doing a film after a year, it has to be special, they felt and decided to take a call on his behalf. While the Duttas feel that if Abhishek was really like JP’s son he should have explained directly himself.”
There have been various reasons floating around since then for Abhishek leaving the film. The trade source adds, “Some stated that JP Dutta was facing financial issues. Another said that he was not working with a complete and bound script. But all these were just rumours and JP and his team have laughed them off. Apparently a big studio is presenting Paltan and soon they with JP are planning to come out with a poster which will announce the release date in 2018. Buzz is that people close to people feel that these rumours are being spread by Abhishek’s friends because they are fine excuses to support his walkout but none of this is true. JP started shooting with Gurmeet Choudhury, Arjun Rampal and Sonu Sood from September 24 and he is so happy that he is directing such a great script after 10 years (his last film was Umrao Jaan), just being back on a film set and just being around the Army is are moments of great happiness for him. He is just happy to be doing the one thing he loves the most and have his strength (Nidhi) around him. She is like a rock to him while his comforting factor, his younger daughter Siddhi, who is an assistant director in Paltan, is also working with him this time.”
Before the shoot commenced in Ladakh on Sunday, JP’s daughter Nidhi presented the actors in Paltan with recruitment presents to welcome them into the Paltan team. The source informs, “She wanted everyone to experience the movie and live every moment to being a soldier, which is why they used the army trunks and got each one printed with each character’s name on it so that they can always treasure it and hold the memory of playing an actual Indian soldier forever. Initially, it was extremely tough for JP to find Abhishek’s replacement at the last minute but finally they got Harshvardhan Rane and they are all very happy with the actor’s sincerity and dedication to his work. They are shooting in beautiful locales and have finally managed to put the past behind them. We hope that the two parties understand each other’s point of view and resolve their differences soon.”