There are actors, there are stars, and superstars… And there is Amitabh Bachchan.
He needs no introduction! ‘Aawaaz hi pehchaan hai’, and rightly so. When he arrives onscreen and says, “Deviyon aur Sajjanon! Swaagat hai aapka Kaun Banega Crorepati mein…,” it’s difficult not to pay attention to the 6-feet tall brilliance.
Whether you are a boy or a girl, a 12-year-old, 27-year-old or 50 year-old, you can’t say you are not an Amitabh Bachchan fan. Being a self confessed Big B fanatic is a religion in itself.
He has wooed the women, mesmerized the men; impressed the classes and entertained the masses. He has done it all and still is, as his Twitter bio says, “Actor…atleast some still think so”. The ‘act’ in actor is defined by his exemplary work in the movies.
Along the bylines of the rising freedom movement in the year 1942, on October 11, was born Inquilaab Bachchan to poet Harivanshrai Bachchan in Allahabad. And true to his name, he lived ‘Inquilaab’ through all the years of his life.
Today, in a career spanning over four decades, Mr Amitabh Bachchan stands on the pinnacle of success. But the journey till here hasn’t been all hunky dory for him. There have been crests, there have been troughs, but there was he, standing and fighting them all.
Big B, as he is fondly called, after completing his education in the national capital, began his career by working for a shipping firm in Kolkata for about seven years. When he came to Mumbai, it was his voice that interested filmmakers. Even before he began acting, he lent his voice as a narrator for movies. He’s been a narrator for Satyajit Ray’s ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’. It won’t be an understatement to say that it was his baritone that gave him the required push in the industry; the same voice which was once rejected by the All India Radio for it was ‘not suitable for radio’.
Having started the Bollywood career with a National award winning performance in ‘Saat Hindustani’, he was forgotten soonafter. Small but prominent roles in movies like ‘Anand’ and ‘Namak Haraam’ alongside the then superstar Rajesh Khanna brought him in the public notice. He got the Filmfare award for the Best Supporting Actor for ‘Anand’, that was both critically acclaimed and successful commercially.
His life changed and career got redefined with the 1973 movie ‘Zanjeer’. Prakash Mehra was looking for a fresh face for his movie and noticed Big B in ‘Bombay To Goa’. He was quoted saying that during the action sequence in ‘Bombay To Goa’, when he saw Big B thrashing down the badmen, he found his ‘Vijay’.
There was no looking back for this megastar after ‘Zanjeer’. This was a new dawn, not only for the young star who was raring to make his mark, but also for the industry who got its angry young man. Actors till then were just lover boys; Big B brought the term ‘Hero’ to its complete fruition. Anything and everything after that was just a caricature of the “angry young man” image created by him.
Big B also found his lady love while filming the movie. He later married his co-star in the movie – Jaya Bhaduri. Love blossomed during the making of ‘Abhimaan’ (a Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic) that released a month after their wedding.
Amitabh Bachchan worked with the best directors and actors in the Indian film fraternity and by the time the 70s ended, he was a one man army in the industry. People would flock to the theatres to watch him, just him, regardless of which actress he was working with or of which genre the movie was.
He has many modern day classics to his name – Namak Haraam, Deewaar, Anand, Abhimaan, Sharaabi, Mili, Trishul, Silsila, Kabhi Kabhi and Sholay – which are watched till date. Movies like ‘Agneepath’ and ‘Don’ have been remade but none matched the original versions!
When, in ‘Sholay’, Jai died on screen, the audiences cried; when, in ‘Deewaar’, he played the anti-hero, people started loving the villains more. Such was Amitabh Bachchan’s impact.
Big B was at his romantic best in ‘Kabhi Kabhi’, ‘Abhimaan’ and ‘Silsila’. “Main aur meri tanhaayi” and “Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein khyaal aata hai” are till date the anthem for lovers. And it’s partly because of the way Amitabh Bachchan rendered those lines.
He showed his comic side in movies like ‘Chupke Chupke’, ‘Namak Halaal’ and ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ and there too he was at par with every other stalwart in the frame.
In 1982, while filming for the famous scene of ‘Namak Halaal’, where Big B’s character, Arjun Singh, tries to impress his boss by speaking English, Prakash Mehra told him to speak whatever he wanted to. Amitabh Bachchan had a knack of doing things differently. He asked the whole team to vacate the studio room in which they were shooting, with only the required people allowed to stay back. He, then, gave an impromptu recital of the ‘Vijay Merchant – Vijay Hazare’ cricket commentary and held everybody present by awe. Yes! No scripts, no lines. Spontaneity has always been Big B’s strength.
A minor hiccup came along in this journey when he was seriously injured during a fight sequence while shooting for ‘Coolie’. Fans went berserk. But even this injury couldn’t keep the people’s icon away from them. He returned to the screen to shine even brighter. This was christened as his re-birth.
Amitabh Bachchan always lived up to his commitments, come what may. The particular one that comes to mind is an incident during the shooting of ‘Sharaabi’. He had burnt his hands, but being the professional he is, he continued to shoot by putting his hand in the pocket of his blazer. Everything he did, became a fashion statement, so this hand-in-pocket also went on to become a fashion trend, which continues till now.
The man had tasted immense success till the 80s, but then a series of failures crept in. Newer actors paved their way to the industry and shook the throne that Big B had occupied for so long. It was his friendship with Rajiv Gandhi, that led him to contest elections. He failed miserably.
After hitting a rough patch in acting, he decided to start his own production house, which cost him almost his last penny. The movies he made under his production house – ABCL – ‘Mrityudata’ etc didn’t do him any good. His company also hosted the Miss World contest which also led to his failure. His company went bankrupt; he was embroiled in legal battles and had authorities hounding over him for tax recovery.
But Big B is called ‘Shahenshah’ for a reason. He fought back, showed resilience and at the age of 57, went looking for work.
And then arrived his true rebirth, in the realest sense. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, the Indian version of the television game show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, gave us back the legendary actor that lived once. His screen presence, charisma, ability to connect with the audience, charm and most importantly, his baritone weaved magic. He was back with a bang.
It’s also said, that he had gone to the late Yash Chopra looking for work, who took him in ‘Mohabbatein’, directed by Aditya Chopra, in 2000. Then came Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ that catapulted him back to the super stardom.
With movies like ‘Baghban’, ‘Black’, and ‘Paa’ among others, he showed why there was invented the dialogue ‘rishtey mein toh hum tumhaare baap hotey hain.’ He is certainly the ‘baap’ of acting. ‘Black’ and ‘Paa’ got him another set of National awards. His tenure as the KBC host and fiction stint with tele-serial ‘Yudh’ have made him cynosure of TV watching eyes too.
Amitabh Bachchan goes beyond the tangles of regionalism. At present, he endorses tourism for three states in India – Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala.
He goes beyond admiring the regular. Impressed with Kangana Ranaut’s portrayal of ‘Rani’ in the movie ‘Queen’, Big B sent her a bouquet of flowers with a hand written note, as a mark of appreciation.
He goes beyond Bollywood. He was conferred with the Honorary Citizenship of the French town of Deauville in 2003. He was also honoured with an Honorary Doctorate from the Leeds Metropolitan University in Yorkshire, UK, the De Montfort University in Leicester, UK and the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
Bollywood? He dislikes the term Bollywood. He says he finds it shameful for India. It’s not Bollywood, it’s Indian Film Industry. And we agree.
He is an inspiration to all. Ajay ‘Singham’ Devgn was once quoted saying, “While we were shooting for ‘Bol Bachchan’ title song, I wasn’t keeping well and so was Amitji. But he was so energtic throughout. That gave me the inspiration to put in my 100% as well.”
You may love a particular actor, or might hate him, but there’s nobody who dares to dislike Amitabh Bachchan.
Not only the common man, the other people in the business are also bewitched by him. When Parineeti Chopra was asked the name of the movie star who leaves her awestruck, the only name she said was Amitabh Bachchan. In the popular comedy show ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’, when Big B was the special guest, the host of the show, Kapil Sharma, didn’t take his seat for most part of the show, out of respect for the megastar.
Amitabh Bachchan’s life teaches us many a thing – how not to lose hope in the face of adversity, how to believe in yourself and how to still keep your family united when your personal life comes under scanner. He has seen it all, he has dealt with it all, and yet emerged as the winner.
Be it any role – a husband, a dad, a grand-dad, a friend, a guide – he plays it all to perfection. National awards, Wax Statue at London’s Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Honorary doctorates, the Knight of the Legion of Honour, people’s love, respect and loyalty – all of this and counting!
Be it the yesteryear angry young man in ‘Zanjeer’ and ‘Deewaar’, the funny man in ‘Chupke Chupke’, the romantic hero in ‘Silsila’, or the deceased father in ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, the 12 year old Auro in ‘Paa’, or the teacher suffering from Alzheimers in ‘Black’, Amitabh Bachchan has cinema and movies and acting all over his senses and veins.
On his 73rd birthday, we salute this ‘living bible of acting’ and wish him a long, healthy and happy life.