Bollywood Legends - Amitabh Bachchan
Some men are like wine. The older they become, the headier they are. It is never more true than in the case of Amitabh Bachchan. The son of poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Teji Bachchan rode the Indian film industry like a colossus for close to three decades. And, at 59, Amitabh has more producers and directors queuing up in front of his door than many young actors of Bollywood.
Born on October 11, 1942 in Allahabad, Amitabh — the older of the two children — graduated from Delhi University with an arts degree. Before that, he completed a stint in Sherwood College, a boarding school in Nainital. The film industry was a most unlikely place to begin a career for this son of an academician. He gave up his job as a freight broker for a shipping firm in Calcutta to move to Bombay in 1968. Months of struggle followed. Ironically known for his rich voice, he was rejected by All India Radio and even played a mute in one of his early films Reshma Aur Shera (1971).
In his early films like the Hrishikesh Mukherjee Directed Anand (1970) and Namak Haram (1973) or in Saudagar he was presented as a brooding melancholic anti-hero drawn from Bengali Literary stereotypes traceable to novelist Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and brought into Hindi Cinema by Nitin Bose, Bimal Roy and Asit Sen. But Zanjeer (1973) changed all that, the film saw a new kind of hero, a hero who took the law in his own hands and fought the villain.
Amitabh’s first big hit happened with Namak Haram in 1973. With Zanjeer also scoring unprecedented box-office collection, the year heralded the arrival of the legend called Amitabh Bachchan. From then onwards there was no looking back. The year 1975 saw two all-time superhits, Deewar and Sholay. In Deewaar (1975) he played the role of a mafia don opposite his policeman brother, played by Shashi Kapoor. It was a brilliant performance with Amitabh more than able to humanize the gangster and have people sympathize with him rather than with his law-abiding brother, Sholay became a benchmark film in Indian cinema. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Chupke Chupke, released around the same time, proved Amitabh’s ability to handle comedy roles as well. The film, starring Amitabh, Jaya Bhaduri, Sharmila Tagore, Dharmendra and veteran actor Om Prakash, became a big hit.
The later half of the 1970s saw films like Amar Akbar Antony, Kabhie Kabhie, Don, Trishul, Mili, Abhimaan, Shaan, Laawaris, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Mr Natwarlal, Nastik, Kala Patthar, Namak Halal etc. Some of his other top hits include Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Chashme Baddoor, Dostana, Faraar, Kaalia, Kasme Vaade, Khoon Pasina, Majboor, Naseeb, Parvarish, Shakti, Sharaabi, Silsila and The Great Gambler. Amitabh Bachchan was seriously wounded during the shooting of the 1983 film, Coolie. The nation came to a grinding halt as film-lovers from across the length and breadth of India and abroad prayed for the well-being of the actor.
In 1984, when at his peak as a star, he tried his hand at politics. Due to his enormous popularity, not to mention the close association he enjoyed with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and members of the Nehru family, he was elected to parliament with a huge majority from his home city of Allahabad. But his stint in politics did not last long and he was implicated in some scandals. He gave up his seat in parliament, vowing never to be involved in politics again.
The first dud at the box-office came with the 1988 film, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. Till then, Amitabh had not had a flop. His films were either hits or superhits. But his re-entry in the 1990s came with films like Khuda Gawah, Agneepath, Hum and Shahenshah, Amitabh then dabbled in business, setting up his Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited and pumping all his energies and time towards it. The lack of business acumen showed soon with ABCL sinking in no time. Amitabh made a serious comeback attempt to movies. Though the talent had never faded, the box-office magic had.
In the last three years, Amitabh Bachchan has acted in films like Mrityudaata, Major Saab, Lal Baadshah, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Sooryavamsham, Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love, Mohabbatein and Aks — The Reflection. Some of the films bombed and the rest did just about okay business. Like a phoenix Amitabh Bachchan resurrected himself again in the year 2000, this time on the small screen. Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? became a phenomenon on Indian television and suddenly Amitabh Bachchan was back to where he belonged — success and limelight. Last year, Amitabh Bachchan was chosen as the BBC’s Superstar of the Millennium over such greats as Charlie Chaplin and Laurence Olivier and being selected as the first film personality from India to be immortalized at Madam Tussaud`s Wax Museum, London! On January 26, 2001 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian Cinema.
Amitabh’s latest film, Karan Johar’s Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham is in the news for a lot of reasons. In a story spanning three generations, KKKG has Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan playing husband and wife with Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan as their sons. He has a couple of other films lined up as well. Will life face yet another upswing for Amitabh Bachchan at 60? His die-hard fans would definitely hope so.