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Amitabh Bachchan : A legend who keeps rediscovering himself time and again

Angry Young Man, Shahenshah of Bollywood, Star of the Millennium and Big B. Bet you know who we are talking about. It is none other than Inquilaab Shrivastava or as we know him as Amitabh Bachchan! The man who ruled the Bollywood from 1969 till present (2018). At the age of 76, he is not less than any young actor. Rightful referred to as Sadi ka Mahanayak (translated to English from Hindi: The Greatest Actor of the Century). You can guess his effect (Amitabh Effect?) when Francois Truffaut called him a ‘One Man Industry’! He is the man who inspired the Badshaah of Bollywood, The reigning Khan: Shah Rukh Khan.

He was born on 11th October 1942 to Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a renowned Indian Poet. His voice debuted in 1969 in Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen) while he, himself, debuted in Saat Hindustani by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas.

In 1971, he starred with Rajesh Khanna in Anand. The movie garnered him the award for Best Supporting Actor. He experimented with Parwana, where he acted as an antagonist.In the year between 1969 to 1972, his films were not doing well. He did a guest role in Guddi where he met Jaya Bhaduri, worked as a narrator for Bawarchi and worked in Bombay to Goa alongside Aruna Irani but that was it.

By the age of 30, he had given 12 flops and only two hits, one of which was a supporting role in Anand. Hands down, he was not regarded as a bankable actor but as a failure. Then came Zanjeer which gave Amitabh Bachchan the title of ‘angry young man’, something he is known as even now. It was a crime action film, written by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar and directed by Prakash Mehra. In this movie, his female co-star was Jaya Bhadhuri and Pran. Zanjeer turned Bollywood’s trend from Romance to Crime Action, changed Amitabh Bachchan’s fortune and cemented a cult among fans.

At a time when India was in the depth of sadness with corruption, low economy and the common man suffered the most with anger and frustration regarding the system, Zanjeer shaped Bollywood in a violent and aggressive direction. It was a movie where you do not wait for a Government to take some initiative while passively criticizing each move. The protagonist fought against trails and tribulation, struggling until he succeeded. The film turned out to be a blockbuster, both in India and Russia.

Here is a fun fact about Zanjeer: The movie inspired South Indian Cinema, too. Seeing as how Rajnikanth, another superstar affected by the classic movie.

Here is another fun fact: The posters of the movie lacked the names of Salim and Javed so they hired a man to stencil their name on the posters. From Juhu to Opera House, Mumbai. The drunkard would drink half the time, which led to him painting the credit on the wrong places, like the Pran’s face and Bachchan’s hands.

At the time of casting, Mumtaz was offered the role of female co-star. Because she was preoccupied with marriage matters, she opted out, choosing her marriage career. For the sake of her fiancee’s career, Jaya Bhaduri immediately agreed to take the role.

Salim-Javed saw an action sequence in Bombay to Goa where they saw the actor chewing gum during the fight. This made them think Amitabh Bachchan would be the right choice for the film. At a time when no one wanted to hire him, they saw him in a new light. According to them, he was an exceptional actor doing bad film. Later the Salim-Javed duo cast him in Deewaar and Sholay, both released in the year 1975.

Deewaar

Written by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar and directed by Yash Chopra, the film starred Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Nirupa Roya, Parveen Bobi and Neetu Singh. The movie talked about the socio-political climate of India during the 1970s. It tells the story of two impoverished brothers who are betrayed by their father’s misplaced idealism and end up in the slums of Mumbai, struggling to meet ends. Eventually they find themselves on the opposing side of the law with a wall (hence, the title Deewaar) formed between them. Like Zanjeer, this movie, too, is considered groundbreaking. It had an impact on Indian audience. The film’s anti-establishment themes and Vijay’s (Amitabh Bachchan’s character, loosely based on the underworld gangster Haji Mastan) vigilante character resonated with audience’s sentiments. It further acted as a catalyst that cemented the Amitabh Bachchan’s character as an angry young man.

The angry young man performance of Vijay was inspired by Ganga from Ganga Jamuna, starring Dilip Kumar. The iconic look of Vijay was actually created by a mistake tailor made. Amitabh Bachchan explained that the knotted shirt and rope on the shoulder was actually an adjustment to hide the mistake in the stitching and the too long shirt. The film was shot mostly at night because in the morning, Amitabh Bachchan would shoot for the Ramesh Sippy classic Sholay.

Delaware has seen several adaptations. Even overseas. It influenced Hong Kong’s The Brothers, which inspired John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. Danny Boyle described Deewaar as an absolute key to Indian Cinema.

Sholay

It was also written by Salim-Javed duo, directed by Ramesh Sippy and produced by father, G.F Sippy. It tells the story of two criminals by the name of Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) hired by Sanjeev Kappor’s Thakur, a retired police officer seeking revenge of resident dacoit, Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan). Hema Malini plays the iconic role of Basanti and Jaya Bhadhuri stars a widower with whom Jai is smitten. CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) mandated removal of several violent scenes, after which it was released with a length of 198 minutes. The original director’s cut being 204 minutes long. At first release, it received negative critical response and a lukewarm commercial success. With word of mouth publicity, it finally became the cult classic it is now. It broke records after records. And in the year 2014, was released in 3D.

Ramesh Sippy wanted to cast Shotgun Sinha a.k.a Shatrughan Sinha for Jai’s role, but he already had several films to manage. Amitabh Bachchan on the recommendation of Salim-Javed managed to bag the role.

The four leads became romantically, heterosexually involved with each other. Bachchan married Jaya Bhaduri four months before the filming began. During the course of filming, she became pregnant with Shweta and by the time of release, with Abhishek. Dharmendra had already begun wooing Hema Malini at the time of Seet aur Geeta and used for the location of Ramanagara to further pursue her.

Several films later, Ambitabh Bachchan became one of the most sort after actor and cemented his reputation as a baggable actor. His characters resonated with the Indian youth who were discontent with the social problems plaguing India. Like poverty, hunger, unemployment, corruption, social inequality and the brutality implemented by the Emergency. A journalist called Amitabh Bachchan as an angry young man, a metaphor which resonated hugely with the dormant rage, frustration, restlessness, rebellions and anti-establishment disposition of the 1970s India.
In the year 1973, he starred with Jaya Bhaduri in Abhimaan directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It was based on the married life of Ravi Sankar and Annapurna Devi or Kishore Kumar and his first wife, Ruma Ghosh. Although to some it seemed to be a remake of the 1954 movie, A Star is Born. The film became popular in Sri Lanka, where it was screened for 590 days in Empire Colombo.

 

All these films were trailer to what was to come. 1975 to 1986 was the time for his superstardom, a time when no one could shake him off and he came a name renowned. BBC India had declared Sholay the film of the millennium and Deewar was cited among the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Movies by India Times. It was crowned the Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.

In 1976, he starred in Romantic Drama Kabhie Kabhie where he portrayed a poet. The character was different from the roles he became known for (that of angry young man). The role earned him a Filmfare Best Actor Award as well as good responses from critics and audiences.

In 1977, he starred in Amar Akbar Anthony along side Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Parveen Babi and Neetu Singh. The movie became the highest grosser of the century and a symbol of India’s unity in diversity. The plot focused on three brothers, separated by circumstances who grew up to adopt three different faiths (Hindu, Muslim and Christian). One grows up to be a policeman, the other a singer and the third owned a Desi (Indian) bar shop. It has made an impact on pop culture with catchy songs, one liners and the character of Anthony Gonsalves played by Amitabh Bachchan. The character’s nonsensical dialogue with a fake accent (“You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere, because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated with the exuberance of your own verbosity”) was taken from a 1878 speech of British politician Benjamin Disraeli referring to W. E. Gladstone (written by Shashi Tharoor? Just kidding.). Despite the star studded cast, Amitabh Bachchan out shined the rest.

In 1978, Don became his third movie with a double role. The film saw another collaboration between Salim, Javed and Amitabh Bachchan. Along with the latter, it featured Zeenat Aman, Pran, Iftekhar and Helen. Bachchan played the role of an underworld boss Don and his look like, Vijay. DSP D’Silva asks Vijay to act as Don in order to gather information for the police, thus helping in tracking down the root cause of criminal organization. Later Javed Akhtar’s son, Farhan Akhtar remade the film with the same title starring Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor. It paved way for a sequel Don 2 though it had a different ending. Adjusted for inflation, the movie garnered rupees 218 crore in 2016.

The year 1978 was a golden year for Big B with the release of Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Trishul, Don, Kasme Vaade, Ganga ki Saugandh and Besharam. All of them being proven to be massing hits. Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Trishul and Don were highest grossing movies of the year.

In 1979, he started the in the highest grosser: Suhaag. He acted in films like Mr. Natarwarlal, Kaala Patthar, The Great Gambler and Manzil. All of which challenged different acting capabilities of his. In Mr. Natarwarlal, he sang for the first time. For which he received the Filmfare award of the best male playback singer.

In the year 1980, he starred in Raj Khosla’s highest grosser of the year: Dostana along side Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. In 1981, he starred in Silsila. A movie based on his relationship with Rekha and Jaya and starring both of those actress.

He continued to give hits in the form of Namak Halaal, Coolie, Sharaabi, Mard and others. While shooting for Coolie, Big B suffered an almost fatal intestinal injuring during a fight scene with Puneet Issar. Amaitabh Bachchan was performing his own stunt where one of the scenes required him to fall on a table then the ground. As he jumped on the table, the corner dug into his abdomen, resulting in splenic rupture. He lost generous amount of blood. He rushed to a hospital where he remained critically ill to the point of being close to death. He was given an emergency splenectomy.

Public response came in the form of prayers in temple, fans were ready to sacrifice their limbs for him and a big queue outside the hospital while he recuperated. Despite all the trouble, he resumed the shooting. The film released in 1983 with tweaked ending. The character of Bachchan was supposed to die at the end. Seeing the unsuitability of the ending in the current situation, Manmohan Desai changed the script.

Later Amitabh Bachchan was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. The illness made him physically and mentally ill. He contemplated quitting acting and joining politics. He became pessimistic, thinking that every newly released film of his would end up flopping.

He returned with Shahenshah which turned out to be a box office success. It became his title, too. Shahenshah of Bollywood. His stars began to fall as all his movies released in the year 1989 were declared flops (Jaadugar, Toofan and Main Azad Hoon). E When Aaj ka Arjun and Hum released, the hope rekindled but extinguished just as soon. Light came in the form of Agneepath which won him the National Film Award for Best Actor. During his bitter years, he won his first National Award! The movie went on to become a cult classic.

Agneepath

The movie was directed by Mukul Anand. Amitabh Bachchan reprised the role of Angry Young Man in the form of the Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. The title comes from one of the poems written by Amitabh’s father Harivansh Rai Bachchan. The poem was recited at the very beginning of the movie. The themes of the poem are a recurring element in the movie. Unlike most movies of Amitabh, the movie was full of the dark undertones and grim atmosphere. All because of the ferocity and bloodlust of the protagonist Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. The firm was deemed a failure among the general public and critic. The songs, melodrama and Amitabh Bachchan’s voice were heavily criticized. Ironic, since all of this made the movie a cult classic. As time went, the film began to be deemed cool with critics applauding the movie.

For five years, there were no new releases of movies starring Amitabh Bachchan. People began to think that his time was over. But was it?

Before, we go further, we would like to talk about ABCL. An abbreviation for Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited. He set up the company in the year 1996. The company wanted to introduce new products and services for the India’s entertainment industry. They mainly operated for commercial movies in the form of production, distribution, audio cassettes, video discs, marketing of television software, event management, celebrity management and things of that sort. This company launched Circuit or Jolly L.L.B a.k.a Arshad Warsi in Bollywood through Tere Mere Sapne. In 1997, Amitabh Bachchan tried to make a comeback through Mrityudata. The movie became a commercial and critical dud.

A.B.C.L was a sponsor for Miss World Beauty Pageant, 1996 held in Bangalore. But they lost millions. This lead to lead battles between ABCL and others after the event was over. In 1997, the company crashed, was declared a failure by the industry.

All troubles were yet to be over. In the year 1999, Bombay High Court restrained Amitabh Bachchan from selling off his bungalow ‘Prarteeksha’ and two other flats until the pending loan recovery cases of Canara Bank were done with. Amitabh Bachchan pleaded that he already mortgaged the bungalow in hopes of raising funds for ABCL. During this time, his five movies were released: Bade Miyan Chote Miyan with Govinda in the year 1998, Major Saab in the same year, Sooryavansham in the year 1999, Lal Baadshah and Hindustan ki Kasam. Both of them in 1999.

In the year 2000, he began to make films where he usually played the role old patriarch stuck in the times of parampara and sanskaar (translation: regulations and heritage). Something which tended to be nothing less than atrocious, separating two love birds Like in.

Mohabbatein

Starring Amitabh Bachchan alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwary Rai, Helen, Jimmy Shergill, Uday Chopra, Jugal Hansraj, Shamita Shetty, Kim Sharma, Anupam Kher, Amrish Puri, Archana Puran Singh and Preeti Jhangiani. He essayed the role of Narayan Shankar, the strict headmaster of Gurukul, an elite college for boys. He believes in tradition and discipline, intolerant towards romance to the point of expelling students. Despite which three student of his falling in love. Enter Raj Aryan Malhotra, played by Shah Rukh Khan, who believes in the power of love. It was a generational film featuring two huge stars of different generation.

Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Mohnish Behl and Karishma Kapoor with Juhi Chawla in a guest role. It tells the story of Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and his son, Ajay (Akshay Kumar). Because of differences in their dreams, the father-son duo’s relationship begins to deteriorate. It is a tale of how Ajay earns his father’s faith and money back.

Kabhi Khushi Kabie Gham…

Also known as K3G. The film was directed by Karan Johar and featured a colorful set of characters essayed by Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee. It is a story of a family which breaks up when the adopted son marries a girl from a lower socioeconomic group, against the wishes of the father. And about the youngest son’s attempt to mend their relationship. Amitabh Bachchan played the role of Yashvardhan Raichan, a business tycoon who controls his family like he controls his business. About the character Karan Johar said that while creating the film, the muse for Yash’s character was Amitabh Bachchan.

Baghban

Also known as: A Film You should Never Watch with Your Parents because Guilt Trip

Directed by Ravi Chopra, it featured Amitabh Bachchan with Hema Malini, Salman Khan, Mahima Chaudhry, Aman Verma, Samir Soni, Saahil Chadha, Nasir Khan, Rimi Sen, Paresh Rawal, Lilette Dubey and others. Critics appreciated the natural chemistry between Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan. They also appreciated the way Amitabh Bachchan delivered his dialogues: powerful and emotional.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

The film was directed by Karan Johar and produced under the Dharma Productions. It starred Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Abhishek Bachchan and Kirran Kher. The film explored the sensitive topic of infidelity. Amitabh Bachchan played the role of Samarjit Talwar. He was nominated for the Filmfare best supporting actor award but lost to his son Abhishek Bachchan. He also lost the Global Indian Film Awards for best supporting actor to Abhishek Bachchan. And the same goes for the stardust awards for best supporting actor.

Khakee

The neo noir action thriller was directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and featured a star studded cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Tusshar Kapoor, Prakash Raj, Atul Kulkarni and Lara Dutta in an item number. Amitabh Bachchan lived up to the role of an angry young man in the movie. According to a BBC critic, Manish Gajjar, the whole credit for his work went to him. He played the role DCP Anant Kumar Shrivastav, an honest cop at the end of his career because he did not bend his back for corrupt forces of the system. He leads a team to a mission he believes will make his career mean something and promote him to the chair of Additional Commissioner of Police. Then came the critical and commercial cult classic movie by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It starred Rani Mukherjee alongside him. He acted as an aging teacher suffering from Alzheimer and Rani Mukherjee acted the role of a deaf and blind girl. The movie was loosely based on the equation between Heller Keller’s life.

Regarding a scene in the movie Amitabh Bachchan said, “the mistake was that I pull out the letter and I go for my specs and start reading. That was wrong. How do I know that my specs are hers?” He gestured towards his shirt pocket and continued, “if I have Alzheimer’s?” Regarding a dining room scene where Debraj Sahai, his character, reads a letter.

Black bagged 11 Filmfare, holding the record of the only Indian movie to have the most number of Filmfare. After this movie, he began to endorse various products, appearing on billboards and television. He acted in cult classic Bunty aur Bubli with Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee. He also acted in Sarkar, another cult classic.

Bunty aur Babli

The film paid tribute to Amitabh Bachchan. Here, Abhishek Bachchan, his son, parodied the various roles played by Amitabh Bachchan throughout his career. For example, Agnipath. Background music in the movie came from his movies. This was also one of the first film that featured Puneet Issar and Amitabh Bachchan together after the Coolie incident in 1983. It is ignoring the fact that they did not share any scenes together.

Sarkar along with the sequel Sarkar Raj

The movie became a super hit as well as a cult classic. It was based on The Godfather with a political angle. The trio of actors (Amitabh Bachchan, Abhisek Bachchan and Kay Kay Menon) was praised for the intense performances. Amitabh Bachchan’s son Abhishek Bachchan bagged three awards for his supporting role as a an inexperienced son who enters politics to save his father.

Amitabh Bachchan’s Subhash Nagre made a statement in his black kurtas. He made Paulo Coelho, a world famous author, his fan. The writer imitated him by cutting the collar of his shirt.

Nishabd

The film was inspired by American Beauty and Anokha Rishta. It became a box office dud, but gained critical appreciation. Amitabh Bachchan’s character’s daughter, Jiya brings home her friend, Jia (played by Jiah Khan). A form of attraction develops between the two when Vijay photographs her playing with a garden hose. He is 60 and she is 18, the poster of the movies says. The film ends with Vijay reveals that he often attempted suicide, not afraid to die, but he does not wish to do since he wants to live more with the memories of Jia.

Cheeni Kum

Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of sixty four year old Buddhadev Gupta. He works as a chef in London, England and owns an Indian restaurant by the name of Spice 6. He is an arrogant, egocentric and pompous man whose only passion is to cook. He meets Tabu’s Neema Verma, a thirty four year old woman who is the exact opposite of him. Both of them fall in love with each other much to the horror of Nima Verma’s father Omprakash Verma, played by Paresh Rawal. According to Martin D’Souza of Glamsham, Tabu’s character brought the right dash of sweetness, Amitabh Bachchan brought a right amount of spice, Paresh Rawal gave a proper dose of lime, Swiny Bhaskar’s character Sexy brought the perfect quantity of salt and Zohra Sehgal (mother of Buddhadev) added the tadka. Despite the premise, the movie was a clean family entertainer.

Shootout at Lokhandwala

The movie was based upon a real life incident, the Lokhandwala shootout in 1991. A gun battle occurred between the Mumbai police and gangsters. Amitabh Bachchan acted as private prosecutor Dhingra. His role is to interview three members of the Mumbai Encounter Squad. The whole film revolves around the interview between the three officers (Additional Police Commissioner of Police, Shamsher S. Khan, Inspector Kaviraj Patil and Police Constable Javed Sheikh). He is the voice of reason, the unbiased one. Despite the small role, his character of Dhingra left a lasting impact on everyone: from the story line to the audience.

Paa

A film which once again justified what an amazing actor Mr. Bachchan is. He plays the role of Auro, a 12 year old kid who suffers from a rare genetic disorder by the name of progeria. It is a disorder that causes quick acceleration of the aging process in children. His father’s role is played by his real life son: Abhishek Bachchan and his mother’s role are played by Vidya Balan. For this film with a heart, Amitabh Bachchan received several awards such as 57th National Film Awards for Best Actor, 16th Star Screen Awards, 8th Stardust award for the star of the year, 55th Filmfare award for the best actor, 11th IIFA Awards for Best Actor and others.

Bhoothnath

The film’s an adaptation of the book, Canterville Ghost written by Oscar Wilde. The film was received positively by critics as well as the audience. It became a popular movie for kids, to the point they hoped a ghost like Amitabh Bachchan would actually live in their house!

Piku

The movie tells a tale about a father-daughter duo played by Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan. Deepika Padukone plays the role of a hot tempered Piku Banerjee. She is taking care of her grumpy and constipated father, Bhaskor. It was praised for its screenplay, humor, performances and simplicity. Bhaskor has problem of chronic constipation. To him every problem in his life is because of his bowel movements. All of this leads to quarrels with servants and familiars. Even his daughter who loves him very much gets annoyed by his tendencies.

Pink

The man who did not understand the meaning of ‘no’ in his films during the youth talks about how ‘no means no’. Amitabh Bachchan plays a retired lawyer who helps three women get justice. He has an empowering, hard hitting monologue about the issue of consent and a woman’s right to say no.

When you look at his films, you observe the wide variety of genera he worked in. From a single store to a multi-starred. One of the reason why is he proclaimed the shahenshah of Bollywood is his attitude of taking risk. Something we might consider learning from. He has experimented more than many of the Hollywood actors. Given us a lot of cute characters which are remembered even today, after so many generations. The respect he was giving has been earned despite the many setbacks, he faced in his life.