if there is one legendary and iconic actor that represents Bollywood across the decades to date, it is Amitabh Bachchan. We look at his amazing contribution to Hindi cinema and who he is as a person.
Basically I am just another actor who loves his work
This DESIblitz SpotLight lands on Amitabh Bachchan, a huge Bollywood star and household name, who has spanned decades as an actor and become a unique icon for Bollywood.
Born on October 11, 1942 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, Amitabh was originally named Inquilab Srivastava. He was re-named Amitabh Bachchan, fostering the pen last name of his father, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a well known Hindu poet. His mother was called Teji Bhachchan, a Sikh, from Karachi Pakistan, who was behind Amitabh’s film career encouraging him to act.
The Bachchan surname has since been used as a family name by Amitabh for his immediate family. He marriad actress Jaya Bhaduri in June, 1973 and the couple had two children. Namely, Shewta and Abhishek Bachchan. Shewta did not pursue an acting career but became a journalist whereas, Abhishek is acting in Bollywood even alongside his father. Abhishek Bachchan also hit the limelight marrying Aishwarya Rai, one of the female icons in Bollywood.
For schooling, Amitabh went to Allahabad’s Jnana Prabodhini and Boys’ High School. He then went onto Nainital’s Sherwood College, to major in the art stream. Subsequently, he studied at Kirori Mal College of the University of Delhi and completed a Bachelor of Science degree. Amitabh has since attained an double Master of Arts degree (MA). Before getting into films, Amitabh was a stage actor, radio announcer and freight company executive at Bird and Co. in Calcutta, India.
Amitabh Bachchan was known a ‘lambu’ (meaning lanky, long-legs) in his early film career due to his 6’3 height. He debuted in his first film in 1969, in the film Saat Hindustani. He played Anwar Ali Anwar in this film which about seven Indians from different religions and backgrounds uniting against Portugese occupied Goa. The film earned Bachchan the Best Newcomer National Film Award. This was the first of many to come in the long career ahead of him.
Subsequently, in 1970, Amitabh played the role of a doctor in the highly and critically acclaimed film Anand. He supported Rajesh Khanna, the lead actor in the film. This movie with a strong emotional storyline gave Amitabh is second award – Filmfare Best Supporting Actor.
In the 1970’s and 80’s Amitabh developed his huge screen hero status. One of Bollywood’s evergreen hit films Sholay (1975) by Ramesh Sippy, gave Bachchan the role of Jai, playing alongside Dharmendhra who played Veeru. Jaya Bachchan also starred in this film along with Hema Malini, now the respective wifes of the two heroes in real life. This spaghetti western styled movie showed performances of tremendous calibre from an all star cast and was the highest grossing Indian movie ever at approx Rs 2,36,45,00,000 (about £29 million).
Other films during this era where Amitabh gave unforgettable performances included Deewar (1975), Don (1978), Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978), Trishul (1978), Kasme Vaade (1978), Kaala Patthar (1979), Mr. Natwarlal (1979), Shaan (1980), Ram Balram (1980), Lawaaris (1981) and Shakti (1982). Actors performing with him in these films included Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Parveen Babi, Shatrughan Sinha, Rakhee Gulzar, Prem Chopra, Amjad khan and Zeenat Aman, amongst many other known stars.
As well as a hero Amitabh showed his versatility as an actor in different roles. Two major evergreen hits for his romantic leads were Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Silsila (1981). Silsila was the last film of nine that Amitabh did with heroine Rekha which highlighted a real love affair between the two around that time.
The story depicted Amitabh’s love for a woman other than his wife played by Rekha and his wife played by his real wife Jaya in the film.
Comedy roles in films such as as Chupke Chupke (1975), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Namak Halaal (1982) showed his ability as a comedian. In, addition Amitabh also showed a flare for singing and has sung songs in some of his films in his low pitched voice.
In 1982, while filming the blockbuster Coolie, Amitabh nearly fatally injured his intestines. This accident received world-wide coverage and hit the headlines in the UK, where many Indians prayed in temples for his well being. During this time, he spent many months recovering and returned to filming later that year.
In 1984, Amitabh Bachchan left acting and took up a career in politics with a view to support his friend Rajiv Ghandi. He won his seat as parliament candidate for Allahabad with the highest votes of 68.2% in Indian history. This phase of politics did not last long as he resigned after three years.
After the political role, Amitabh returned to films in 1988 with the hit Shahenshah which was largely due to his comeback. This was followed by Agneepath in 1990 which for his memorable performance, as a Mafia don won him a National Film Award. Then box-office failures and a lack of good performances began to affect his star career. His next hit film Hum was released in 1991 and then in 1992, after the release of Khuda Gawah, Amitabh left the screen and went into semi-retirement for five years. Even during his retirement the delayed film Insaniyat was released in 1994 but was also a box office disaster.
During retirement, in 1996, Bachchan set-up his unsuccessful media company called Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited ABCL. Amitabh turned to production and wanted to make the company a flagship entertainment provider across India. Providing everything from commercial films, audio, televisions software production and marketing to artist management. A string of films were made by the company including its first Tere Mere Sapne. None of them made any impact at the box-office. Revival films for himself included Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), Sooryavansham (1999), Lal Baadshah (1999) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999).
The ABCL venture led to financial problems with many debts. The company was taken into administration and declared a failure. During this time he was in trouble with the courts and money scandals, which led to him fighting many legal battles.
Between 2000 and 2005, Amitabh Bachchan made a comeback through the television route. He hosted the Indian version of the Chris Tarrent’s UK show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which was called Kaun Banega Crorepati. The show provided financial and showbiz support that Bachchan needed to get back into the limelight of audiences.
During this period, in 2000, a comeback was marked by Amitabh’s performance in Yash Chopra’s box-office major hit, Mohabbatein directed by Aditya Chopra. Amitabh starred along side Shahrukh Khan the heartthrob of the time. After this hit, Bachchan then began to climb the ladder of success with films like Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love (2001), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Baghban (2003), Aks (2001), Aankhen (2002), Khakee (2004) and Dev (2004). He received crtical accalim for his acting in these films and especially for his performance in Black (2005). He also starred with Abhishek in the hits films Bunty Aur Babli (2005), the Godfather tribute Sarkar (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006).
In November 2005, Amitabh Bachchan was admitted to Lilavati Hospital’s ICU once more, to undergo surgery for diverticulitis of the small intestine.
Amitabh Bachchan has showed diversity and willingness to do different roles and opted for films like Nishabd (2007) where he falls in love as a 60 year old photographer with a girl of 18 years of age playyed by Jia Khan and Cheeni Kum (2007) which portrays him as an uptight 64 year old bachelor chef in London falling for a 34 year old visitor from India, played by Tabu, who’s father is younger than him.
The 2007 box-office bomb was Ram Gopal Verma’s Aag the remake of Sholay in which Amitabh plays the role of Gabbar Singh, originally played by Amjad Khan in the original. A movie perhaps he should not have done.
Amitabh is embarking on different projects along with Bollywood films and has still the enthusiasm to act with no sign of retirement yet. He has said of his age and acting:
“Basically I am just another actor who loves his work and this thing about age only exists in the media.”
Amitabh is called Big B by the media, Munna within family and Amit by his close friends. He is a vegetarian who immensely enjoys eating Aloo Puri, Pakodas, Dhoklas, Parathas and Gulab Jamuns. He makes it a point to have at least one meal with his family. He likes his meals to be served to him by his wife Jaya.
Amitabh said that if he did not become an actor he would be selling milk in Allahabad, his hometown. He is ambidextrous – he can write with both hands. He known for his sharp memory and never forgets the birthday or special occasions in his loved one’s lives. The actor makes it a point to wish them unfailingly.
Amitabh Bachchan has shown how an actor can survive in the word of Indian cinema by re-inventing himself and accepting challenges in the roles presented to him. His drive, acumen and ambition today still thrives to show his ability to transform himself into the characters expected by the directors. He acts with the conviction to perfect his art as an actor as he did when he started.
The Big B’s contribution to Bollywood stands unique in its own right and we look forward to seeing more of it in his forthcoming movies.
Check out the gallery of pictures below of Amitabh Bachchan.
Only three British Asians have ever played in the English Premier League, so DESIblitz explores why there are so few in professional English football.