Amitabh Bachchan, is an epitome and a miracle in the history of Indian Cinema. He is a benchmark in Bollywood which decides whether an actor is up to the mark or not. Honoured with ‘Padma Shri’, ‘Padma Bhusan’, ‘Padma Vibhusan’ by government of India on Big B’s contribution to arts, he is nothing but a godfather to all the aspirants of the acting-career and also for those who have already set their career in it. This great man set his foot on the earth on 11 october, 1942 and till date poured 190 movies in his exemplary career. For his outstanding achievement in the world of cinema and beyond, Government of France honoured him with their highest civilian award, Knight of the Legion of Honour in 2007. Yes I know that awards can’t justify or tell one’s story of struggle to achieve that success for which awards are meant to be or given and , on this note, anyone can proclaim and can bet all their money on the saying – ‘Amitabh is transcendent and is beyond all justification and comparisons.’ This very year our only ‘Angry young Man’ –‘Star of the millennia’ has darted the score of 75 years of his life, which we would all wish earnestly to be never-ending.
Wasting none of your seconds, I would love to focus the most-radiant colours on the 75 years journey of our ‘Shahensaha of Bollywood’.
Early Life of Amitabh
Big B was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, in north central India, to Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a well known poet ,and his wife Teji Bachchan. His ancestors on his father’s side hailed from a village called Babupatti, in the Raniganj tehsil, in the Pratapgarh district, in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh, in India. Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired by the phrase Inquilab Zindabad popularly used during the Indian independence struggle. However, at the suggestion of fellow poet Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai changed the boy’s name to Amitabh, which, according to a Times of India article, means “the light that will never die.” His alma-mater was Sherwood College, Nainital and he later attended Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi.
Paving his Career to Indian Cinema
He has a younger brother, Ajitabh. His mother , Teji had a keen interest in theatre and was offered a feature film role, but she preferred her domestic duties. Teji had some influence in Amitabh Bachchan’s choice of career because she always insisted that he should “take the centre stage.”
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969 as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen‘s National Award winning film Bhuvan Shome. His first acting role was as one of the seven protagonists in the film Saat Hindustani, directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and featuring Utpal Dutt, Anwar Ali (brother of comedian Mehmood), Madhu and Jalal Agha. Anand (1971) followed, in which Bachchan starred alongside Rajesh Khanna. His role as a doctor with a cynical view of life garnered Bachchan his first Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award.
Amitabh and Rajesh Khanna in ANAND(1971)
He then played his first antagonist role as an infatuated lover-turned-murderer in Parwana (1971). Following Parwana were several films including Reshma Aur Shera(1971). During this time, he made a guest appearance in the film Guddi which starred his future wife Jaya Bhaduri. He narrated part of the film Bawarchi. In 1972 he made an appearance in the road action comedy Bombay to Goa directed by S. Ramanathan which was moderately successful. Many of Bachchan’s films during this early period did not do well, but that was about to change.
This Period is credited for Big B’s Stardom. Director Prakash Mehra cast him in the leading role for the film Zanjeer (1973) as Inspector Vijay Khanna. The film was a sharp contrast to the romantically themed films that had generally preceded it and established Amitabh in a new persona—the “angry young man” of Bollywood cinema. Filmfare considers this one of the most iconic performances of Bollywood history. The film was a huge success and one of the highest-grossing films of that year, breaking Bachchan’s dry spell at the box office and making him a star. From then onwards, Bachchan became one of the most successful leading men of the film industry.
Amitabh and Jaya in Zanjeer(1973)
He earned his first Filmfare nomination for Best Actor for Zanjeer. The year 1973 was also when he married Jaya, and around this time they appeared in several films together; not only inZanjeer but in films such as Abhimaan which followed and was released only a month after their marriage and was also successful at the box office. Later, Bachchan played the role of Vikram, once again along with Rajesh Khanna, in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role won him his second Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award.
In 1974, Bachchan made several guest appearances in films such as Kunwara Baap and Dost, before playing a supporting role in Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. The film, directed and written by Manoj Kumar, addressed themes of honesty in the face of oppression and financial and emotional hardship and was the top earning film of 1974. Bachchan then played the leading role in the film Majboor, released on 6 December 1974, which was a remake of the Hollywood film Zig Zag. The film was a success at the box office. In 1975, he starred in a variety of film genres from the comedyChupke Chupke, the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. 1975 was also the year when Bachchan appeared in two films regarded as important in Hindi cinema history. He starred in the Yash Chopra directed film Deewaar along with Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Parveen Babi and Neetu Singh, earning him a Filmfare nomination for Best Actor. The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975, ranking in at number 4. Indiatimes Movies ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. Released on 15 August 1975 was Sholay, which became the highest-grossing film of 1975 and also of all time in India, earning INR 2,364,500,000 equivalent to US$60 million, after adjusting for inflation, in which Bachchan played the role of Jaidev. Sholay is often credited with exalting Bachchan to the heights of superstardom, two years after he became a star with Zanjeer and consolidating his domination of the industry throughout the 70s and 80s. In 1999, BBC India declared it the “Film of the Millennium” and like Deewar, it has been cited by Indiatimes movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. In that same year, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare Awards awarded it with the special distinction award called the Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
In 1976, he was cast by Yash Chopra in the romantic family drama Kabhie Kabhie. Bachchan starred as a young poet named Amit Malhotra who falls deeply in love with a beautiful young girl named Pooja (Rakhee Gulzar) who ends up marrying someone else (Shashi Kapoor). The film was notable for portraying Bachchan as a romantic hero, a far cry from his “angry young man” roles like Zanjeer and Deewar. The film evoked a favourable response from critics and audiences alike. Bachchan was again nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award for his role in the film. That same year he played a double role in Adalat as father and son. In 1977, he won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Amar Akbar Anthony where he played the third lead opposite Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as Anthony Gonsalves. The film was the highest-grossing film of that year. His other successes that year include Parvarish and Khoon Pasina. He once again resumed double roles in films such as Kasme Vaade (1978) as Amit and Shankar andDon (1978) playing the characters of Don, a leader of an underworld gang and his look-alike Vijay. His performance won him his second Filmfare Best Actor Award. He also gave towering performances in Yash Chopra’s Trishul and Prakash Mehra’s Muqaddar Ka Sikandar both of which earned him further Filmfare Best Actor nominations. 1978 is arguably considered to be his most successful year at the box office since all of his six releases the same year, namely Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, Don, Kasme Vaade, Ganga Ki Saugandh and Besharam were massive successes, the former three being the consecutive highest-grossing films of the year, remarkably releasing within a couple of months of each other, a rare feat in Indian cinema. In 1979, Bachchan starred in Suhaag which was the highest earning film of that year. In the same year he also enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success with films like Mr. Natwarlal, Kaala Patthar, The Great Gambler and Manzil. Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the first time in a song from the film Mr. Natwarlal in which he starred with Rekha. Bachchan’s performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer. He also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed filmDostana, in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. Dostana proved to be the top-grossing film of 1980. In 1981, he starred in Yash Chopra’s melodrama film Silsila, where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and also Rekha. Other films of this period like Shaan (1980) and Shakti (1982) which pitted him against the veteran actor Dilip Kumar were not successful at the box office but Ram Balram (1980), Naseeb (1981) and Lawaaris (1981) were successful.In 1982 he played double roles in the films Satte Pe Satta and Desh Premee which succeeded at the box office. In 1983 he played a triple role in Mahaan and starred in the top-grossing film of that year Coolie. During this film he had a serious injury which compelled him to take a long sabbatical from his acting job.
Amitabh with Mulayam Singh
This span is accredited to Big B’s Upliftment and crisis in his Indian Polity. In the year 1984, Bachchan took a break from acting and entered politics in support of long-time family friend, Rajiv Gandhi. He contested Allahabad’s seat of 8th Lok Sabha againstH. N. Bahuguna, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and won by one of the highest victory margins in general election history (68.2% of the vote). His political career, however, was short-lived: he resigned after three years, calling politics a cesspool. The resignation followed the implication of Bachchan and his brother in the “Bofors scandal” by a newspaper, which he vowed to take to court. Bachchan was eventually found not guilty of involvement in the ordeal. His old friend, Amar Singh, helped him during the financial crisis caused by the failure of his company, ABCL. Thereafter Bachchan started supporting the Samajwadi Party, the political party to which Amar Singh belonged. Furthermore, Jaya Bachchan joined the Samajwadi party and represented the party as an MP in the Rajya Sabha. Bachchan has continued to do favours for the Samajwadi party, including appearing in advertisements and political campaigns. These activities have recently got him into trouble in the Indian courts for false claims after a previous incident of submission of legal papers by him, stating that he is a farmer. A 15-year press ban against Bachchan was imposed during his peak acting years by Stardust and some of the other film magazines. In defence, Bachchan claimed to have banned the press from entering his sets until late 1989.
Big B came back to his abandoned film career in 1988. In this year, Bachchan returned to films, playing the title role in Shahenshah, which was a box office success.
After the success of his comeback film however, his star power began to wane as all of his subsequent films like Jaadugar, Toofan and Main Azaad Hoon (all released in 1989) failed at the box office. The 1991 hit film, Hum, for which he won his third Filmfare Best Actor Award, looked like it might reverse the trend, but this momentum was short-lived and his string of box office failures continued. Notably, despite the lack of hits, it was during this era that Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance as a Mafia don in the 1990 filmAgneepath. These years would see his last on-screen appearances for some time. After the release of Khuda Gawah in 1992, Bachchan went into semi-retirement for five years. With the exception of the delayed release of Insaniyat (1994), which was also a box office failure, Bachchan did not appear in any new releases for five years.
It’s the comeback span for our Big B with a new strategy as a business tycoon. Bachchan turned producer during his temporary retirement period, setting up Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd. (ABCL) in 1996, with a vision of becoming a 10 billion rupees premier entertainment company by the year 2000.
ABCL’s strategy was to introduce products and services covering an entire cross-section of India’s entertainment industry. ABCL’s operations were mainstream commercial film production and distribution, audio cassettes and video discs, production and marketing of television software, and celebrity and event management. Soon after the company was launched in 1996, the first film it produced was Tere Mere Sapne, which did not fare well at the box office but launched the careers of actors like Arshad Warsi and southern film star Simran. ABCL produced a few other films, none of which did well. In 1997, Bachchan attempted to make his acting comeback with the film Mrityudata, produced by ABCL. Though Mrityudaata attempted to reprise Bachchan’s earlier success as an action hero, the film was a failure both financially and critically. ABCL was the main sponsor of the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant, Bangalore, but lost millions. The fiasco and the consequent legal battles surrounding ABCL and various entities after the event, coupled with the fact that ABCL was reported to have overpaid most of its top level managers, eventually led to its financial and operational collapse in 1997. The company went into administration and was later declared a failed company by the Indian Industries board. The Bombay high court, in April 1999, restrained Bachchan from selling off his Bombay bungalow ‘Prateeksha’ and two flats till the pending loan recovery cases of Canara Bank were disposed of. Bachchan had, however, pleaded that he had mortgaged his bungalow to raise funds for his company. Bachchan attempted to revive his acting career and had average success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), and received positive reviews for Sooryavansham (1999) but other films such as Lal Baadshah (1999) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999) were box office failures.
The year of 2000 brought consistency with popularity and fame in Big B’s life. In this very year, Amitabh Bachchan appeared in Yash Chopra’s box-office hit, Mohabbatein, directed by Aditya Chopra. He played a stern, older figure that rivalled the character of Shahrukh Khan. His role won him his third Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. Other hits followed, with Bachchan appearing as an older family patriarch in Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love (2001), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.(2001) andBaghban (2003). As an actor, he continued to perform in a range of characters, receiving critical praise for his performances in Aks(2001), Aankhen (2002), Khakee (2004) and Dev (2004). His performance in Aks won him his first Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. One project that did particularly well for Bachchan was Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Black (2005). The film starred Bachchan as an aging teacher of a deaf-blind girl and followed their relationship. His performance was unanimously praised by critics and audiences and won him his second National Film Award for Best Actor, his fourth Filmfare Best Actor Award and his second Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. Taking advantage of this resurgence, Amitabh began endorsing a variety of products and services, appearing in many television and billboard advertisements. In 2005 and 2006, he starred with his son Abhishek in the hit films Bunty Aur Babli (2005), the Godfather tributeSarkar (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). All of them were successful at the box office. His later releases in 2006 and early 2007 were Baabul (2006),Ekalavya and Nishabd (2007), which failed to do well at the box office but his performances in each of them were praised by critics. In May 2007, two of his films Cheeni Kum and the multi-starrer Shootout at Lokhandwala were released. Shootout at Lokhandwala did well at the box office and was declared a semi-hit in India, while Cheeni Kum picked up after a slow start and only had average success. A remake of his biggest hit, Sholay (1975), entitled Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, released in August of that same year and proved to be a major commercial failure in addition to its poor critical reception. The year also marked Bachchan’s first appearance in an English-language film, Rituparno Ghosh‘s The Last Lear, co-starring Arjun Rampal and Preity Zinta. The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2007. He received positive reviews from critics who hailed his performance as his best ever since Black. Bachchan was slated to play a supporting role in his first international film, Shantaram, directed by Mira Nair and starring Hollywood actorJohnny Depp in the lead. The film was due to begin filming in February 2008 but due to the writer’s strike, was pushed to September 2008. The film is currently “shelved” indefinitely. Vivek Sharma‘s Bhoothnath, in which he plays the title role as a ghost, was released on 9 May 2008. Sarkar Raj, the sequel of the 2005 film Sarkar, released in June 2008 and received a positive response at the box-office. Paa, which released at the end of 2009 was a highly anticipated project as it saw him playing his own son Abhishek’s Progeria-affected 13-year-old son, and it opened to favourable reviews, particularly towards Bachchan’s performance. It won him his third National Film Award for Best Actor and fifth Filmfare Best Actor Award. In 2010, he debuted in Malayalam film through Kandahar, directed by Major Ravi and co-starring Mohanlal. The film was based on the hijacking incident of the Indian Airlines Flight 814. Bachchan declined any remuneration for this film. In 2013 he made his Hollywood debut in The Great Gatsby making a special appearance opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
Amitabh in Great Gatsby
Amitabh in Bhootnath returns
In 2014, he played the role of the friendly ghost in the sequel Bhoothnath Returns. The next year, he played the role of a grumpy father suffering from chronic constipation in the critically acclaimed Piku which was also one of the biggest hits of 2015. A review in Daily News and Analysis (DNA) summarized Bachchan’s performance as “The heart and soul of Piku clearly belong to Amitabh Bachchan who is in his elements. His performance in Piku, without doubt, finds a place among the top 10 in his illustrious career.” The Guardian summed up, “Bachchan seizes upon his cranky character part, making Bashkor as garrulously funny in his theories on caste and marriage as his system is backed-up.” The performance won Bachchan his fourth National Film Award for Best Actor and his third Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. Bachchan will next appear in Ram Gopal Varma‘s Sarkar 3. He has also committed to starring in Thugs Of Hindostan with Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh.
In 2000, Bachchan hosted the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), the Indian adaptation of the British television game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The show was well received. A second season followed in 2005 but its run was cut short by STAR Plus when Bachchan fell ill in 2006. In 2009, Bachchan hosted the third season of the reality show Bigg Boss. In 2010, Bachchan hosted the fourth season of KBC. The fifth season started on 15 August 2011 and ended on 17 November 2011. The show became a massive hit with audiences and broke many TRP Records. CNN IBN awarded Indian of the Year- Entertainment to Team KBC and Bachchan. The Show also grabbed all the major Awards for its category. Bachchan continued to host KBC until 2014.The sixth season was also hosted by Bachchan, commencing on 7 September 2012, broadcast on Sony TV and received the highest number of viewers thus far. In 2014, he debuted in the fictional Sony Entertainment Television TV series titled Yudh playing the lead role of a businessman battling both his personal and professional life.
Bachchan is known for his deep, baritone voice. He has been a narrator, a playback singer, and presenter for numerous programmes. Renowned film director Satyajit Ray was so impressed with Bachchan’s voice that he decided to use Bachchan as the narrator in his 1977 filmShatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players). Bachchan lent his voice as a narrator to the 2001 movie Lagaan which was a super hit. In 2005, Bachchan lent his voice to the Oscar-winning French documentary March of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet.
He also done voice-over work for the following movies like, Balika Badhu (1975),Tere Mere Sapne (1996),Lagaan (2001),Parineeta (2005),Jodhaa Akbar (2008),Swami (2007), Zor Lagaa Ke…Haiya! (2009),Kahaani (2012), Krrish 3 (2013), Mahabharat (2013), Kochadaiiyaan (Hindi Version) (2014), The Ghazi Attack (2017)
Bachachan as a Social Reformer-philanthropist-humanitarianist
Bachchan has been involved with many social causes. For example, he donated ₹11 lakh (US$17,000) to clear the debts of nearly 40 beleaguered farmers in Andhra Pradesh and ₹30 lakh (US$47,000) to clear the debts of some 100 Vidarbha farmers. In 2010, he donated ₹11 lakh (US$17,000) to Resul Pookutty‘s foundation for a medical centre at Kochi, and he has given ₹2.5 lakh(US$3,900) to the family of Delhi policeman Subhash Chand Tomar who died after succumbing to injuries during a protest against gang-rape protest after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. He founded the Harivansh Rai Bachchan Memorial Trust, named after his father, in 2013. Bachchan was made a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the polio Eradication Campaign in India in 2002. In 2013, he and his family donated ₹25 lakh (US$39,000) to a charitable trust, Plan India, that works for the betterment of young girls in India. He also donated₹11 lakh (US$17,000) to the Maharashtra Police Welfare Fund in 2013. Bachchan was the face of the ‘Save Our Tigers’ campaign that promoted the importance of tiger conservation in India. He supported the campaign by PETA in India to free Sunder, a 14-year-old elephant who was chained and tortured in a temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. In 2014, it was announced that he had recorded his voice and lent his image to the Hindi and English language versions of the TeachAIDS software, an international HIV/AIDSprevention education tool developed at Stanford University.
All his life he clinged to his morals and humanity even if he had confronted with many complex ordeals and hurdles. This makes his life inspirational which really deserves a grand salute. May he live endless in everyone’s heart even if he demises.