At the Doorstep of 80, the larger than life Big B

Amitabh Bachchan is news everywhere. He is one of the tallest stars that Bollywood has produced and his repertoire of movies is so large, it encompasses several genres


By Screen Shot

Amitabh Bachchan turned 79 on October 11. Normally, that would not be news. But this is Bachchan, the Big B of Indian cinema, the biggest star of our era. Every birthday is important especially when Big B is at the doorstep of the 80s. Actually, he had tweeted that was moving into the 80s, when his daughter Shweta corrected it and said that it will be 79, actually. So be it. it is time to look back into the life and career of a great individual and a great actor of Bollywood, some say legendary.
The main issue within this is that the superstar is not just a superstar. His life story itself can be a super-hit movie. Sure he was born into a great family, with his father being the famous Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and his mother, the renowned social activist Teji Bachchan (a Sikh). But his beginnings were with trying times. As he moved to Bollywood to act in films, despite hjis tall stature, he could not get an entry into stardom, just because he was not of fair skin. India in general is astoundingly obtuse and crude, but this, in hindsight, was the pits.
Finally he managed to get the role of a voice narrator, in renowned director Mrinal Sen’s famous film Bhuvan Shome. That was because of his gift of a fabulous baritone voice. Later he got a role in Sat Hindustani (November 7, 1969). Frankly, the movie would have wiped off people’s minds had it not been remembered for being Bachchan’s first movie.
Bachchan is working, still, almost at a feverish pace. He has a number of films in the pipeline. They include Brahmastra with Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor, Mayday with Ajay Devgn and Rakul Preet Singh and Nagraj Munjule’s sports drama Jhund.
The greetings
What happened on his 79th birthday? His son, the out of work Abhishek Bachchan, shared a heart-warming video featuring some of Bachchan Senior’s pictures. “My hero, my idol, my friend, my father! Happy birthday Dad. Love you @SrBachchan,” Abhishek wrote.
Baahubali fame actor Prabhas added in his Instagram post a birthday wish for Big B. He called him “the legends of all times.”
Actor Chiranjeevi posted an old picture of himself along with Big B from the sets of SyRia, saying: “Wishing My Beloved Big Brother, My forever Guru, the One and Only Amit Ji @SrBachchan a very Happy Birthday. Many Many Happy Returns!! Health, Happiness and More Power to You Amit ji!!”
Ajay Devgn (try and pronounce the surname correctly, if you can) said: “Sir, looking at you through a different lens taught me what being a true artist is. Happy Birthday dear Amitji. @SrBachchan.” Devgn will soon be directing Bachchan in Mayday.
On his part Amitabh said in an Insta blog post: “The intensity of the greetings is abundant and wide and filled with the warmth of affection. This is held together by the fond remembrances that we share over the years… its bond is unbreakable, resolute and firm. For this my (heart).”
His early life
Amitabh Bachchan, or Amitabh Srivastava, was born on October 11, 1942 in Allahabad (now Prayagraj). Amitabh was initially named Inquillab, inspired by the phrase inquilab zindabad, as used during the Indian freedom movement. He got his education at Sherwood College, Nainital, and Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi.
He then worked in the corporate world for a while in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and then, in 1969 started his voice narration work in Bombay (now Mumbai). Sat Hindustani, of course, was a big flop, but his fame came in the next decade itself, through Zanjeer, Deewaar and Sholay. Quickly, he was dubbed the angry young man of Bollywood and also as the Shahenshah of Bollywood (in reference to his 1988 film Shahenshah). Sholay, of course, remains one of the greats Indian movies ever.
Along with the then superstar Rajesh Khanna, Bachchan brushed with super starfame in the superhit Anand (1971). He got his first Filmfare Award for his supporting role in this film.
All that did not come easy, though. Through his journey into stardom, (1973–1974), he had to face struggles and was being dubbed as a “failed newcomer.” By the age 30, he had had 21 flops to his credit, staying afloat by the strength of only two hits (lead actor in Bombay to Goa and supporting role in Anand).
In 1973, he was offered a new role, actually a dual role, by director O.P Goyle, and writer O.P Ralhan. The movie was Bandhe Hath. That became the first movie where he played a double role. Apart from that, this year was particularly important for Bachchan, because that was the year he married Jaya (nee Bhaduri), who was an already established actor, having started her acting career at an early age.
The couple starred in several films together, especially the hit Abhimaan, released only a month after their marriage. There was also another hit film, Zanjeer, which was before Abhimaan.
Bachchan has acted in over 200 films, in his five-decade plus career. During the time, he has raked in loads of awards, including four National Film Awards as Best Actor, Dadasaheb Phalke Award as lifetime achievement award and many awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies.
Apart from films, he has virtually singlehandedly made Kaun Banega Crorepati a super hit show, almost as famous as the internationally famous Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? KBC was built on the lines of Millionaire.
There is another side of Bachchan in which people saw him dabbling in politics for  while. That was in the 1980s, when he became the MP of Allahabad on a Congress ticket. Politics did not agree with him, though, even if Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was his friend. Three years into his tenure, he resigned.
His big honours also came from the government, which bestowed on him the Padma Shri in 1984, the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015 for his contributions to the arts. The Government of France honoured him with its highest civilian honour, the Knight of the Legion of honour, in 2007 for his exceptional career in the world of cinema and beyond.
Bachchan also had a fling with Hollywood when he played a non-Indian Jewish character, Meyer Wolfsheim in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby in 2013.
The shooting star
Bachchan’s repertoire is huge, most of it built in the 1970s as well as the 1980s. The range was from comedy, such as Chupke Chupke to his angry young man image ones. Deewar is considered an important film, not only in his own career, but also in the history of Bollywood. Written by Salim-Javed, directed by Yash Chopra. Here is co-stars were Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Parveen Babi and Neetu Singh. That got him another Filmfare nomination for Best Actor. It was a super hit film. That was in 1975.
Then, on August 15, 1975, was released possibly the biggest film ever in Bollywood, Sholay. It was the highest-grossing film ever in India at the time. This was also written by Salim-Javed. Bachchan played the role of Jaidev.
These are the two films that actually took Bachchan to super stardom. He consolidated his position two years later with Zanjeer and there was no stopping this tall man.
In 1999 BBC India declared Sholay the ‘Film of the Millennium’ and, like Deewar, it has been cited by Indiatimes Movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.
Even the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare Awards awarded the film with the special distinction award called the Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
The injury
Possibly the first real low time in Bachchan’s life came in 1982. He was filming a fight scene with co-actor Puneet Issar for Coolie. He suffered a massive intestinal injury while performing his own stunt, with the scene requiring Bachchan to first fall on a table then to the ground. As he jumped towards the table, he slightly lost direction and a his abdomen hit the corner of the table.
The result was a splenic rupture and he bled a lot. He required an emergency splenectomy and remained critically ill in hospital for many months, at times close to death.
The news of his injury took fans to the hospital in droves and there were prayers in temples and offers to sacrifice limbs to save him. Bachchan recovered well.
Other, type roles came his way in the 2000s. He starred in Yash Chopra’s box-office hit Mohabbatein, with Shahrukh Khan and got his third Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. Then followed his appearances in other movies where played an older family patriarch (Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love, 2001), before Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and Baghban (2003).
He widened his range through Aks (2001), Aankhen (2002), Kaante (2002), Khakee (2004) and Dev (2004). His performance in Aks won him his first Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. In 2016 he won praise for his role in Pink.
Finally, as he readies for his 80th super star year, Bachchan also wrote a book in 2002: Soul Curry for You and Me An Empowering Philosophy That Can Enrich Your Life.