For the film buffs, the world might be fragmented because of the three Khans, there might be constant tug of war between the fans of Mammootty and Mohanlal, the mega stardom of Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth might have segregated the society on the filmy line, but the one who makes India united and has acceptance among people of all generations, rank and file, the megastar with universal acceptability across the class and the mass is none other than Mr.Amitabh Bachchan, the true ambassador of Indian film fraternity.
When his contemporaries from the industry are at the autumn of their cinematic life, he is still as zestful as he was in the 70s. He is the enigmatic living legend, indomitable in mind and spirit. In this fragile, mortal world, he is the most agile immortal icon. He is the superstar of the millennium, the undisputed Shahenshah of Bollywood, the one and only angry young man of Indian cinema.
Larger-than-life on screen Vijay who has redefined victory, the coolie who has shouldered the emotions of the nation over a period of almost five decades, the Sarkar who rules every heart, the most lovable and admired Don who transcends all geographical boundaries, the Jai who became the ultimate embodiment of friendship and of course the Mard who felt the dard of the feminine mass and made “No means No” a new rule of life. He is the epitome of parampara, pratistha and anusashan. He is an institution in himself, an actor extraordinaire and the one with highest number of awards and accolades. The one man industry is the one and only Paa without whom the cine-maa is incomplete. He is the honest flag bearer of the Indian Cinema because “wo jahan pe khade ho jate hain, line wahin se suru hoti hai…
Being born in mid 80s and nurtured in the pristine ambience of a village where almost each family proudly possesses theatre artists of three generations, where the stage performers have earned sobriquets for a life time based on the characters they portrayed on stage, where along with daily evening kirtan, stories of reel life heroes and their fantasies used to take the center stage in majority of the discussions, its not an eighth wonder to mention my inclination for theatre and Indian cinema and its larger than life on screen heroes.
Though late, I came to know the greatness of Amitabh Bachchan from my elder brother in the January of 1993 when he mimicked the hero on stage in the annual cultural festival of my village and got a huge round of applause from the jam-packed audience. For quite a long period of time, the hero who implicitly helped the budding actor in my brother to set the stage on fire was Amita ( yes.. u read it right) Bachchan before I could rectify myself and get to know the real name “Amitabh”. Before I could learn to understand his cinematic excellence or acting prowess like any other cine goer, it was the cumulative positive feedback of the people around me about the superstar that germinated the Bachchan mania in me.
When I entered into my teens and the absence of a television set at home added woos to my helplessness and desperation of watching movies, I simply practiced to run away from home and be a part of the video shows organized by the young village movie buffs and started spending sleepless nights to watch movies under the night sky of my village or even in the nearby areas.
Khuda Gawah was the first movie I watched to unleash the marvels of the megastar on screen in one of those countless video shows. It was that period when Bachchan Saab was going through the rough patch of his career. He was more fallible and part of a string of flops and average cinemas in the late 90s. As I was yet to get a chance to explore the master pieces of Mr Bachchan, I happily managed to watch Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Lal Badshah without an iota of criticism.
For students like me who had an aspiration of reaching the pinnacle of success and left home with the baggage of expectation from not only the parents but also the well wishers, watching cinema in theatres without the consent of parents were somewhere regarded as a deterrent in the path of success. So even after being away from the family in a city like Berhampur which has its own share of importance in the history of cinema and cinematic idol worshipping, I have never dared to watch a movie without the knowledge of my family members in the local cinema halls.
It was during the summer vacation of 2001 that I got the privilege of watching a hindi movie on a 70mm screen for the first time in my life. I got the go ahead from my father without much persuasion as it was the movie of the legendary Amit Ji. The movie was Ek Rishta and it rightly set the platform to strengthen my rishta with the messiah on a long run.
The resurrection of the star happened when he approached the legendary film maker Yash Chopra and was offered the movie Mohabbatein. His ill fate made a turn around and his destiny was rewritten when he gave a nod to host the mega television quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati. What a coincidence! On my 16th birthday, he presented the first episode of KBC and changed the TV watching experience of people across the nation and ultimately redeemed his career. Mohabbatein became a runaway hit, the principal of the Gurukul, Mr.Narayan Shankar became a cult overnight, catapulted him back to stardom and marked the arrival of Bachchan 2.0
The rebooted and rejuvenated version of Big B had the maximum impact on me and compelled me to have an experience of his angry young man days. Thanks to the developing economy of my family which could afford a television set in the late 2004 and thanks to Zee Cinema for the series ‘Shanivar ke Raat Amitabh Ke Saath’ and special gratitude to the cable operator for letting me experience the aura of the superstar on small screen.
Bachchan 2.0 is filled with diversity, experimentation and of course cinematic excellence. The lost era and aura was back with the creative associations of new age directors Sanjay Leela Bhansali, R Balki, Sujoy Ghosh, Ram Gopal Verma, Karan Johar and many more. The matinee idol is back with a bang in his each outing on screen. Be it the character Debraj Sahai, the old teacher suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the movie Black or the arrogant yet romantic, 64 year young bachelor chef Budhdhadev Gupta in Cheeni Kum, the 12-year-old boy Auro who is suffering from progeria, a rare genetic disorder that accelerates the aging process or Bhashkor Banerji, the hypochondriac who has put all his emotions in his motion in the movie Piku, all added fillip to my bachchan mania and my motion picture watching experience.
The young man with unconventional looks, great height, intense eyes and trademark deep baritone voice who left his job in Calcutta and came to the city of Mumbai to chase his much cherished dream of acting encountered a series of professional heart breaks and was on the verge of giving it up before he got the much needed break as of one of the Hindustanis in Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’ Saat Hindustani in 1969 and won his first National Award for Best Newcomer. Though Anand was a movie of the then established superstar Rajesh Khanna, he was pretty much supported by the young reel life doctor Bhaskar portrayed by Amitabh, all thanks to the actor’s director Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Surprisingly the duo delivered maximum number of blockbusters together. After a series of setbacks, Amitabh rose to the occasion and changed the dimension of Indian cinema when he got his biggest break from Prakash Mehra in Zanjeer in the year 1973. There was no more looking back after that for the superstar. Indian Cinema is incomplete without the cult hits like Sholay and Deewar which hit the screens in 1975. These are the movies which established the angry young man persona of Mr Bachchan. The mojo of the megastar continued with diverse movies like Namak Haram, Abhimaan, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Kabhi Kabhie, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Don, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Kala Pathar, Silsila, Namak Halal, Coolie, Sharaabi, Shehanshah, Agneepath, Khuda Gawah and so on.
In October 1978, he delivered four back to back hits of different genre in four consecutive weeks with diverse directors. His association with Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai and Ramesh Sippy produced magic on screen. Directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Yash Chopra found the actor in him and were able to deliver all time classics of Indian cinema. On the sets of the film Coolie in July 1982, the star encountered a near fatal injury and went to coma in hospital. The nation was in standstill and prayed for the speedy recovery of the legend. We were never sure whether English was funny or not, but it became the funniest after the considerations made by the small town aspiring young man Arjun Singh in Namak Halal who could walk English, talk English and laugh English with so much ease and eloquence.
The life of Amitabh Bachchan is an inspiration to people across all generations. His humility has carved a niche of its own which helps him connect better to the people on and off the screen. He is a true professional who has never imposed his so called stardom on the directors and co actors. He has always valued others’ time and does reach the workplace in time which is a rare trait among the stars. Even at this age, he is on the path of continuous learning. He is the embodiment of adaptability, epitome of excellence and apostle of self realization and self motivation.
If cinema is the mirror of the society and reflects its myriad moods, then it’is his presence in the movie that makes the social message more effective. In the age of digital world and disruptive technologies where the power of technology overrules the traditional family values, ethics and morals, Big B is the one who every time ensures the essence of family upbringing and the influence of parents on the life of their offshoots by making a reference to his babuji, poet, late Harivansh Rai Bachchan. At this age, he is full of enthusiasm and energy and involved in various social responsibilities. He has the attitude of never say never and highly self-motivated. In a volatile world where every relationship is transient and life is full of inconsistencies, he is the constant companion of Jaya Ji. When the world of cinema is marred with controversies related to relationship, he is above all such criticism. He is the storehouse of patience, perseverance and positivity.
Though he has experienced seventy five Octobers, for him age is just a number and super fans like me are ready to listen from him thousand times “Budhdha Hoga Tera Baap”” in his signature voice. I may not emulate the fan who could win heart of the icon by walking backwards, that too barefoot, from Baroda to Mumbai to meet him in his bungalow and seek his blessings. I may not be that magnanimous to go up to the Shahenshah with truck load of samosa and ask him to touch it once before I could distribute it among others. Even I have never been to Mumbai, the city of dreams and opportunities and be a part of the league of fans who wait with bated breath to have a glimpse of the icon on every sunday in front of Jalsa, his residence. But there is hardly a single incidence when tears of joy and ecstasy didn’t come out seeing Mr Bachchan being revered on screen, on different podia, on different occasion.
On each outing on stage, I have my own style of paying gratitude to the star by singing my version of Bachchan aarti. My respect for those who have immense respect and gratitude for Bachchan Saab has increased manifold over the years. In due course of time, with each passing day, Aaj khush to bahut hoge tum has become my mantra of stress release in office. kabhi kabhie mere dil me khayal ata hai has become my anthem to uplift the depressed me and express the romantic side of my personality and hum jahan khade hote hain line wahin pe shuru hoti hai has become my jovial punchline.
If today I am asked to fill someone’s slam book, then without any doubt the space meant to mention the happiest moment in my life would depict the euphoria and excitement I have experienced after getting the response in Facebook from none other than the legend, the muqaddar ka shikandar, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in the intervening night of 5th and 6th of September 2016. On his Birthday, wish him pink of health and all happiness under the sun. Jeevet Sharadah Shatam. Let him entertain, energize and inspire the mass with his larger than life persona on and off the screen for 30 more Octobers at least. Let he be 102 not out.
(Prajna Prasad Sravan Kumar is an IT Professional and currently based at Kolkata)