“Amitabh Bachchan ko kaun nahi jaanta saab?” said Dev Patel to Irrfan Khan in the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. Words like legend, icon, phenomenon, and megastar seem dwarfed in front of this towering personality turning seventy this year. Try conversing with anyone born in the 70s or 80s on Hindi cinema, and you just might end up listening to a Big B story – like this one from yors truly, a 1979-born self-confessed Bachchan fan:
As a child I was forbidden to watch Amitabh Bachchan films. Reason? It was a Mathematics lecture (Std. IV), the teacher was writing some obscure figures on the blackboard. I suddenly stood up and started mouthing a dialogue from the movie, ‘Kaalia’, which I had watched the previous night. Back then, I used to think of myself as Amitabh Bachchan in school, tying a knot on my shirt and strutting with a pencil in my mouth as a substitute for that trademark beedi, and ‘MARD’ written over my chest with red ballpoint pen which was again a substitute, this time for blood (Watch the movie, ‘Mard’ just to get the drift).
Needless to say, the teacher wasn’t amused. She yelled, ‘Get out of the class!’ and summoned my parents and wrote a remark in my school diary in ‘red ink’: MEET ME TOMORROW URGENTLY AND STOP SHOWING AMITABH BACHCHAN FILMS TO YOUR SON.
The chapter was closed after endless caveats and a permanent ban on watching Amitabh Bachchan films. The ban was lifted after I reached ‘Primary section’ i.e. 7th standard and I devoured every Big B movie I could lay my hands on, watching his films on VCR rented for an entire night during weekends. The audio cassette of dialogues from ‘Sholay’ was my most prized possession (An obsession, actually) and just like many claim, I know each and every dialogue (Including the background score) of Sholay.
The ‘Angry Young Man’ proclaiming, ‘Mere paas bungla hai gaadi hai’ and ‘Mein aaj bhi fenke hue paise nahin uthaata’ had always ruled the roost, until I discovered the other side of Amitabh Bachchan in masterpieces by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee like ‘Anand’, ‘Chupke Chupke’, ‘Manzil’, ‘Bemisaal’, ‘Namak Haraam’, ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Mili’, ‘Alaap’, and Yash Chopra classics like ‘Silsila’, ‘Kala Pathhar’ and ‘Kabhie Kabhie.
I have always wondered at his ability to play a ‘Don’ with as much ease as a jaggery vendor in Tarachand Barjatya’s ‘Saudagar’, mouth a casual ‘Aisa to aadmi doich baar bhaagta hai Olympic ka race ho ya police ka case ho’ with as much charisma as the immortal closing line, ‘Anand mara nahin, Anand marte nahin’. The deep baritone of his voice could sing a lullaby with ‘Mere paas aao mere doston’, woo a woman’s heart with heartrending poetry in the song ‘Yeh kahan aa gaye hum’ or babble lines like, ‘The coefficient of the linear is juxtaposition by the hemoglobin of the atmospheric pressure in the country’ or chant the infectious ‘Kachha papad, pakka papad’ with an enviable ease.
Right from ‘Saat Hindustani’ to ‘Panchkoti Mahamani Kaun Banega Crorepati’, the rebellious son in ‘Shakti’ to the endearing son in ‘Paa’, the lovelorn father crooning ‘Rozaana’ in ‘Nishabd’, to the loving husband singing ‘Mein yahan tu wahan’ in ‘Baghbaan’, Amitabh Bachchan has come a long way, creating many a waves, weathering many a storms, and inspiring many a fans like me. The biggest lesson one can learn from him is his attribute of being humble to everyone and his philosophy of life that he inherited from his father, Shri. Harivanshrai Bachchan, who quoted, ‘Mann ka ho to acha, na ho to aur acha’.
As a tribute to this phenomenon, I wrote a short story called, ‘Big B & me’ in my first published book, ‘Baker’s Dozen – a brew of short stories’. Set between 70s and 80s, the story, ‘Big B & me’ revolves around a journalist’s friendship with a tea vendor whose life has a strange resemblance with Amitabh Bachchan – right from his date and time of birth, date of commencing his business (release of ‘Saat Hindustani’in 1969), to getting married (3rd June 1973) – an astrological lookalike, as the journalist’s editor puts it.
The tea vendor meets a fatal accident on the exact date of the Coolie accident in 1982, and the journalist requests his editor to publish an article on the tea vendor leading parallel life of a superstar. Does he succeed? Does the tea vendor survive the accident? – are some questions that the short story, ‘Big B & me’ tackles.
During an office trip to Allahabad, I had the opportunity to visit Amitabh Bachchan’s place at Clive Road on his 67th birthday. I am yet to visit ‘Prateeksha’ bungalow, which I virtually visit every Sunday on Big B’s blog (Needless to say, I’ve read all his blog posts since he began writing them). The actor inspires me with his humble and dynamic personality and will continue to do so. Having achieved so much in life, Big B, who’s turning 70 today, leaves me wondering – what next? Well, when it comes to Amitabh Bachchan, I can go on and on. So I’d better stop here now and wish him a Happy B’day. Enough of ‘Bol Bachchan’!
BTW, this article was published in Filmfare Magazine (2012) and won first prize: