Amitabh Bachchan: What a journey it has been

Today fifty-four years after he made his acting debut in K.A. Abbas’ Saat Hindustani, Bachchan is regarded as the single-most influential star-actor of the Indian cinema

Amitabh  (photo: National Herald archives)
Amitabh (photo: National Herald archives)

Subhash K Jha

When he left his job in a private company in Kolkata to go to Mumbai to become a film actor, Amitabh Bachchan took his driver’s licence along in case he needed to forget his celluloid dreams and come down to earth to make a living driving a taxi.

Today fifty-four years after he made his acting debut in K.A. Abbas’ Saat Hindustani, Bachchan is regarded as the single-most influential star-actor of the Indian cinema.

If his 'angry young man' persona revolutionised the image of the Hindi film hero in the 1970s and 80s, his miraculous makeover in the new millennium as the host of India’s most avidly watched television game show Kaun Banega Crorepati and as the seasoned trouper in Yash Chopra’s Mohabbatein and Rakesh Mehra’s Aks, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, Shoojit Sircar's Piku and Aniruddha Bhattacharya’s Pink  has left all cynics and disbelievers agape.

Looking back on his career we see the Allahabad-born Bachchan’s sustained and unparalleled superstardom as a triumph of gentlemanly intelligence over the habitual games of one upmanship that are played in the film industry.

Being the son of the distinguished poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, how did the superstar adjust to the crude and often deleterious atmosphere of showbiz?

Here’s what he had to say in a past interview to this writer: “Once I decided to be part of the acting profession and accepted that one has to occasionally behave in an outlandish fashion for the camera, I tried to overcome my inhibitions. I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about it when I entered the profession. I went back to my father in Delhi and told him about my reservations. He said, ‘Well, you must follow Balraj Sahni’s pattern of working. He was in the film industry and yet outside it’. Balrajji and my father were very good friends. I realized there was no point in getting disturbed by the dichotomies that existed not only in the acting profession but in all walks of life.”

Having spent most of his adult life in the film industry, Bachchan had only words of  appreciation for  the industry. “I’m proud to say most of my friends are from the film industry and I enjoy their company. The film industry is a wonderful place. It has given me no reason to feel negatively about it. Everything depends on the way you conduct yourself and what you want your relationship with your profession to be. You can go berserk or stay calm and sober. It’s your choice entirely."

About the wonderful career choices, Bachchan had said, “You are always on your own. Sometimes you get good opportunities, not just in films but in other walks of life as well. You could be the son  of a successful businessman taking up the business empire. That’s a hereditary advantage which I never had .”

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Published: 11 Oct 2023, 11:21 AM