Bollywood Baatein: The enduring magic of Amitabh Bachchan

It’s hard to believe Amitabh Bachchan has been a part of our lives for more than five decades. He reminds me of Clint Eastwood

Bollywood Baatein: The enduring magic of Amitabh Bachchan

Subhash K Jha

At 91,Clint Eastwood is about to release his new film Cry Macho as actor and director. In a career of 60 years, Mr Eastwood has acted in over 60 films and directed 35 films.

Cut to Bollywood. It’s hard to believe Amitabh Bachchan has been a part of our lives for more than five decades. And yet his unflagging enthusiasm to excel remains undiminished. Not that he doesn’t get tired. But only at home. If you meet him at his residence, he is supremely laidback, as if he were refuelling his energy. He saves up all of it for the camera. He is a true-blue conservationist of the motion picture hemisphere.

Now when he is on the threshold of 79, I have stopped asking him how he does it.

He hates the question and he gave me a fitting reply some years back which shut me up for good. When I asked him how he manages to continue being so enthusiastic about his work he replied, “With due respect may I just say that I am tired of answering this question! I am not here to conquer peaks or design ‘formula for success’. I am here to do a job. I need to work, I like to work and I am fortunate that there are some that consider me for work. In time nature shall diminish me and my body. But until it does so, I wish to continue! You got a problem with that?” He, he.

Mr. Bachchan has a knack of holding on to his old friends, and that includes me. We’ve known each other for 22 years. He has always given me the utmost affection. And why just me? Two years ago, a friend of my daughter visited him with her parents. After spending some gracious time with them Mr. Bachchan chuckled, “Please tell Subhash I was hospitable. Or he will get upset.”

He never forgets my birthday. He doesn’t forget any of his friends’ birthdays. If you are one of them you get his birthday wishes promptly at midnight. He invokes a tremendous sense of loyalty in his filmmaker friends. Balki, in whose Cheeni Kum and Shamitabh Mr. Bachchan played the lead, says he will never make a film which doesn’t have a place for Mr. Bachchan.

Anand Pandit, the producer of Chehre is a huge admirer of Mr. Bachchan. The sheer pleasure of watching him at work was a lifetime experience for the producer who echoes the sentiments of the entire industry when he says, “There never was, there never can be another Amitabh Bachchan. He is and he will remain unique formidable and unvanquished.”

Mrs Bachchan, Jaya (whom I am much closer to than the God of Bollywood) puts it even better, “A Hindi film heroine never felt she had ‘arrived’ until Lataji sang for them. I feel the filmmakers today feel the same way about my husband. Until they have worked with him, their career doesn’t feel complete.”

“She is absolutely right,” says writer-director Rumi Jaffrey who directs Mr. Bachchan for the first time in Chehre.

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