The Great Wall of Bollywood Mr Amitabh Bachchan Deewar
I made costumes of Amitji in Bade Miya Chote Miya and Lal Badshah
Amitabh Bachchan ([əmɪtaːbʱ bəttʃən] ( listen), born Amitabh Harivansh Bachchan on 11 October 1942) is an Indian film actor. He first gained popularity in the early 1970s as the "angry young man" of Hindi cinema, and has since appeared in over 180 Indian films in a career spanning more than four decades. Bachchan is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors in the history of Indian cinema.
Bachchan has won numerous major awards in his career, including three National Film Awards as Best Actor, and fourteen Filmfare Awards. He is the most-nominated performer in any major acting category at Filmfare, with 37 nominations overall. In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer and television presenter. He also had a stint in politics in the 1980s. He has received both the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan civilian awards from the Indian government.
Bachchan was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was a Hindi poet, and his mother, Teji Bachchan, was a Sikh from Faisalabad (now in Pakistan). Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired from the famous phrase Inquilab Zindabad, during the Indian independence struggle. However, at the suggestion of fellow poet Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai changed the name to Amitabh which means, "the light that would never go off." Though his surname was Shrivastava, his father had adopted the pen-name Bachchan (meaning child-like in colloquial Hindi), under which he published all his works. It is with this last name that Amitabh debuted in films, and, for all public purposes, it has become the surname of all members of his family. Bachchan's father died in 2003, and his mother in 2007.
Amitabh is the elder of Harivansh Rai Bachchan's two sons, the second being Ajitabh. His mother had a keen interest in theatre and had been offered a role in a film, but preferred her domestic duties. She had some degree of influence in Bachchan's choice of career because she always insisted that he should take the centre stage.
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969 as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen's National Award winning film Bhuvan Shome. Thereafter he got his first acting role as one of the seven protagonists in Saat Hindustani, a film directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and featuring Utpal Dutt, Madhu and Jalal Agha. Though the film was not a financial success, Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Newcomer.
Anand (1971) followed, where he starred alongside Rajesh Khanna. Bachchan's role as a doctor with a cynical view of life garned him his first Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. He then played his first negative role as an infatuated lover-turned-murderer in Parwaana (1971). This was followed by several films including Reshma Aur Shera (1971). During this time, he made a guest appearance in the film Guddi which starred his future wife Jaya Bhaduri. He narrated part of the film Bawarchi. In 1972, he made an appearance in the road action comedy Bombay to Goa, directed by S. Ramanathan. Many of his films during this early period did not do well, but that was about to change.
Rise to stardom: 1973–1983
Director Prakash Mehra cast him in the leading role for the film Zanjeer (1973) as Inspector Vijay Khanna. The film was a sharp contrast to the romantically themed films that had generally preceded it and established Amitabh in a new persona—the "angry young man" of Bollywood cinema. He earned a Filmfare nomination for Best Actor. Filmfare considers this one of the iconic performances of Bollywood history. The year 1973 was also when he married Jaya, and around this time they appeared in several films together; not only in Zanjeer but in films such as Abhimaan which followed and was released only a month after their marriage. Later, Bachchan played the role of Vikram in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role won him his second Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.
Bachchan in Deewar.
In 1974, Bachchan made several guest appearances in films such as Kunwara Baap and Dost, before playing a supporting role in Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. The film, directed and written by Manoj Kumar, addressed themes of honesty in the face of oppression and financial and emotional hardship. Bachchan then played the leading role in film Majboor, released on 6 December 1974, which was a remake of the Hollywood film Zigzag. The film was only a moderate success at the box office. In 1975, he starred in a variety of film genres from the comedy Chupke Chupke, the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. 1975 was the year when he appeared in two films which are regarded as important in Hindi cinematic history. He starred in the Yash Chopra directed film Deewaar, opposite Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, and Neetu Singh, which earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975, ranking in at number 4. Indiatimes Movies ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. Released on 15 August 1975 was Sholay (meaning flames), which became the highest grossing film of all time in India, earning INR 2,36,45,00,000 equivalent to US$ 60 million, after adjusting for inflation. Bachchan played the role of Jaidev. In 1999, BBC India declared it the "Film of the Millennium" and like Deewar, has been cited by Indiatimes movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. In that same year, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare Awards awarded it with the special distinction award called Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
Bachchan starred in comedies such as Chupke Chupke (1975) and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and in films such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976). In 1976, he was once again cast by director Yash Chopra in his second film, Kabhi Kabhie, a romantic tale in which Bachchan starred as a young poet named Amit Malhotra who falls deeply in love with a beautiful young girl named Pooja played by actress Rakhee Gulzar. The film saw him again nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award. In 1977, he won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Amar Akbar Anthony where he played the third lead opposite Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as Anthony Gonsalves. In 1978 he starred in all four of the highest grossing films of India in that year. He once again resumed double roles in films such as Kasme Vaade as Amit and Shankar and Don playing the characters of Don, a leader of an underworld gang and his look alike Vijay. His performance won him his second Filmfare Best Actor Award. He also performed in Trishul and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar which both earned him further Filmfare Best Actor nominations. He was billed a "one-man industry" by the French director François Truffaut.
In 1979, for the first time, Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the film Mr. Natwarlal in which he starred alongside Rekha. His performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Best Male Playback Awards. In 1979, he also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar (1979) and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed film Dostana, in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. Dostana proved to be the top grossing film of 1980. In 1981, he starred in Yash Chopra's melodrama film Silsila, where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and rumoured lover Rekha. Other films of this period include Ram Balram (1980), Shaan (1980), Lawaaris (1981), and Shakti (1982) which pitted him against legendary actor Dilip Kumar.
1982 injury while filming Coolie
On 26 July 1982, while filming Coolie in the University Campus in Bangalore, Bachchan suffered a near fatal intestinal injury during the filming of a fight scene with co-actor Puneet Issar. Bachchan was performing his own stunts in the film and one scene required him to fall onto a table and then on the ground. However as he jumped towards the table, the corner of the table struck his abdomen, resulting in a splenic rupture from which he lost a significant amount of blood. He required an emergency splenectomy and remained critically ill in hospital for many months, at times close to death. The public response included prayers in temples and offers to sacrifice limbs to save him, while later, there were long queues of well-wishing fans outside the hospital where he was recuperating. Nevertheless, he spent many months recovering and resumed filming later that year after a long period of recuperation. The film was released in 1983, and partly due to the huge publicity of Bachchan's accident, the film was a box office success.
The director, Manmohan Desai, altered the ending of Coolie after Bachchan's accident. Bachchan's character was originally intended to have been killed off but after the change of script, the character lived in the end. It would have been inappropriate, said Desai, for the man who had just fended off death in real life to be killed on screen. Also, in the released film the footage of the fight scene is frozen at the critical moment, and a caption appears onscreen marking this as the instant of the actor's injury and the ensuing publicity of the accident.
Later, he was diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis. His illness made him feel weak both mentally and physically and he decided to quit films and venture into politics. At this time he became pessimistic, expressing concern with how a new film would be received and stated before every release, "Yeh film to flop hogi!" ("This film will flop").
In 1984, Bachchan took a break from acting and briefly entered politics in support of long-time family friend, Rajiv Gandhi. He contested Allahabad's seat of 8th Lok Sabha against H. N. Bahuguna, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and won by one of the highest victory margins in general election history (68.2% of the vote). His political career, however, was short-lived: he resigned after three years, calling politics a cesspool. The resignation followed the implication of Bachchan and his brother in the "Bofors scandal" by a newspaper, which he vowed to take to court. Bachchan was eventually found not guilty of involvement in the ordeal.
His old friend, Amar Singh, helped him during a financial crisis due to the failure of his company ABCL. Therefore Bachchan started to support Amar Singh's political party, the Samajwadi party. Jaya Bachchan joined the Samajwadi Party and became a Rajya Sabha member. Bachchan has continued to do favors for the Samajwadi party, including advertisements and political campaigns. These activities have recently gotten him into trouble again in the Indian courts for false claims after a previous incident of submission of legal papers by him, stating that he is a farmer.
A 15 year press ban against Bachchan was imposed during his peak acting years by Stardust and some of the other film magazines. In his own defense, Bachchan claimed to have banned the press from entering his sets until late 1989.
Slump and retirement: 1988–1992
In 1988, Bachchan returned to films, playing the title role in Shahenshah, which was a box office success due to the hype of Bachchan's comeback. After the success of his comeback film however, his star power began to wane as all of his subsequent films failed at the box office. The 1991 hit film, Hum, for which he won his third Filmfare Best Actor Award, looked like it might reverse this trend, but the momentum was short-lived as his string of box office failures continued. Notably, despite the lack of hits, it was during this period that Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Actor, for his performance as a Mafia don in the 1990 film Agneepath. These years would be the last he would be seen on screen for some time. After the release of Khuda Gawah in 1992, Bachchan went into semi-retirement for five years. In 1994, one of his delayed films Insaniyat was released but was also a box office failure.
Producer and acting comeback 1996–99
Bachchan turned producer during his temporary retirement period, setting up Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd. (A.B.C.L.) in 1996, with the vision of becoming a 10 billion rupees (approx 250 million $US) premier entertainment company by the year 2000. ABCL's strategy was to introduce products and services covering the entire section of the India's entertainment industry. Its operations were mainstream commercial film production and distribution, audio cassettes and video discs, production and marketing of television software, celebrity and event management. Soon after the company was launched in 1996, the first film was produced by the company. Tere Mere Sapne failed to do well at the box office but launched the careers of actors such as Arshad Warsi and South films star Simran. ABCL produced a few other films, none of which did well.
In 1997, Bachchan attempted to make his acting comeback with the film Mrityudata, produced by ABCL. Though Mrityudaata attempted to reprise Bachchan's earlier success as an action hero, the film was a failure both financially and critically. ABCL was the main sponsor of the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant, Bangalore but lost millions. The fiasco and the consequent legal battles surrounding ABCL and various entities after the event, coupled with the fact that ABCL was reported to have overpaid most of its top level managers, eventually led to its financial and operational collapse in 1997. The company went into administration and was later declared a failed company by Indian Industries board. The Bombay high court, in April 1999, restrained Bachchan from selling off his Bombay bungalow 'Prateeksha' and two flats till the pending loan recovery cases of Canara Bank were disposed of. Bachchan had, however, pleaded that he had mortgaged his bungalow to Sahara India Finance for raising funds for his company.
Bachchan attempted to revive his acting career and had average success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), and received positive reviews for Sooryavansham (1999) but other films such as Lal Baadshah (1999) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999) were box office failures.
Return to prominence: 2000–present
In 2000, Amitabh Bachchan appeared in Yash Chopra's box-office hit, Mohabbatein, directed by Aditya Chopra. He played a stern, older figure that rivalled the character of Shahrukh Khan. His role won him his third Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. Other hits followed, with Bachchan appearing as an older family patriarch in Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love (2001), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) and Baghban (2003). As an actor, he continued to perform in a range of characters, receiving critical praise for his performances in Aks (2001), Aankhen (2002), Khakee (2004) and Dev (2004). One project that did particularly well for Bachchan was Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black (2005). The film starred Bachchan as an aging teacher of a deaf-blind girl and followed their relationship. His performance was unanimously praised by critics and audiences and won him his second National Film Award for Best Actor and fourth Filmfare Best Actor Award. Taking advantage of this resurgence, Amitabh began endorsing a variety of products and services, appearing in many television and billboard advertisements. In 2005 and 2006, he starred with his son Abhishek in the hit films Bunty Aur Babli (2005), the Godfather tribute Sarkar (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). All of them were successful at the box office. His later releases in 2006 and early 2007 were Baabul (2006), Ekalavya and Nishabd (2007), which failed to do well at the box office but his performances in each of them were praised by critics.
In May 2007, two of his films Cheeni Kum and the multi-starrer Shootout at Lokhandwala were released. Shootout at Lokhandwala did very well at the box office and was declared a hit in India, while Cheeni Kum picked up after a slow start and only had average success. A remake of his biggest hit, Sholay (1975), entitled Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, released in August of that same year and proved to be a major commercial failure in addition to its poor critical reception. The year also marked Bachchan's first appearance in an English-language film, Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear. The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2007. He received positive reviews from critics who hailed his performance as his best ever since Black. Bachchan was slated to play a supporting role in his first international film, Shantaram, directed by Mira Nair and starring Hollywood actor Johnny Depp in the lead. The film was due to begin filming in February 2008 but due to the writer's strike, was pushed to September 2008. The film is currently "shelved" indefinitely. Vivek Sharma's Bhoothnath, in which he plays the title role as a ghost, was released on 9 May 2008. Sarkar Raj, the sequel of the 2005 film Sarkar, released in June 2008 and received a positive response at the box-office. Paa, which released at the end of 2009 was a highly anticipated project as it saw him playing his own son Abhishek's Progeria-affected 13-year-old son, and it opened to favourable reviews, particularly towards Bachchan's performance. It won him his third National Film Award for Best Actor and fifth Filmfare Best Actor Award. In 2010, he debuted in Malayalam film through Kandahar, directed by Major Ravi and co-starring Mohanlal. The film was based on the hijacking incident of the Indian Airlines Flight 814. Bachchan did not receive any remuneration for this film.
In the year 2000, Bachchan stepped up to host India's adaptation of the British television game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? entitled, Kaun Banega Crorepati. As it did in most other countries where it was adopted, the program found immediate success. He has hosted all but one of the seasons of the show. Canara Bank withdrew its law suit against Bachchan in November 2000. Bachchan hosted KBC till November 2005, when he fell ill. At that time he was admitted to Lilavati Hospital's ICU once more, to undergo surgery for diverticulitis of the small intestine. During the period and that following his recovery, most of his projects were put on hold, including KBC. He has hosted all but one season of the show. Its success set the stage for his return to film popularity. In 2009 Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire in the first question of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? contest "Amitabh Bachchan" was the correct answer to the question "Who was the star of Zanjeer? Feroz Abbas Khan performed as Amitabh Bachchan in a scene in the movie while Anil Kapoor performed as the host of the contest. Bachchan hosted the third season of the reality show Bigg Boss in 2009.
wall art by Ranjit Dahiya