Amitabh Bachchan signed his first film Saat Hindustani on February 15, 1969, fifty years later he certainly remains one of the most prolific actors in the Indian film Industry. Amitabh Bachchan 50 years in the films has given us 234 films second only to actor Ashok Kumar. Kumar acted in 326 films, it may still be a long way to go before Big B can catch up with the number of films done by the late Ashok Kumar in his lifetime but for him Picture Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Dost.
We will not dwell too much on Amitabh Bachchan’s early life and reams have been already written on it. Let’s begin with Karori Mal College in Delhi. It was Amitabh Bachchan’s mother who had a streak of the stage artist in her, who had a dream to see her elder son shine on the stage. It was here that Amitabh Bachchan as he was fondly known by friends found his stage bearing and horned his skills
But dramatics eluded him as a career and peer pressure pushed him to Calcutta as a junior executive in a British firm, Bird and Company. This tie and suit job were not to his liking and he abandoned the city one fine evening and landed in Bombay to seek his luck in films.
Amitabh Bachchan’s first friends were Mehmood and Tinu Anand who both shared a room with him when Bachchan landed in Mumbai. Amitabh’s family connections helped him get in touch with filmmaker KA Abbas and Sunil Dutt, whose wife Nargis was a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament. Bachchan approached both of them for work, this was the beginning to Amitabh Bachchan 50 years in the films.
Meanwhile, Big B’s flatmate Tinu Anand who was an FTII alumnus had already been selected to act in a film to be made by K A Abbas titled, Saat Hindustani. As luck would have it Tinu was called to Calcutta by Satyajit Ray to work as his assistant offer he just couldn’t refuse. In the new vacancy created, Tinu recommended Amitabh Bachchan to K A Abbas to fill inn for him. Abbas accepted the suggestion and cast Amitabh Bachchan in the film.
While the film was still to go on the floor, and Abbas visited Pune film institute to seek out more junior artists. Amitabh Bachchan was part of this search team. Moving into the campus the students who were sitting under the ‘wisdom tree’ saw a thin framed lanky man standing behind Abbas who was questioning some of the final year students.
In the crowd was a junior at film school Jaya Bhaduri who. She took an instant liking to the tall Bachchan. And while the others got busy talking work and films, Jaya moved in to introduce herself to Amitabh Bachchan. The short stay at the campus by Abbas and Amitabh Bachchan was enough for Jaya to declare her fascination for this tall boy.
Jaya herself had recently returned from Calcutta having featured as a child artist in Satyajit Ray’s yet to be released project, Mahanagar.
Abbas returned to Bombay to complete his film Saat Hindustani in 1969 which became Amitabh Bachchan’s first film. Fate preferred that Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya do not cross tracks yet. Back in Bombay Amitabh Bachchan auditioned with Hrishikesh Mukherjee for a role in film Guddi but was not given a role but became a narrator for it. The pair finally faced each other in film Bansi Birju in 1972, when Guddi had already discovered Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan was the surprise ‘discovery’ in film Reshma Aur Shera under Sunil Dutt’s production.
Having been a part of the Indian film industry for five decades is an achievement to itself, however for a person to stay on top of his game for so long requires a special talent that cannot be ignored. Reams have been written on this artist so I shall limit myself to some milestone in Amitabh Bachchan’ s career.
It was only after sixteen films that Amitabh Bachchan could be declared a ‘star’. This happened in film Zanjeer. Before this film, Amitabh Bachchan’s acting was well received in films Anand, and in Bombay to Goa. It is, however, the long association with the film industry that Amitabh Bachchan will be remembered for more than one achievement.
He has been a producer of films in various regional languages which include, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam besides Hindi. He has produced documentary films in English; he has been the narrator to more than two dozen films starting with Bhuvam Shome in 1971 and has been thus associated in other films like Shatranj Ke Khilari, Lagaan.
He has been a playback singer starting with Mr Natarwarlal, wherein his song ‘Aao Bachchon Tumhe sunau Ek kahani’ was also nominated as the Best film song in the Filmfare Awards. A song is now an evergreen number for children.
Amitabh Bachchan has been associated with a large number of epic films starting with Sholey, Amar Akbar Anthony, Agnipath, Black, Paa, Pink and Abhimaan,
Amitabh has made more than a dozen Special Appearances in films. There is a general belief in the film industry that his association with any film also brings good luck to the producer, so there is a big demand for Amit to be present in any project for giving ‘good luck’.
Amitabh is credited to have reformed the Indian film industry, by bringing in corporate, financial and artist discipline. Other artists made it a point to come ahead of Amit Ji when he was a part of the production. He insisted on a bound shooting script and a strong grip on film budgets.
It was when he agreed to be associated with the Miss World Beauty Contest and hold the event in Bangalore, that Amitabh faced his first worse crises. A right-wing protest saw this Contest not being held and Amitabh had to reimburse all the sponsors. This led to Amitabh declaring himself bankrupt. Film producers evaporated from his house for five years.
It was only when his then friends Subroto Roy and Samajwadi Party supremo Amar Singh that came to his aid and with their persuasion a hesitant Bachchan when from the 70mm screen to the 25 inch Tv to helm the TV serial Kaun Banega Karorepati. With it, Amitabh staged a comeback as the world had never seen.
Amitabh has been afflicted with some of the most dangerous illnesses. He received a punch in his stomach during a film shooting which damaged his intestines. He has had TB of the skeleton, is afflicted with Myasthenia Gravis,
While no one knows exactly how much Amitabh Bachchan is worth in the market, a guess could suggest that he is worth about rs.28,000 crore.
Amitabh has won the National Award for acting four times and acted in only one foreign language film, but it is his work outside the film industry, that has endeared himself in the masses. He has also bagged all the Padma awards. And waiting in the wings is the Bharat Ratna.
Former DG, ITPB and Bollywood Historian