Free Press Journal

Amitabh Bachchan at 75: Why he is the original shahenshah of Bollywood


His talent, his craft, his magnetic persona – everything has been talked about, yet as Mr Amitabh Bachchan celebrates his 75th birthday we cannot help but applaud his presence on celluloid, writes Shubarna Mukerji Shu

A spontaneous reverence accompanies the name Amitabh Bachchan. You straighten up a little in his presence and you watch what you say. Right as you are skulking in the background, relishing the fact that you are breathing the same air as he, you realise you have had a lesson in public behaviour, by just observing him. The best part about it is that he doesn’t even make a show of the effect he is having on the people around him.

It has been over four decades that this man is entertaining us, we wonder if he gets nostalgic about the past, or does he revel in the fact that he is the only one of his contemporaries who is still getting top billing. Ask him, but don’t expect a direct answer because no matter what, Mr Bachchan will never share what he is feeling, “Missing the past would be something that I would and will discuss by the fireplace on a rocking chair with my grandchildren. No point doing it otherwise. Where will it get me? Though I must admit I do go into nostalgia when I work these days and mention earlier working conditions – sites, venues, with the younger generation – who look and hear me patiently, but I know what they are actually thinking is ‘when is this old man going to shut up’!” he grins.

The generation listens

There is certainly not a single person around who would ever think Amitabh Bachchan should shut up but that’s his legendary modesty. “When I heard Amitabh Bachchan would be a part of Sarkar franchise’s this sequel too, I didn’t think another minute. I was convinced I will be doing the role. Whether an actor has worked with him or not, he has touched everybody’s life, he is such a rare personality. Without even a single dialogue, he can convey emotions with his expressions. There is so much to learn from his diction, language… it’s remarkable. I had thought that when I meet him, I would tell him the list of his movies which I have watched and that I am his huge fan. But when I actually met him, I was tongue-tied. Yet, he made me feel so comfortable, and even so special. It there is one thing that I want to learn from him, it will be his ability to connect, not just to the person he is talking to but to the millions watching him across the screen,” says Yami Gautam who worked with him in Sarkar 3.

Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra recreated Jay-Veeru moment on the former’s chat show

Angad Bedi who shared the screen space with Mr Bachchan too claims the whole Pink experience was the highlight of his life. “It was a childhood dream coming true. I cannot believe sometimes that it actually happened, all I can hope is for it to happen again and again, there is so much to learn from him,” he says.

Actor Ronit Roy insists that there can be a text book written by simply observing the man, “For everyone knows that he is a legendary actor but not many realise that he is a much, much bigger a person. Working with him is a matter of pride, and I cannot thank God enough to have been given the chance!”

Larger than life

At 75, with four decades of a film career behind him, Mr Bachchan doesn’t agree with Roy’s assessment of his talent and he certainly doesn’t believe there should be a text book on his craft. “It would be a blank paged book. Having said that, there is the commitment of doing ones’ job, and for that I diligently follow what the director perceives, which, on most occasions takes care of 99.9% of the job. The 0.1% is an error of calculation! All these youngsters are being rather nice to me, I am humbled by their love but it is them who fill me up with great admiration.  They are all so talented prepared and confident of what they do. It gives me great joy and happiness when I encounter their work, and I am amazed at their capacity and capability, truly brilliant. I watch them with great interest; to learn to pick up their craft and to know what is missing from my efforts,” he exclaims.

It is Mr Bachchan’s agility in adapting the changing ways of the world that has kept him ahead of the game, changing the course of his career each and every time. His Sholay co-star, Dharmendra reminisces their days with a bittersweet smile, “Working with Amit has always been a pleasure. We have a nice rapport. We jam well; there is a lot of fun element between us. Even today, I love teasing him, maybe it is because of that our chemistry looks so real onscreen.  Of course, it would be great if we can somehow get together and work together again… I am certain the audience will relish it. On his birthday I just want to wish him the very best, as I always do.”

Sarkar 3

Inspiring personality

Taapsee Pannu who was Mr Bachchan’s co-star in ‘Pink’, too shares her wishes, “I cannot point out what exactly have I learnt from Mr Bachchan, but I know I have changed in some ways as an actor working with him. I might not rehearse still, like he does before each shot. But I know I have learnt certain techniques from him which will help me in the days to come. For someone who has been a teacher to all of us, and an inspiration – what more can I say, except Happy Birthday Rockstar! Continue to teach us with your presence.”

Saif Ali Khan who has worked with Mr Bachchan in around three films, too shares his wishes for the birthday boy and insists, that Mr Bachchan “keep the inspiration going.”

Fans across the world would be wishing him 100 years more of good health, happiness and of course, cinema – ‘Three hours of poetic justice’ as you like to call it.