Amitabh Bachchan has been an ubiquitous presence in the lives of several generations and his earliest fans are grandparents today, as is he. He reminds them of their youth even though he has physically aged. But a constant reinvention of persona has meant that he is familiar to their grandkids too.
Bachchan began as an actor in small side roles, but even then stood out for his brooding presence. Whether as a villain in Parvana, the intense doctor in Anand or as the hero in the lighthearted road film Bombay to Goa, Bachchan drew the viewer’s eye with his tremendous screen presence and sonorous voice. Then came Zanjeer, where, with his simmering anger he burst on the screen as the ‘angry young man’, followed by a series of films in the same mould, such as Deewar, Trishul and Sholay.
He could make us laugh as well, as seen in Amar Akbar Anthony, which established him as the number one star in the Hindi film industry, or, as a peer of his once said, the number one to ten star.
There has been no looking back since.
Besides acting, singing and dancing, Bachchan is brand ambassador for a wide range of products, services and public service causes.
The tremendously successful star has also had some low points in his life and career – his short foray into politics, his illness after an injury during a shoot, his business venture that collapsed and a fallow period after the 1980s. And just last year, his name cropped up in the Panama Papers.
But Bachchan has sailed on, picking himself up in the new millennium, first with Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2000, and then with films such as Mohabbatein and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The dignity, class and trust he brings with him, makes him every marketer’s dream.
His detractors say he never speaks out on any issue – he never takes sides and has no public comment to make even on issues that concern his peers in the industry. He plays too safe, they say, and has become the quintessential ‘establishment man’. Bachchan has never said anything to this criticism either.
Bachchan turns 75 today and very few actors are as active as he is at his age. In fact, he currently has several films under production. With roles in over 200 films in a career spanning five decades, the suave actor is regarded as one of the most influential figure in Hindi cinema.
Here’s a selection of some of his best work:
Saat Hindustani (1969)
Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)