Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
The phenomenon called Amitabh Bachchan
Twitter is abuzz with the spirit of festivity, and here’s why: It is Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday.
One of the few people who can be described as a superstar, the ‘Big B’ is one of the greatest actors India has seen, and (I dare say) one of the few who does not need an introduction almost anywhere in the world.
The man brims with charisma and the success of television show Kaun Banega Crorepati is testimony to that. Bachchan has hosted this show since 2000 with the exception of the third season, when actor Shah Rukh Khan sat on the coveted ‘hot seat’ but failed to evoke a similar response from the audience.
So can we ever explain the Bachchan phenomenon?
Tall, quiet and gaunt, Bachchan was not exactly the conventional hero material when he debuted in the Hindi film industry in 1969. It took him four years until ‘the angry young man’ was drawn out of him – and there has been no looking back.
Brief hiatus from the showbiz, dabbling in politics and an unsuccessful business venture, the actor always bounced back. And how! The only debate left is whether Amitabh Bachchan is the biggest star India has ever seen?
He sure is loved by many, and everyone who has met him, seen him, or had a glimpse of him carries a starry-eyed memory. Here’s one: My grandmother taught him at a school in Allahabad. Many years later, each time Bachchan appeared on TV, she would be reminded of the time she taught him how to tie his shoelaces.
My grandmother may not be a typical starry-eyed fan, but the fact that she remembered – with some pride – Bachchan from all those years ago, goes on to say something about the actor and the connect he makes with Indian audiences.
Whether it is his persona, his deep voice, his trademark ‘khaike paan benaras wala’ dancing style, or his ‘Rishte mein to hum tumhare baap lagte hain, naam hai Shehenshah’ dialogue delivery, Amitabh Bachchan will always have a lasting effect on audiences in India and beyond.