Amitabh Bachchan at 66, hotter than the latest heartthrobs

Mumbai, Oct 11: He was 15 when he came to Mumbai and like many others fell by the wayside of Bollywood`s dream factory. It`s been many years since but stardust still clouds Avinash Kumar`s vision, his Bollywood ideal still intact and cynicism kept at bay thanks mainly to his "god" Amitabh Bachchan who turns 66 Saturday. From wannabe star to a small time businessman who runs an Amitabh Bachchan fan club, Avinash says his idol`s movies are his biggest source of inspiration.

"Amitabh is like god to us who shows us our path. It is through his films that we get our energy to do our work and live our life which is full of struggle," Avinash told reporters.

His struggles and family pressures made him take up a regular job and kept him from making it in big in Bollywood. "But that did not deter me from watching Amitabh`s films or my love and admiration for him."

In 1997, he got together with other Amitabh fans to start a fan club that has seen membership go from five to 150 over the years.

"We either have the DVDs or CDs of every film of Bachchan right from his first movie. A member can come and watch them whenever he wants. Besides, once a week, we meet and enact various scenes from his films. All the members of the club are good actors. The best performer is awarded a prize.

"Only Amitabh`s films and his dialogues, no other actor`s films or dialogues are allowed," he added emphatically.

Of course, Oct 11 is a big day. "Most of our club members assemble and we cut a cake and distribute chocolates, sweets and ice creams.

"One thing that everybody here has in their mind is `Main Amitabh Bachchan banna chahta hoon`. But none of our members are professional actors."

As the legendary actor celebrates another birthday after being in the industry for more than four decades -- despite new stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar rising on the firmament -- the kudos came from others too. Not just fans but industry insiders as well.

Veteran director Prakash Mehra, who is said to be miffed with Amitabh for not acknowledging his contribution, once said in an interview: "Be it Shah Rukh, Salman or Aamir or anybody else who will reach the top, that person will not reach the heights that Amitabh reached. Amitabh is untouchable."

Mehra is credited with some of Amitabh`s greatest hits -- "Zanjeer", "Hera Pheri", "Khoon Pasina", "Muqaddar Ka Sikandar", "Laawaris", "Namak Halaal" and "Sharabi".

Another veteran, Yash Chopra, who has given Amitabh films like "Deewaar", "Kabhi Kabhie" and "Trishul", said Amitabh is the best.

"Though I have worked with various good and marvellous actors, but Amitabh has been my favourite. He is one the best actors that the industry has produced till date."

The new breed of directors echoes the sentiment.

R Balakrishna, who made the critically acclaimed "Cheeni Kum", said: "I conceptualised the movie keeping Amitabh in mind. If he hadn`t agreed, `Cheeni Kum` would not have been possible."

Ram Gopal Varma, director who presented Amitabh in different avatars in his films "Sarkar", "Nishabd", "Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag", says he is a director`s delight.

"He is the actor who can adapt to any character very easily. He is the director`s delight. All the films that I have done with Bachchan were scripted keeping him in mind. No other actor would have suited in the roles that he played in my films. He is truly indispensable," Varma told reporters.