Give it up for Amitabh Bachchan!
Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Murabba’, that was one of the four short films featured in ‘Bombay Talkies’, shows Vijay, played by Vineet Kumar, traveling to Mumbai to fulfill the wishes of his ailing father. His father’s only wish is to share the last murabba(sweetened pickle) with none other than Amitabh Bachchan.
What follows is a series of some funny, some rather poignant array of events showing Vijay attempting to meet Amitabh outside his home in Mumbai. The phenomenon that is Amitabh Bachchan, for whom people are ready to sit on footpaths for days and weeks not even going to change clothes lest they miss a glimpse of the superstar.
It wasn’t just a movie by a nouveau Indian director on a fictional fan. What he showed on screen was one of the thousand Vijays, who has been named so, because Bachchan portrayed Vijay in most of his hits. It’s a story of a man who like his superstar, made it despite all odds.
As every one knows Amitabh was touted unfit for the cinema screen because he was too tall. One, who was rejected by the All India Radio for his deep baritone voice, which all Bollywood buffs swear by.
He was the intense tall dark handsome man in a plethora of romantic, villain bashing, sometimes melodramatic heroes that Bollywood featured back in the 70s.
He failed when he first stepped in the industry, rose like a rising tide on a full moon night. Failed again, and then again clawed his way back to the top. He is a man who refused to be ignored.
From a simple village trader in ‘Saudagar’, to a cop in ‘Zanjeer’; from a rather serious doctor in ‘Anand’, to a child suffering from progeria in ‘Paa’. He has played everything. That was just on screen. Bachchan has worked in the industry as an actor, producer, playback singer, as a television presenter, and a movie narrator – as French director François Truffaut put it - Amitabh is a "one-man industry".
He shot to stardom with ‘Zanjeer’, but that was not his only steeping stone. He was not a product of one director or one movie. He held on to every little opportunity that was given to him. His first movie ‘Saat Hindustani’ didn’t fare well at the Box Office, but the man was noticed nevertheless. Bachchan bagged his first National Award for being a promising newcomer for the role.
He did commercial cinema and he did movies where he wasn’t the only star. ‘Sholay’ and ‘Chupke Chupke’ had Dharmender as the lead, while ‘Anand’ and ‘Namak Haram’ had Rajesh Khanna, and ‘Deewar’ had Shashi Kapoor. Amitabh however did not vanish behind these biggies, he shone. Audiences had tears in their eyes when Jai sacrificed himself for his best friend. They even cried when the anti-hero Vijay died in his mother’s arms in ‘Deewar’. Many movies makers take credit for his rise to fame. Every one of them claiming how their particular film made him the ‘Angry Young Man’ that he became famous as.
His second coming was possibly a bigger struggle than his debut. The industry had become more demanding. The press was not favourable to Big B. He was undergoing a financial crisis with ABCL. All his attempts at a comeback were falling through. ‘Mrityudaata’, ‘Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan’, `Laal Badhshah’, ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’, `Kohram`, all of them failed to set the cash registers ring. Everything was pitted against him.
And then came ‘Mohabbatein’ at the turn of the millennium. Aditya Chopra envisioned Amitabh in a suave, stern, traditional college principal, contending against the romantic, Shah Rukh Khan. The film worked and the image of Amitabh in a patriarchal figure struck gold. Amitabh, however, went on experimenting. ‘Aks’, ‘Cheeni Kum’, ‘Black’, ‘The Last Lear’, ‘Bhoothnath’, ‘Sarkar’, ‘Paa’, each of them saw him donning different garbs and each of the roles were appreciated by critics irrespective of the Box Office records. And he continues to do so.
His success, his failures, his films, his voice, his sophistication, his versatility, none of it can explain what Big B truly represents in the minds of his fans, his worshippers. For us he is Amitabh - literally meaning the light that will never die. His radiance sparkles even if he does not play the leading role anymore, the man can still draw people to his cinema. He still has to only speak a few words for them to become memorable. Amitabh Bachchan - the star who has become god, fighting the all the mortal pains of failure.
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