Ritesh K Srivastava
There is hardly any doubt that Amitabh Bachchan still rules the roost. He is still the biggest, most talented and beloved film star of the country. The undisputed ‘Shehenshah’ of Bollywood is still a part of numerous prestigious projects and endorses a large number of products. The box office collections of his movies prove that he is unstoppable and going strong at an age when most superstars are history in the industry.
But it looks like the millennium superstar has lost the Midas touch, in terms of veneration. The Bachchan surname has been drawing more criticism than appreciation these days and the legendary actor has been at the receiving end for one reason or the other.
Despite all his accomplishments, the iconic actor and his family are being repeatedly targeted for his political affiliations and strained relationship with the first family of the Congress party.
There was a time when people used to take pride in having Big B by their side. If Amitabh Bachchan spoke about any issue it used to generate a lot of heat and had a visible impact on the audience or readers. This was the reason why Government of India took his services in promoting various schemes, initiatives aimed at peoples’ welfare.
It is not that Amitabh’s magic has faded with time. It works even today, but in a different way. Today, anything the actor does or says is perceived with a political mindset. If the actor attends a mega event or is seen rubbing shoulders with a political leader, an entire brigade of his detractors is at work to undermine his reputation.
Unfortunately, Amitabh appears to have become controversy’s favourite child, as he has repeatedly been facing the wrath of political parties, who shamelessly target him for cheap political gains.
It was not long back that he came within the firing range of MNS leader Raj Thackarey for defending his actress wife Jaya, who preferred to speak in Hindi at a function, organised in Maharashtra.
He was again targeted by the ‘Marathi sons-of-the-soil’ for giving preferential treatment to his home state Uttar Pradesh and ignoring Maharashtra - the state from where his journey as an actor began.
His Mumbai residence was ransacked, his film posters were removed and he was criticised in the strongest terms by those who claim to be safeguarding the interest of the Marathi manoos.
Despite ruling the celluloid for nearly four decades, Big B has had his share of ups and downs in life. The trouble began for Amitabh ever since he shifted his loyalties from Congress and broke ties with the Gandhi family. When his name figured in the Bofors scam along with his childhood friend and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, nobody from the Congress party came to his rescue. He then, probably, realised that politics was not his cup of tea and moved away from the Congress.
During the nineties, his films bombed at the box office one after the other. His critics started writing him off. The media also reported with full vigour that Amitabh’s illustrious career was over and the mega star had lost his magical appeal. It was probably around this time that Amitabh’s company ABCL incurred huge financial losses for organising a not-so-successful Miss World Beauty contest in India for the first time.
He was under huge debt. His company was on the verge of bankruptcy and the lenders initiated legal proceedings against him to reclaim their money. Amitabh fought all the legal hassles with sheer grit and determination and never declared ABCL insolvent. He also took a semi-retirement from films and made his comeback in the mainstream cinema after five years. However, his bad phase continued and his much-publicised film ‘Mrityudata’ failed miserably at the box office.
This forced Amitabh to reinvent himself and accept powerful roles that suited his age. He was probably the first actor who took pride in sporting a grey beard and even made it a style statement. The new Amitabh looked much cooler in grey and with his changed persona was immortalised as a wax figure at Madam Tussaud’s museum.
The new millennium brought good fortune for Amitabh, whose future was under a cloud of uncertainty. With the phenomenal success of Kaun Banega Crorepati and several super hits like ‘Baaghban’, ‘Mohabbatein’, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, ‘Bunty Aur Bubli’, ‘Black’ etc the actor climbed another level of success and popularity. He re-established himself, paid all his debts and became the highest individual taxpayer from Bollywood. Today he endorses several prestigious brands and is the recipient of various national and international honours.
It was around this time that after a long hiatus, he revived political links and came under the influence of his friend Amar Singh, thus vacillating towards the Samajwadi Party. This immediately made him an untouchable in the ruling party. He then took up several controversial assignments like endorsing a crime-riddled UP. He also blundered by getting embroiled in contentious land deals in the state, only to later wash hands off them by abdicating claims. People felt he was a little unscrupulous when he appeared in the company of riots tainted Narendra Modi to endorse Gujarat.
It’s a pity to see that an actor of Amitabh’s stature is being made a scapegoat for petty gains. He is still considered God by millions but for politicians he has become a tool to settle political vendetta. The recent controversy over his presence during the inauguration of the Bandra-Worli sea-link, the IOC’s rejection of Amitabh as brand ambassador of CWG games and attempts to target his son Abhishek during the Earth Hour function, are an open indication of increasing ‘frustration’ and ‘fascist’ attitude of the ruling party towards him.
Amitabh has faced all odds and adverse situations with firm conviction throughout his life. He has never lost composure and always stood like a rock. It’s true that during his difficult times, Amitabh committed some mistakes and took some decisions that went terribly wrong. But then it’s only human to err. However, it’s not right on the part of political parties to target someone, who is regarded as the millennium’s superstar and has brought several laurels to his country. The actor is one of the gems that India has produced. His contribution to Indian cinema must be valued and he should not be dragged into cheaper turf of politics.