India hasn’t produced another megastar like Bachchan. Blessed with a formidable screen presence and an all-too-familiar baritone, the 76-year-old actor continues to find quality work in both small and big projects with consummate ease.
Mumbai: The year was 1969. A young Amitabh Bachchan had lent his voice for auteur Mrinal Sen’s social drama, Bhuvan Shome. Bachchan, the then-unknown narrator, was reportedly paid Rs 300 for his assignment.
Five decades have gone by. Today, it can be safely said that India hasn’t produced another megastar like Bachchan. Blessed with a formidable screen presence and an all-too-familiar baritone, the 76-year-old actor continues to find quality work in both small and big projects with consummate ease.
Bachchan did not have a promising start to his career. He starred in several box-office turkeys before Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer (1973), the starting point of his association with Mehra and screenwriters Salim-Javed, gave him his first solo success.
The script of his career has had many subplots ever since. On a roll for quite some time, he was recently seen alongside Aamir Khan in the big-budget fantasy, Thugs of Hindostan. Thugs...failed, but he will soon appear in a couple of major projects.
There is Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla, a remake of the Spanish thriller Contratempo, which is releasing in March. His other upcoming film is Ayan Mukerji’s multi-starrer fantasy, Brahmastra, in which he is playing the titular character of Lord Brahma.
The Amitabh Bachchan we know today happened after the phenomenal success of the game show, Kaun Banega Crorepati, which started in 2000. The actor had experienced quite a few setbacks before that happened, among them a three-year-long political career that had taken him nowhere in the mid-1980s, a decline in popularity among the masses, and implication in the Bofors scandal.
The success of KBC made him everybody’s Bachchan once again. His appeal cut across generations, getting him younger fans who were probably not even born when he was lighting up the screen in the 1970s and 80s.
Even today, a sizeable chunk of new Bachchan fans are those who discovered him through the game show. Strange as it may sound to those who saw him at the start of his career, or even in the 1980s, the man also has many fans who view him as the relatable friendly host-actor they had first seen on the game show.
VOICE OF INDIA
Bachchan would have been a much-in-demand narrator even if he did not act in films. The fact that his Hindi diction is immaculate – another area where he scores over his peers and juniors – only adds to the charm of his splendid voice.
A narrator in many films, right from Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) to Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), the actor’s voice is now being heard in the Kangana Ranaut starrer, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.
Actors like Raza Murad and Suresh Oberoi own great voices, too. Can anybody match up to the popular appeal of Bachchan’s voice? The answer, quite simply is, nobody.
Bachchan has made many special blink-but-cannot-miss appearances in others’ films. He will be now seen in the South Indian film, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. Last year, he had made brief appearances in the Kajol starrer Helicopter Eela and the Akshay Kumar starrer Pad Man.
Directors and producers want him for such roles because they know that the masses will love a glimpse of the man. His presence is often hugely publicised, too. Remember The Great Gatsby?
SMALL BUDGET, BIG IMPACT
The Bachchan of today won’t be able to steer a big-budget film to box-office success. Those days are gone. What he can do is play an eccentric dad in Piku (2015), a lawyer in Pink (2016) or a centenarian dad with a zest for life in 102 Not Out (2018), which are small-budget box-office successes.
In big-budget films, he can be trusted to make an impact in character roles – while drawing many fans to the theatres even today.
THE ACTUAL THING
Bachchan rules in an industry that cannot offer competition to the man – and options for filmmakers. The ailing Rishi Kapoor is a fabulous actor, but even he cannot match up to Bachchan’s overall appeal.
There is no doubt that he is among the greatest of star-actors. His diehard fans might insist that he is the best ever. But the reason why he is indispensable isn’t his greatness as an actor alone.
If the legendary Francis Ford Coppola were to make a new film on an elderly mafia don in Hollywood, he might have to choose between Robert De Niro or Al Pacino. In Bollywood, few directors will consider any other actor if the character is similar and Bachchan is available.
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Last Updated 1:52 PM IST