Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan shows no signs of slowing down with Pink

Bachchan, at the ripe old age of 73, continues to be one of Bollywood’s busiest and most versatile character actors even today.
Amitabh Bachchan in Pink. Courtesy Rashmi Sharma Telefilms Limited
Amitabh Bachchan in Pink. Courtesy Rashmi Sharma Telefilms Limited

Amitabh Bachchan’s is arguably the longest success story in Bollywood, with almost 200 films spanning nearly 50 years.

While his peers have long faded into oblivion, surfacing only to receive lifetime achievement awards; Bachchan, at the ripe old age of 73, continues to be one of Bollywood’s busiest and most versatile character actors even today.

This year alone, he’s starred in three films, Pink, Teen and Wazir, and also made a scene stealing special appearance in Ki & Ka, and lent his voice for the Hindi version of Steven Spielberg’s The Big Friendly Giant.

This year’s output is not considered exceptionally busy; Bachchan is used to working at the breakneck speed.

In 1981 he released a staggering nine films.

Last year’s portrayal of a grouchy old man in the hit drama Piku won him his fifth National Film Award and 11th Filmfare Award.

More admiringly, unlike most lead actors in Bollywood, particularly the three Khans — Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman — Bachchan has the distinction of playing his own age without fear of loosing any of his younger fan base.

Where a hallmark of his work is choosing provocative roles, Bachchan’s 2016 film choices have had a distinct thematic resemblance.

In both Wazir and Teen, he plays an elderly man whose disillusionment with the legal system forces him to seek vigilante justice.

In Pink, which is released today in UAE cinemas, Bachchan portrays a reluctant lawyer forced out of self-imposed retirement in aid of a women pressing charges for sexual abuse.

In the run-up to Pink’s release, Bachchan has consistently attempted to shift the spotlight from himself to what he considers to be the film’s central theme: to shed light on the existing environment in India that allows such heinous crimes to occur.

It is a subject close to his heart. On September 5, Bachchan wrote an open letter to his granddaughters, Navya Naveli Nanda and Aaradhya Bachchan, advising them to be unafraid of people’s judgements or opinions, and to live life on their own terms without pandering to stereotypes or societal expectations.

The letter received mixed reactions; he was praised for his progressiveness while others derided the move

as a publicity stunt for Pink.

Bachchan defended the move, stating there were his views and working on Pink gave him the impetus to put them on paper.

Since his debut in Saat Hindustani in 1969, Bachcan’s career has seen some dramatic highs and depressing lows.

His portrayal of an anti-establishment rebel in the 70s, led by his volatile lead role Zanjeer in 1973, won him the sobriquet of ‘angry young man’, a phrase that became so indelibly intertwined with his persona that to date, no profile of Bachchan can be complete without its reference.

At that point, Zanjeer was a career turning point a move away from the string of lacklustre films released over the last four years.

It also triggered his golden period in the 1970s that were full of ground breaking roles. As well as more intense portrayals in 1975’s Deewar and Sholay — the latter is widely considered the highest-grossing Hindi film of all time — he showcased his versatility in romantic dramas Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Silsila (1981).

He was also lauded for his comic timing in 1975‘s Chupke Chupke and 1977’s Amar Akbar Anthony.

A near-fatal injuryhile filming an action sequence for the 1983 action comedy Coolie forced Bachchan into semi-retirement.

It also began a series of career dissapointments which included a three year run in politics (1984 — 1987) in addition to slew of unsuccessful film releases until the late nineties.

Then there was the near bankruptcy due to the failure of his ambitious entertainment company, ABCL.

The career resuscitation arrived with Yash Chopra’s 2000 runaway hit, Mohabbatein.

Inspired and eager to make up for his lost time in the limelight, Bachchan broke numerous stereotype associated with ageing actors, refusing to be typecast as the father and other elderly roles.

Since the turn of the century, Bachchan has experimented with bolder characters such as a detective possessed by an evil spirit in the 2001 supernatural thriller Aks and in the touching 2009 drama Paa where plays a 12 year old boy suffering from progeria — a rare genetic condition where the ageing progress is accelerated.

Ironically, it was only later in life that Hollywood took notice of Bachchan.

Unlike other veteran Bollywood actors such as Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah and more recently, Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, Bachchan has never actively pursued a Hollywood career.

He made his debut as recently as 2013, in a cameo appearance in Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Great Gatsby. The role prompted some sections of the Western press to dub him “the biggest star nobody has heard of”.

Not that Bachchan minds, however.

As he nears his 74th birthday (October 11), he remains at the peak of his powers and a national treasure in his homeland.

It’s still a pretty sweet gig.

Published: September 15, 2016 04:00 AM


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