Actor Who Personified An Industry
He started his career as a freight broker on the ports of Kolkata. But earning a livelihood was not just enough for him. Amitabh Harivansh Bachchan, who later went on to become the face of Indian cinema, was adjudged too tall and too unconventional looking to be cast by Indian filmmakers.
Amitabh was born on October 11, 1942, to Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a renowned Hindi poet and Teji Bachchan, a Sikh socialite. Brought up in the cultural city of Allahabad, he attended the Jnana Prabodhini school, followed by Nainital’s Sherwood College, majoring in the arts stream. He later came to study at Delhi University and earned a degree in science from Kirori Mal College.
After graduation, he moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata). After trying his luck on the port of the City of Joy, he moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) to try his luck in the glamour world. By this time, Indian cinema had matured into a thriving industry.
However, facing rejection at every door-step had become a routine for him. Amitabh even tried to use his unique baritone but was rejected by the All India Radio. The timeless voice of Indian radio, Ameen Sayani, himself turned him down. “It was 1969. A young man named Bachchan walked in without appointment for a voice audition. I did not have a second to spare for this tall, thin young man. He waited and left and came back a few more times,” Ameen went on to say on an occasion. The rejection was to prove momentous for the man who would come to personify the Indian film industry.
However, in 1969, Amitabh Bachchan made his debut in K. A. Abbas’s Saat Hindustani. The movie traced the journey of seven Indians who embark on a mission to liberate Portuguese-ruled Goa. Amitabh was one of the seven. The movie was a box-office disaster but won the actor a national award in the ‘Best Debutant’ category. Anand followed in 1971 where he starred alongside Rajesh Khanna.
It was 1973 when Amitabh was to emerge as a star. Prakash Mehra was casting for his film Zanjeer. The movie was a sharp contrast to the romantic typical Bombay industry churn-outs and Amitabh was chosen to play the protagonist cop. The movie became a blockbuster and gave Amitabh a new image – the “angry young man”, as he was the first action hero of the Indian cinema.
Since then, there has been no looking back for Amitabh. The next decade catapulted him to the apex of Bollywood super-stardom. Delivering at least one major hit every year including Deewaar (1975), Sholay (1975), Trishul (1978), Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978), Don (1978), Kasme Vaade (1978), Kaala Patthar (1979) and Lawaaris (1981), Amitabh’s image was cemented as the ultimate action hero.
Jaya Bachchan came to his life when he was rising to the status of stardom and Jaya was already an established actor. “First I saw her pictures, she looked small, cute and impish. Then, Hrishikesh approached me for Guddi (1971), and I came to know that Jaya was the actress. I first met her on the sets. We liked each other’s company, went out together and had a good group on the sets,” said Amitabh in an interview to a magazine.
It was during the making of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan (1973) that their love reached fruition. They tied the knot one month after the release of the film. Amitabh worked through the 80s and 90s, churning out innumerable hits. In 2000, Amitabh, then 57, appeared on his first television show with Kaun Banega Crorepati. The show was a huge success.
In 1999, a BBC poll voted Amitabh Bachchan as the millenium’s greatest star of stage or screen. He is a recipient of numerous awards, accolades and degrees from all around the world. He made his Hollywood debut in 2013 in The Great Gatsby where he played a small role. A self-made man, who has always risen up to the challenge, the original angry-man of India continues to thrive among people of all the age groups