AmitabhBachchan@80: Still a delight, keeps getting better, say directors

This year, Amitabh Bachchan has already had three theatrical releases — Nagraj Manjule-directed “Jhund”, Ajay Devgn’s “Runway 34” and “Brahmastra”.

Amitabh Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan awards, Amitabh Bachchan film awards, Amitabh Bachchan films
Amitabh Bachchan

He’s 80 and going stronger than ever, spooling in celluloid ‘miles’ with the roles rolling in and directors still lining up to sign him on. Amitabh Bachchan, they say, was and is still an exciting actor, perhaps the best there ever has been.

From Ramesh Sippy who directed him in the 1975 cult film “Sholay” to Ayan Mukerji who helmed his latest “Brahmastra” 47 years later, Bachchan is the man for all seasons and all kinds of films.

“What a wonderful innings it has been and he just keeps getting better. He has played so many varied roles in comedy, drama, romance, dancing and songs. He can do anything and everything perfectly. Has there been anybody bigger or better? I doubt it,” Sippy told PTI as the star celebrates his 80th birthday on Tuesday. It’s been just five days since his latest release “Goodbye”.

“For me, to have Mr. Bachchan walk in my film is a big deal. He is the father of Indian cinema. He is the most respected person in the film industry,” Mukerji added.

Making his debut with the relatively low profile “Saat Hindustani” in 1969, remembered all these years primarily for serving as his launchpad, Bachchan exploded on the silver screen with “Zanjeer” in 1973.

There was no looking back after that, and storytellers across five decades are still trying to decode the success of the man who keeps on reinventing himself – the ‘angry young man’ of “Zanjeer”, “Don” and “Deewaar”, the amiable, fun professor of “Chupke Chupke” and the conflicted singing star of “Abhimaan” in the 1970s.

Then came the 1980s with films such as “Shakti” and “Silsila”. The 1990s saw a slump in Bachchan’s career and many of films, including “Mrityudata” and “Lal Baadshah”, tanked at the box office.

Bachchan was back in the reckoning the following decade as a television host in “Kaun Banega Crorepati” in 2000. Twenty-two years later, the show is still running. This is also the time Bachchan transitioned into age appropriate characters in films. It started with “Mohabbatein” and continues with varied roles, be it “Pink”, “Cheeni Kum” or “Jhund”.

Sippy recalled the casting for “Sholay”, which saw Bachchan and Dharmendra as two friends “thick as thieves”.

“I had seen two of his earlier films — ‘Anand’ in which he played a serious role, it was a difficult role and he stood out, and ‘Bombay to Goa’, where he played a lighter and a more boisterous role, which had impressed me a lot. We signed him.” A few months later “Zanjeer” and “Deewar” released. By the time “Sholay” came, he was the rising star, the veteran filmmaker added.

Sippy, who also worked with Bachchan in “Shakti”, “Shaan” and “Akayla”, said it is exciting to see the megastar recreate magic on screen, both the big and small even after all these years.

“There have been a lot of fine actors and there is absolute respect for all but he definitely stands above,” he said.

They may be in awe of him, but all of Bachchan’s directors have experimented with the roles they offered him.

R Balki, who first worked with Bachchan on an advertisement campaign, gave him “Cheeni Kum”, where Bachchan is a 60-something arrogant chef romancing a much younger Tabu, and “Paa” that sees the star playing a 12-year-old boy afflicted with progeria.

“Every filmmaker thinks of Mr Bachchan first, everybody would love to get a chance to work with him. We all came to the cinema being his fans. I was luckier than some people. I write my films for him. I have been searching for my next film for some years now,” Balki told PTI The filmmaker’s other ventures — “Ki & Ka”, “Pad Man” and “Chup: Revenge of the Artist”– feature the veteran star in a special appearance.

“There is one word to describe Amit ji and it is Amitabh Bachchan. There are no other words… It has become like a character itself. It has so much meaning, you can say persona, dignity, grace, powerful, voice, performance, everything being put together. There is a character called Amitabh Bachchan. That character is a rare phenomenon,” Balki said.

For new-age directors — Ayan Mukerji and Ribhu Dasgupta — the opportunity to direct Bachchan is nothing short of a dream.

While Mukerji cast Bachchan as a guru in his astraverse, sci-fi film, Dasgupta directed Bachchan in the TV series “Yudh” (2014) and 2016 mystery-thriller “Te3n”.

Dasgupta has tried hard to keep his fan boy self out of the picture.

“I come from Kolkata and we worship him there. There is an Amitabh Bachchan temple in Kolkata. But when I directed him, I had to keep the fan boy out. Also, sir knows everything, where the camera should be, what and where the light should be, etc. He sees what the person in front is doing,” Dasgupta said.

This year, Bachchan has already had three theatrical releases — Nagraj Manjule-directed “Jhund”, Ajay Devgn’s “Runway 34” and “Brahmastra”.

His latest film “Goodbye”, directed by Vikas Bahl, opened on Friday.

He is now awaiting the release of “Uunchai”, directed by Sooraj Barjatya.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 11-10-2022 at 10:46 IST