When peak-time Amitabh Bachchan took a sabbatical from movies in the mid-‘90s, I ended his career-analysis with: “The throne is vacant. Who will occupy it?” No one could, then.

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Two decades down, after being conferred India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, where does he stand today?

Let us be clinical. Overall, Bachchan has the dreamiest run among our truly mammoth heroes—a small elite list comprising only of Prithviraj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Dharmendra and no one else (the Khans will have to achieve a lot more!).

Amitabh Bachchan Honoured With Padma Vibhushan Award
Amitabh Bachchan Honoured With Padma Vibhushan Award

But Amitabh Bachchan’s incredible innings at his peak was more because of the combined vision, talent and brilliance of many frequent associates—beginning with Hrishikesh Mukherjee and going on to Prakash Mehra, Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy and Manmohan Desai, writers Salim-Javed and Kader Khan, lyricists Anand Bakshi and Anjaan, composers Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, R.D. Burman and Rajesh Roshan, Kishore Kumar as his voice and b-o.-hot heroines Raakhee, Zeenat Aman, Rekha and Parveen Babi. Complementing him also were Shashi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha and Rishi Kapoor. And Bachchan has always acknowledged this.

Clinically again, Bachchan, like so many of his times, relied less on script quality and more on people and relationships. This is where he became extraordinarily lucky, because he happened to associate with the cream of talents who showcased his matchless voice and formidable talent to the maximum.

A friend always talks about the secret of Bachchan remaining perennially-relevant—his uncanny skill of homing in on the best of new, young directors, come Mukul S. Anand then or R. Balki now. The results might have been mixed, but the quality was consistent.

Another visionary stroke that few recall because it misfired then for many reasons—Bachchan was the first independent entity to go corporate with ABCL (Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited), later AB Corp!

Nevertheless, we would like to believe that the real Bachchan surfaced only after 2000, when he realized that he was still wanted by both industry and audiences (with Mohabbatein and his iconic TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati). His growing connect with the common people and fans (through KBC, his blogs and now tweets) brought him closer to reality and boosted his confidence.

This was when he annexed the National award twice, for two of his boldest roles – Black and Paa, and did path-breaking movies like Baghban, Khakee, Sarkar, Eklavya, Cheeni Kum and Bhoothnath (and its sequel) that also included his three most criticized turns ever—Boom, Nishabd and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag.

This was the phase when he did a Malayalam and two English movies (one from Hollywood) and even a television serial. And a whole lot of social, humanitarian and other activities. Whether selling tourism in Gujarat, saving tigers or fighting tuberculosis, Bachchan influences people even now, and therefore, I would urge the industry to keep him away from routine roles. For Bachchan is special.

Today, in a way, his career comes full circle, as his next release Piku also sees him as Bhaskar Banerjee, the name of his memorable character in his first hit, Anand. The man who started out in arty films like Bhuvan Shome (as narrator) and Saat Hindustani soon became the face of mainstream Indian cinema to the globe and is now an icon for Indians.

Let’s get set then for a new phase in Bachchan’s lofty journey—towards higher triumphs and, perhaps, the Dadasaheb Phalke!

– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.

Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Shut up this Bull Crap. Salman Khan is best among all. Amitabh is not even close to him and his popularity. Yeah he is older than Salman and he does better acting than him but overall no one is even 0.00001 % of Salman Khan. I am not a Salman fan but logically seeing Salman Khan has achieved that Stardom which I think no actor in the world has achieved. If you take into consideration the amount of hardwork he does in comparison to all othe Khans and how many court cases he has, u will surely agree that people love him as their family member. So Salman>>>>Amitabh>>>>SRK>>>>>>>>>>>>Amir

  2. The write-up very cleverly by passes the reality of Bachchan’s career. The most significant reality has been omitted by the writer. Bachchan’s basic career is totally based on pure Multistar films after Zanjeer and all such films were just below grade films meant for front benchers and his roles were more or less cheap entertainment oriented typed ones, shouting and shouting with a gun in left hand. Moreover, In 90s he was certainly not in the best phase of his career in term of box office success, rather mid 80s onwards audiences had started rejecting his meaningless films and the team of 3 khans had already started occupying the mainstream platform as new generation stars. In 90s Bachchan was no where, however, 2000 onwards via KBC and his luck he became in lime light in small as well as big screen, but via manipulation and self promotion in extreme manner to earn money. In this phase, he was lucky to have some challenging roles in Black or Paa, but if considered his performance in an un-biased manner, he failed to characterize the above characterize in true manner. In Black the well known Lanky shouting image was most apparent, however,t in Paa due to outstanding get-up by the foreign team, the well known image was dominated under the get up, but due recognition was not given to the make-up men team. This is destiny of this person. And media never highlights his negativity due to best reason known by them. Seems there was no failure in his career, whereas the world know after collapse of his ABCL, he was bankrupted and took financial and political support from many powerful persons and buttering them by fraud slogan U.P. Main hai bahut dam….. etc. type cheapness. The media never highlights his cheapness in term of Mere Angne main or Padson apni murgi sambhal type cheapest song sequences. It is his luck and manipulation.

    • Yes, his self promotion via twitter, face book, blog etc. as well as via small screen reality shows and tv commercials show his nature of earning money by hook or crook and his insecurity that perhaps the audiences may not remember him only via his sub standard films. So he always ready to be in lime light by nonsense activities. Very insecure person indeed!

  3. Mega Star????
    A true mega star never earns money via TV commercials right from oil to cement and ball pen to Maggie.
    A true mega star never appears frequently in small screen via almost all reality shows for promotion of his films.
    A true mega star’s film should run with his name only, whereas Bachchan’s all films for the last 10 years were big flops.
    A mega star never appears films like Nishbad, Ramu Ka Aag, Tin Patti etc. etc. .

    • @ Roshni Sen
      Oh a true mega star does all the things you listed. How would he become a star without being seen at all the places that you mentioned. and bacchan’s film do run with his name but see there would be an expiry date to such a stardom. so he has to reinvent his image by doing several things.
      A mega star is a mega star till the spotlights fall on him. Stars fade and go invisible after that.

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