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11 October 2011

The Greats: Amitabh Bachchan

11-10-1942
For all my readers who are wondering why there has been a sudden spate of Amitabh film reviews, and now a post under 'The Greats' category... why Amitabh Bachchan, and why at this time? Especially since there are so many actors from the 50s and 60s that I am yet to cover? Well, because it happens to be Amitabh's birth month, and today is his birthday.

Born in Allahabad to poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and his wife Teji, Amitabh is the eldest of two siblings. Reams have been written about him - how All India Radio rejected his job application citing his voice, the same famous baritone that people raved about later; how he left a well-paying job as an executive in a Calcutta firm to try his luck in films; his long run of failures until he had begun to lose hope that he would ever make it; how top-rung heroines refused to work with him in Zanjeer; how he requested Dharmendra to put in a good word for him for Sholay; how, much later, when he had reached the peak of his career, British-French director Roland Joffe came to India to sign him for a movie, only to realise that he was booked for the next x years; how Joffe coined the term 'One-man Industry' in sheer awe...

So let me write about what Amitabh Bachchan means to me, personally.

My first introduction to Amitabh Bachchan was when I was a little kid. It was 1977, and we had just moved to Bangalore; Sholay had released a couple of years earlier and had become a runaway success after its initial slow start and my father had taken the whole family to see it. I'd watched Hindi films before - I have vague recollections of Hathi Mere Saathi, Rani aur Lalpari, Jaaneman, etc., but this is the first film I remember in totality. In the darkened theatre, I became totally engrossed with Veeru and Jai and Basanti (the Thakur and Radha were not very important to me then, and I hated Gabbar); I think I fell in love with Jai then. And I have never ever grown out of it.

Sholay was everything that an entertainer should have been, and is too often not. I cringed against my seat when Gabbar came on screen, cried when Sachin's character died, chortled  at Jai carrying Veeru's marriage proposal to Mausi, laughed until I hurt at Veeru threatening suicide, smiled through my tears when Jai played the harmonica outside Radha's window (and I wasn't even old enough to understand the nuances!) and winced with pain every time Basanti's feet landed on broken glass. But most of all, I bawled when Jai died.

I was so upset, so totally inconsolable that we had to leave the theatre without seeing the rest of the movie. And no one knew why I was crying, until the sobs subsided enough for me to be able to mumble in one long sentence, "I liked Jai, and now he is dead, and I won't see him anymore and I want to and..." 

I remember my brother and sister snickering in the background, mostly annoyed that they had not seen the full movie. My mother was trying hard not to laugh, and my father consoled me by telling me that 'Jai' was not 'really' dead; and to prove it, he took me along to see Amar Akbar Anthony the next week.

I can still recollect the relief I felt then. 'Jai' was alive and all was right with the world. My brother and sister never let me forget it for a long time. And oh, we did see Sholay again, this time to the very end; and I still wept when Jai died. I watch Sholay today, I still get a lump in my throat when that scene rolls around. Every time, Jai flips the two-headed coin, I still feel like shaking Veeru by the collar and saying, "He's fooling you, you idiot! Use your own coin." I still shake my head at Jai's spoilsport behaviour when he reveals Veeru hiding behind the Shiva statue. And I can recite the dialogues before the characters on screen say them.

I watched every Amitabh Bachchan film that released, and as I grew, it seemed he grew with me, going from strength to strength. The climax of my fandom was when I 'met' him on the sets of Coolie in Bangalore; we had bunked school to watch the shooting. There he was, my idol, in the flesh, and I was tongue-tied. My friends and I bunked school once more - a week later, to stand vigil outside St Philomena's Hospital in the pouring rain after his near-fatal accident. And I wept some more - not for 'Jai' this time, but for a man who had become more real to me than many people I knew.

To the man who redefined the word 'superstar', the actor who, it seemed, could do no wrong between the early seventies and the mid-eighties, who, along with his idol, Dilip Kumar, has become the touchstone of two generations of actors since; to the man who, for me, turned cinema viewing from an evening entertainment to a lifelong love of the movies - my totally biased tribute; my pick of what I think are his best roles...

*Warning*

This post is unabashedly, unapologetically pro-Amitabh, which means I restrict myself to that part of his innings where he ruled supreme. I refuse to even countenance films like Boom, Ram Gopal Verma's Aag, Lal Badshah or Mrityudaata. In fact, even as a fan, I have had the thought come unbidden to my mind - How could he? What was he even thinking? But I push those thoughts aside, preferring to focus on the films where he proved he was a master of his craft.

1. Anand (1971 / Dr Bhaskar (Babumoshai) / Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
This is one of the films which was destined to be Amitabh's. Written when Raj Kapoor was seriously ill Hrishida based the character of Anand on Raj Kapoor, who was busy making everyone around him smile while others were scurrying around worried out of their minds. (The film is also dedicated to Raj Kapoor, who affectionately called Hrishida 'Babu Moshai'.) Then, it made the rounds - there was supposed to be a Kishore Kumar / Mehmood combination, but there was a misunderstanding between Kishore and Hrishida and Kishore was out. Mehmood walked out soon after, and his role fell into Amitabh's lap. And history, as they say, was made.

Funnily enough, Amitabh rehearsed the climax scene with Mehmood, asking for his input. And Mehmood told him to imagine that Rajesh Khanna was really dead. Amitabh put all his heart and soul into rehearsing that scene over and over; when he finally went on the sets and they shot the scene, he was baffled to hear Hrishida say 'Cut, cut'. And the latter told him that he didn't want all those histrionics; he just wanted some simple emotion. And both actors were actually laughing in that final scene - luckily, the shot was a top shot and their faces were hidden. 

It's ironic that Anand made Amitabh lose out on another film, Guddi. His 'fame' came in the way. I've already written at length about Anand, so I will restrict myself to saying that Anand's joie de vivre would not have been so resplendent if it hadn't been countered by the barely-concealed helpless anger of Babu Moshai. Truly an iconic character, in a classic film.

2. Saudagar (1973 / Moti / Sudhendu Roy)
As I said earlier, definitely a film that Amitabh should be proud of having on his resume. As Moti, the jaggery seller who is willing to stoop to anything to achieve his ends, Amitabh led us through the trajectory of his character's motivations and emotions. There is cold-blooded manipulation as he proposes marriage to Mahjubi; there is fleeting regret as he sees (and hears) her happiness; there is calculated meanness in the steps he takes to get rid of his wife; and there is guilt and genuine regret when he understands the consequences and comes to beg forgiveness. Unforgettable.

3. Zanjeer (1973 / Vijay / Prakash Mehra)
This was the film that broke the shackles of Amitabh's failure, and showed the industry not only what he was capable of, but what they had overlooked until then. Such intensity, such anger, such raw emotion had never been seen on film before. This was a towering performance, and one that was to blaze the path for others to follow. Yet, this was not a performance in isolation. Like Anand, where he provided the counterfoil, here, his performance was enhanced by an ensemble cast who shone in their own roles, small or big. Pran, Om Prakash, Ajit and Jaya - all had very important roles to play in the trajectory of 'Vijay's' life. Without them, Vijay's anger would have been self-immolating; his victory, an empty one.

4. Abhimaan (1973 / Subir / Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
A very sensitive look at marriage and how fragile egos can almost destroy relationships. This film, released shortly after Amitabh's and Jaya's marriage, deals with the problems that newly-weds face, when their professional lives seep into their personal one.

Amitabh's Subir is a very successful singer, besieged by female fans but ultimately alone. On a visit to his aging aunt, he meets and falls in love with Uma, the daughter of a classical singer. It is music that draws them together (he hears her singing). He marries her and brings her home, and at their wedding reception urges her to join him in singing a duet. A guest at the party fears for their future together when he realises that Uma is a better singer than Subir. But no such doubts darken the thoughts of the young couple who are engrossed in each other.

Days pass, and Subir is the one who encourages Uma to sing with him, and solo. Soon, she is engulfed by offers, and Subir finds himself increasingly embittered and alone. Her distress only serves to add oil to the flames of his broken self-confidence. Subir's friend, Chitra, tries to make things better; she warns him that the only casualty of a wounded ego is oneself. But Subir is in no mood to listen. And his anger, his ego and his bitterness drives Uma further and further away. Until, one day, he is forced to pull himself out of the morass of self-pity and face reality.

Vividh Bharti used to have  a daily programme on film music called 'Jaimala', which played song requests from soldiers on the front. Once a week, they would have a celebrity over, and he / she would host the programme, selecting their favourite songs, and interspersing it with commentary about the song, or even sharing some life experiences. Back in the eighties, they had a special Jaimala programme with Amitabh Bachchan. One of his song selections was from Abhimaan, and he went on to say, that from time to time, the film felt like a reflection of his life with Jaya. When he made that confession, he was at the top of his game, and I wonder how it must have felt to have played second fiddle to his more successful wife for some time.

5. Mili (1975 / Shekhar / Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
Mili reprised the Anand theme - that of a cancer patient who spreads goodwill and cheer while dying. It was a far darker film than Anand, though the director reined in the melodrama in both, giving us realistic emotions. Life is complex, and there is always laughter amidst the tears and vice-versa. Set in an apartment building in Bombay, the film showed us vignettes of how life in such cloistered surroundings can be (and I can vouch for the gossip, at least!).

Mili is the darling of the building kids, and a typical happy-go-lucky collegian. The building buzzes with news that a new tenant has moved in; 'he's the son of so-and-so' remember what his father did?' 'And his mom?' whisper-whisper goes the grapevine. And Shekhar seethes; and closes off the entrance to the terrace. But he is not immune to Mili's unaffected friendliness. And slowly, the friendship she so innocently offers turns to affection and then to love. What will happen when Shekhar finds out that Mili has not long to live?

Jaya Bhaduri once said in an interview that she cringes when she watches Mili these days; she felt she could have done it so much better, but she had become complacent. Amitabh, who had the lesser role, shone as the reclusive, embittered man who is slowly brought out of his loneliness by Mili's cheerful and matter-of-fact acceptance. It was a brilliant, though often overlooked performance.

6. Deewar (1975 / Vijay / Yash Chopra)
Just goes to show there is more to Yash Chopra than palatial mansions, Switzerland and the rich and the famous. Deewar was the film that enshrined Amitabh as 'Vijay'. Like Vijay, the film's violence is also controlled. There is only a hint of it - in Vijay's voice, in the background, in his controlled expressions. Much though Deewar is considered a 'violent' film, there is only one fight scene - that in the dockyard. Most of the violence is implied. And it is all the more terrifying because of it. 

Deewar is the story of a boy who witnesses his father betray his comrades, and is forced to pay for that sin over and over again, until he decides that he will never again be in that position, ever. Determinedly, he sets out to earn money and position; moving quickly upwards from dockyard coolie to a hardened smuggler. Totally unapologetic about his chosen profession, even when his brother, whom he brought up, challenges him. Even when his mother, whom he adores rejects him along with his profession, even then. He has turned his back on society, much as society had turned its back on him years ago. And redemption is not waiting for him around the corner. 

Deewar consolidated the position that Zanjeer had given him; the industry was forced to sit up and take notice - a superstar had arrived.

7. Sholay (1975 / Jaidev / Ramesh Sippy)
What can one say about Sholay that hasn't been said before? And so, Jai returns as the strong silent character, a perfect foil to Dharmendra's bumbling, affectionate, chatty Veeru. But Jai has a dry sense of humour too. After suffering through miles of non-stop chatter, where Basanti has told them all about herself, yet complains that her passengers were so rude they hadn't even asked her name, he deadpans "What's your name, Basanti?" Or when he spoils Veeru's courting of Basanti by casually shooting five mangoes one after another from where he is lying down, or taking Veeru's offer for Basanti to Mausi, and seriously derailing it....

And there is a soft side to the tough man too. The part where they loot the Thakur's safe in the night and Radha comes across them, for instance, or the scenes where he plays his harmonica while she lights the evening lamps...

Sholay worked largely because each and every one of them was a character, not 'hero', 'heroine', 'villain'. It was a multi-starrer that worked, not because of its star cast, but despite them. And it was Salim-Javed's triumph in having written some of the most pithy lines ever said on screen.

8. Alaap (1977 / Alok / Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
If the best of Amitabh's performances is peppered with roles from films that he did with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, it must be because Amitabh had the maximum number of films with him than with any other director he had worked with. Such was his faith in the man he called guru pita that there never has been a time when Amitabh said 'No' to Hrishida. Whether it was for cameo appearances in films which starred other heroes (Guddi, Golmaal) or just as background narrator (Bawarchi) or even as a side-hero (Chupke Chupke).

With eight songs by an oft-underrated Jaidev, Alaap cast Amitabh Bachchan as a musician (for the second time after Abhimaan); a classical singer this time, who battles not only his father but also society. And it is not as if he is perfect either - one of Amitabh's more complex characters, it's Alok's stubbornness that escalates the estrangement with his father. 

Like all of Hrishida's movies, this film also had a clutch of characters who, limited in their screen time, still make a difference. Asrani's gregarious tangewala, Om Prakash as the stern father, veteran Chhaya Devi as the aging courtesan - they all allowed us to see Alok's conflict.

9.  Amar Akbar Anthony (1977 / Anthony / Manmohan Desai)
When Manmohan Desai offered him the role of Anthony, Amitabh recalls wondering what sort of a character he was being offered. Desai had no such qualms - he was sure that after the film released, Amitabh would be recognised as his onscreen character. And the truth of that was proved over and over again.

With the Bombay patois down pat, unbuttoned shirts, a thick chain around his neck, the brim of his cap pulled low over his forehead, Anthony Gonsalvez set out to turn every film stereotype on its head - while playing that part to the hilt! He danced, he sang, he fought, he lost, he spoke to his mirror image, he made pacts with his 'partner' (Christ), chased lady love Jenny, and drove his Father to despair.

Amar Akbar Anthony was a roller coaster ride with three brothers separated at birth, each one brought up by a person belonging to different religions; their paths crossing and criss-crossing each other's, as also that of their parents - all without their knowledge. Throw in two different villains, a plethora of songs, wonderful comic sequences which are not side plots, enough complications to fuel many movies, a fantastically over-the-top climax set to musical accompaniment, and you had the granddaddy of all entertainers right there.

This was Amitabh's finest hour - and he marched to the ditzy tunes with flourish, proving beyond doubt that he was #1. As Jeetendra said resignedly, when asked to rank his peers: "Arre, Amitabh is number 1 to 10; after that, feel free to put anyone's name in the next place."

10. Trishul (1978 / Vijay / Yash Chopra)
Two lovers torn apart, a single mother, a son seeking revenge - sounds familiar? The tropes were the same, but writers Salim-Javed turned them on their head.  As Javed says in his long interview with Nasreen Munni Kabir, Trishul's Shanti (Waheeda) and Raj (Sanjeev Kumar) were probably the first film couple who did not go to a temple to have a secret marriage before (or after) having sex. Or make love because it rained. They were two mature people in a relationship. And when Shanti is spurned, she doesn't live the rest of her life revering the man who treated her like dirt; she ensures that her son knows that depending on *anyone* can be a mistake.

When she dies, Vijay sets off to bring his father to his knees. Coldly, calculatedly, and using any means at his disposal, he slowly chips away at his father's professional and personal lives. There is no remorse, no reflection on how many other lives he will be ruining.  

Trishul's Vijay is a man with a mission. And Amitabh played him with all the closely-contained anger of a man who has watched his mother suffer both poverty and the stigma of being an unwed mother.

11. Don (1978 / Don / Vijay / Chandra Barot)
Don was an unusual offering in that its protagonist was a man without a back story. Or family. He was also completely and utterly immoral - he killed ruthlessly, loved and left women, ran his criminal empire with a firm hand... he is also suave, soft-spoken and sophisticated. Oh, and did I mention, intelligent? Well, he would have to be to escape the police of 11 countries, right? Only, he is killed by the interval.

And there enters the doppelganger, a man as different from Don as could possibly be. A naive street entertainer, fond of his bhang and paan, who is arm-twisted to feign amnesia and take the Don's place as a police mole. And when the only person who knows that he is NOT the Don lies in coma, and *his* cover is blown, then he becomes the perfect target for both the police and his erstwhile gang members.

The difference between the two men was amazing, and Amitabh used his UP roots to the hilt. Add a motley cast of characters, a tight script, some pithy dialogues, foot-tapping numbers and a strong hand over the direction - you have a film that is impossible to remake (as Shahrukh Khan found out to his cost).

12. Manzil (1979 / Ajay / Basu Chatterjee)
In the middle of his most productive years as 'the angry young man', came this simple story of a struggling graduate with ambitions that over ride his good sense. This was another one of Amitabh's 'soft' roles, and incidentally, came to him from another 'middle cinema' director - Basu Chatterjee. Amitabh is Ajay, a graduate with more ambition than luck. He owns a small factory but is more interested in singing, and in being upwardly mobile than in running it; his foreman (AK Hangal) passes off substandard items and pockets the difference, and Ajay is not even in the know.

When he falls in love with a rich lawyer's daughter, Aruna (Moushumi Chatterjee), whom he meets at a friend's wedding reception, he borrows his friend's clothes, car and even house to impress her. But soon, his lack of business sense coupled with his inferior products destroys his fledgling business. When eventually he has to tell his girlfriend the truth, she accepts it, but her father doesn't. He is forbidden to meet Aruna. Soon, Ajay is reading Physics textbooks and re-conditioning galvanometers, but is unable to meet the deadlines, and he lands up in court where his girlfriend's father is prosecuting him for fraud. 

This is one of Amitabh's most underrated performances - he is a natural - in the way he walks, talks, he is nothing if not a middle-class man, with education and ambition. Even if his deceit in wooing the girl makes you want to smack him, his repentance, and determination to make amends soon make you stand firmly in his corner. It is hard not to feel sorry for a man for whom everything goes wrong even as he valiantly fights for his life and his love.  

13. Kala Patthar (1979 / Vijay / Yash Chopra)
Based on the Chasnala coal mine disaster in Dhanbad, Kala Patthar is a flawed script, no doubt, and one that Javed himself feels that they could have done better. In his conversations with Nasreen Munni Kabir, Javed even says that "... if we had treated the script a little more realistically, it would have worked better. Either you don't use a realistic plot or a realistic locale in the first place, or if you rod, you have to be very convincing."

Despite that, I think this is another one of Amitabh's overlooked performances. He shone as Vijay, the disgraced ship's captain who is unable to deal with the guilt of having deserted his ship. Branded a coward by the public, court-martialled and stripped of his rank by the Navy, and disowned by his parents, Vijay is so sunk in self-disgust that he welcomes pain as an antidote. 

As a mine worker, he battles on the side of the workers whose lives and safety are the last thing on the minds of the profit-focused owners. In this, he is aided by the new engineer on site, Ravi (Shashi Kapoor), and foe-turned-friend Mangal Singh (real life friend-turned-foe Shatrughan Sinha). The romances were muted, especially that of Vijay and Sudha (Rakhee), the mine's doctor. The other two heroines (Neetu Singh and Parveen Babi) provided the arm candy, and sang (the mostly forgettable) songs.

I could wish there weren't any songs, and that Yash Chopra had edited the film a little more tightly, but that is in hindsight. It is a raw film, and an honest one, for all its lapses, and much better than the bilge that Mr Chopra dishes out now.

So. A baker's dozen. And I stopped myself from adding more. The seventies were my cut-off point for the purposes of this post. Which is why, Shakti, one of his best performances did not make the list. With the exception of Anand, which was a landmark film for Amitabh Bachchan (it was the role which made him famous), I have restricted myself to films in which he played hero. And so, films like Chupke Chupke, in which he plays a beleaguered English professor were dropped. It was also a tough call on which films from the seventies to drop - there were so many more of his performances that I really liked - Majboor, for instance, or the little-known Faraar, Kabhi Kabhie, Parvarish, Do Anjaane, The Great Gambler...

There are also some performances of his in his 'third coming' that are special to me. Because it showed me that he was constantly re-inventing himself; that (maybe because he had nothing to lose) he was willing to take risks that he had not taken when he was in the prime of his career - films like Nishabd, Cheeni Kum (even though he was 'hero'), Viruddh, The Last Lear, Sarkar, Ekalavya, Paa, and so on and so forth. I hope, wish that he would do more of this kind of movies, and less where he is playing stern father or roles in which he appears to be sleepwalking - he's done them so often before.

Whatever he chooses to do next, a wish for health and happiness... Happy Birthday, Mr Bachchan.

25 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Anu - and I especially loved your recollections of your first viewing of Sholay! Too cute. :-) But I can imagine. I saw Sholay when I was old enough to know that this was just a film, but I still had a lump in my throat when Jai died.
    Of all the films you've listed, there are only two I haven't seen yet - Manzil and Trishul. But if you're putting it in your Amitabh Bachchan baker's dozen, I'm going to add them to my rental wishlist right now. Thank you!

    P.S. Love that Jeetendra quote. :-)

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  2. I'm kicking myself! I should have remembered this was October when I asked you why you were doing a series of posts on Amitabh. Echoing dustedoff here - your recollection of Sholay is too funny for words. But heavens, your siblings (if they were anything like mine) must have been furious!

    I haven't seen Alaap and Manzil. Alaap, because it looked too, too depressing. Especially for a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film. I'm not sure why Manzil slipped under my radar. (Going off to remedy that at once.)

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  3. Manzil is a sweet film, with characters like you or me. No one is deeply villainous; and they are slightly less sweet than the characters in Hrishida's films. :) And Trishul is one of my favourite Amitabh films. The confrontation scenes between Sanjeev Kumar and Amitabh are some of the finest. And I liked the scene where he exposes his vulnerability - it was all the more effective because he is shown as completely ruthless, and not above ruining *anyone* to get to his goal. Tell me what you think of them after you watch them. :)

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  4. Ha! Got ya! I thought you would have caught on by now. I'm glad you didn't, though.

    And oh, my siblings were furious! In fact, it is one of our family stories that keep getting aired ever so often. :)

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  5. Oh, goody! Some more films to add to my to-watch list. Haven't see Manzil, or Abhimaan or Kaala Patthar.

    Thanks a lot for this, Anu. Echoing other posters: your story of seeing Sholay was really really cute. And the death scene was so touching. There was a time he seemed to be dying in every film, no? Sholay, Deewar, Muqaddar ka Sikander, Don (though another one popped up to take his place, so that was alright)...

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  6. Anu, I don't know whether you'll believe me, but when all the Amitabh film reviews came out, I did think you were leading up to Amitabh's birthday. I hoped you were! Especially since you had come out with an unexpected post on Devsaab's birthday. This is like an early Christmas present; a bouquet of his finest performances from his best period! I would have removed Alaap and put Faraar, though.

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  7. Thanks, Tina. I'm glad I provided everyone with some amusement. And I was certainly old enough to know better (I think!).

    You are right about him keeling over in so many films - I remember that Farooque Shaikh had once said that when he had to enact a death scene with Amitabh in one of his films (Toofan?) he was so scared, because Amitabh had become the de facto death scene chap.

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  8. Oh, I believe you. Most fans know his birthday (and I'm less crazy than most!). I *loved* Faraar, though I don't think it was a great success. I put in Alaap because it went against type, more or less, no?

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  9. Anu, I didn't LIKE Alaap. At. All. I was very disappointed with the whole experience - it was like watching Hrishikesh Mukherjee on some weepy trip. Thankfully, he didn't allow it to descend into melodrama, which was the ONLY blessing I found. The cast did a wonderful job, so I don't really know what my problem with the film was, but there was something I can't quite put my finger on.

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  10. Weepy trip? :) Different tastes for different people, I guess. I liked Alaap; yes, it was less of a 'sweetness-all-round' of his usual films, but I thought it was quite a different film and Chhaya Devi was brilliant; I think, without her, the film would have collapsed into a shell.

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  11. To quote the Shashi Kapoor character from Trishul, minus the line maraoing of course, "Hamare Khayalat Kitne Milte Julte Hai" :)) I hope it is OK to use a Shashi dialog to sum up a review on Amitabh, but no suitable AB dialog came to mind.
    Alaap is the only movie I have not yet seen, and I agree with all the rest. I also agree about Majboor, Faraar, et al, and also about the watched by me films from his third outing (Cheeni Kum, Eklavya).
    I personally think Sholay ranks amongst the top 5 "Western" genre movies of all time, and obviously AB had a lot to do with it. Also, Dharam-Amitabh probably equal Redford-Newman as one of the best buddy pairs of all time.

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  12. To quote the Shashi Kapoor character from Trishul, minus the line maraoing of course, "Hamare Khayalat Kitne Milte Julte Hai" :))

    Laughing out loud at that! I'm glad you enjoyed the list. I'm just finding out (as I write) how many non-'angry young man' roles he had - ah, the power of the media in making you believe he was typecast! He wasn't - at least not during his most productive period. Right when he was doing Deewar, he was also working in Chupke Chupke and Mili. Between Zanjeer and Deewar, he was doing Benaam. An 'Alaap' alongside an 'Amar Akbar Anthony'. He truly was a born entertainer.

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  13. A good choice of films, Anu!
    Am so glad that you have included Saudagar as well.
    I was neverr a big fan of AB, but like him nevertheless, particularly in his earlier films.

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  14. Begone, traitor! Not like AB? As we used to say way back when, Tum kis kheth ki mooli ho? But since you leavened that statement by saying you liked him in his earlier films, I shall forgive you!

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  15. you mean like kheth ki mooli bagh ko aa?

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  16. Yes, Harvey, exactly like that! :))

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  17. I think the answer is something like "mein hu chora tu hai kya?", but that might be a gaane ka kuchambar again!

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  18. I feel like Amitabh is the potatoes of the masala meat and potatoes fare of the 70s. He's not always the conscience of the film, or the prettiest or the most sympathetic (I mean, Shashi and Vinod out-pretty him and out-flirt him most of the time), but darn it if he isn't the reason why so many masala films actually work!
    For me, the most enjoyable Amitabh is not the angry-young man, but the amusing and slightly-bad daredevil of Suhaag or Hera Pheri or Sholay. Yet, perhaps that's a silly distinction to make, because as soon as I say that, I think of his roles in Kaala Patthar and Deewaar and Namak Haraam, and I sort of melt inside. Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as to much Amitabh love--and I highly appreciate the healthy dose I'm getting of it here!
    ~Miranda

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  19. No, he definitely wasn't the film's conscience, and there definitely more than 'pretty boy' about him. Like you, I love the slightly goofy Amit of Amar, Akbar Anthony or Suhaag, Shaan, Chupke Chupke.... then, I cry over him in Sholay, Deewar, Kaala Patthar.... I have given up on trying to figure out why or how. Guess love doesn't ask questions. *grin*


    Nice to know your name after all, Miranda, and welcome to this blog.

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  20. Worst actor ever to grace Bollywood !!!
    He brought in the down trodden times from late 70s to the 80s with his Masaala movies enjoyed by 3rd grade cine goers!!
    Intelligent cinema took back seat whereas fists and legs did the talking!!!
    Amitabh made the worst movies ever in Bollywood!!
    Mediocre actor at best needing other actors to boost his profile!!!
    If he hadn't done Anand with Rajesh Khanna he would be selling milk in Allahabad !!

    Got Jaya to bed several directors to get roles!!!
    Wow and now he is Star of the millenium !!!'

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  21. I'd have deleted your comment, Rani, only I don't believe in censorship. But haven't you been taught not to say anything if you cannot say anything nice?

    You do not have to like Amitabh as an actor or as a human being (though I'd like to know how you know so much about what he did to remain a superstar), but I would much rather you didn't spout it on my blog. Thank you.

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  22. prashant gupta16 June 2014 at 20:08

    Anu, you have got as much honesty in your writing as Amit ji's portrayal of any role that comes to my mind. You might have considered including Yaarana ? I like truthfulness in his demeanour and what he brings to his audience. Though I agree he required strong performance around him to justify transition of his character. In totality, I wont stretch my imagination to call him a super star, but would sure call him an actor hindi film industry thoroughly deserved and got served well.

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  23. Prashant, welcome to my blog, and thank you so much for the kind words. As for including Yaarana , I was trying to restrict my selections to the 70s. I'm not really interested in his superstar status, though he did stride the industry like a colossus in his heyday. Please don't be a stranger to my blog. Do visit again.

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  24. good post. Bemisaal and Jurmana are 2 more underrated but supremely acted movies of Amitabh. I recently watched them and stumped by his acting genius!! no wonder he is the undisputed legend of acting!

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  25. Thank you, Neeta. :) Yes. I loved him in Bemisaal and Jurmana.

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