A career spanning almost 50 decades is a lot of time to gain critics, haters, fans and followers. For Amitabh Bachchan, who turns 75 years old today (born on 11 October, 1942), bouquets have been many and brickbats few. It is commendable for a star, who was written off as too tall, too lean and an average actor, the first few films he did.
The turning point came four years and sixteen films later, when Zanjeer (1973) propelled him as the angry young man, the voice and face of the young Indian of the 70s. While a role that his fans loved him in, Bachchan didn’t stop himself from trying something new, challenging himself, regaling his audience and in the process, leaving behind a body of work that can set an example for generations to come.
His filmography can be a study for actors to help them make better film choices, take risks and reinvent. In fact, it is Bachchan’s choice in roles that despite being a veteran, he is still relevant to the young generation. Even for a non-Amitabh Bachchan fan, who learnt about him and to love love him, only in the post – Suryavansham and Kaun Banega Crorepati era, there are some gems in his filmography that will leave you entertained and surprised by the subject of the stories he chose to be part of.
On his 75th birthday today, here’s a look at seven Amitabh Bachchan films that were ahead of their time and whose relevance will transcend decades.
Professional singer Subir (Amitabh Bachchan) is at the peak of his career. He falls in love with Uma (Jaya Bhaduri) and decides to mart her, besotted by her beauty and her equally gorgeous voice. At his behest, she takes up commercial singing and becomes a sensation. Around the same time, Subir’s career takes a hit, turning the frustrations and disappointments of professional life against the harmony of his personal life. Ego and jealousy take over, playing havoc on their love life.
The film’s story is the reality of many young working couples, who struggle to maintain a work-life balance, swapping gender roles – sometimes by choice and sometimes under pressure from circumstances.
Wiki Trivia: The film was a bigger hit in Sri Lanka than in India and was screened continuously for 590 days in the same cinema, Empire, Colombo.
Kabhie Kabhie (1976)
Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan) and Pooja (Raakhee) are college sweethearts but decide to part ways when a marriage between the two seems like a distant reality, thanks to their parents. Many years later, having moved on and married to different people, the two are united by fate, this time with a more serious dilemma. Amit’s daughter is in love with Vicky (Rishi Kapoor) who is Pooja’s son. Vicky on the other hand is in love with Pinky (Neetu Singh), who is the secret daughter of Amit’s wife Anjali (Waheeda Rehman) from a pre-marital relationship.
The skewed relationship dynamics, the story of love, loss, trust, betrayal and letting go cannot fail to appeal to any generation.
Wiki Trivia: The film with Bachchan as a romantic poet, helped the actor to move away from his “angry young man” roles in Deewar and Zanjeer and reinvent himself.
Brothers Shekhar Malhotra (Shashi Kapoor) and Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan) are slated to get married to Shobha (Jaya Bachchan) and Chandni (Rekha) respectively. But when Shekhar is killed in an accident, Amit decides to fill in his shoes and marry Shobha. He asks Chandni to forget all that there was between them and move on. She in turn finds solace in her marriage to Dr Anand (Sanjeev Kumar). Many years later, the ex flames come face to face and realize that they have just been putting up a farce of having moved on from what was there between them. Amit’s obsession for Chandni is evident and at stake are two innocent hearts and two marriages.
A story of hopeless, romantic, obsessive love, Silsila is sure to strike a chord with the audience. It is a story what scandalous relationship gossips in showbiz is made of. Juicy, entertaining and at the same time, heartbreaking!
Wiki Trivia: The song ‘Neela Aasman So Gaya’ is absolutely heart tugging and its tune was composed by Shammi Kapoor. He crooned it to Bachchan on the sets of Zameer. Bachchan later suggested it to Yash Chopra and it was made a part of the heart-wrenching song in Silsila.
Waqt: A Race Against Time (2005)
Ishwarchand Thakur (Amitabh Bachchan) and Sumitra Thakur (Shefali Shah) are a married couple. They own a toy factory but their son Aditya Thakur (Akshay Kumar) has no interest in carrying forward his family business. In fact, he has no interest in anything and is just running away from his responsibilities. Ishwar blames himself for doting on his son so much that it has now spoilt him. Next, Aditya elopes and gets married to his girlfriend Pooja (Priyanka Chopra). She gets pregnant soon after marriage and Ishwar and Sumitra decide to take some steps to help Aditya realise his responsibilities and duties as a son, husband and a father. Aditya and Pooja are thrown out of the house and left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile back home, Ishwar is struggling to cope up with Lung Cancer. Eventually, Aditya does become more responsible and also learns about his father’s motive for doing what he did.
If Amitabh Bachchan’s Baghban was more emotionally draining and a little OTT, Waqt was more a practical tale of a father-son duo, their great bond and the clash of their alpha male egos. It is a lesson for all father’s out there who pamper their kids silly, and end up making everything available to them, forgetting that by doing this, they will ignore teaching their sons some very important life lessons.
Wiki Trivia: The film did above average business in India but was a HIT internationally in the UK and North America markets.
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006)
Maya (Rani Mukherji), an orphan and Rishi Talwar (Abhishek Bachchan) are brought raised by Rishi’s father Samarjit a.k.a. Sam (Amitabh Bachchan). The two grow up and get married. Dev Saran (Shah Rukh Khan) is a soccer player, who lost all his glory due to an accident. He is married to Rhea (Preity Zinta). What happens when two people already in a relationship, this case married, get attracted to another person? Is it easy to move on and ignore your feelings? If it okay to let go of the present for a more alluring future? Can that truly, deeply, madly kind of love happen twice? What if you find love in someone else after getting into an arranged alliance with another?
In this story about the complexities of love relationships, Amitabh Bachchan, as a widower, plays a fun-loving character. The way he lives life wins him the title ‘Sexy Sam’, quite aptly. Through his role, Big B shows that love and living life to its fullest has got nothing to do with age. And that, losing your partner (death or divorce), doesn’t mean your life is over and you cannot have your happy time.
Wiki Trivia: Kajol was the first choice to play Maya which was later offered to Rani Mukerji. Rani was initially roped in to play Rhea’s part which then went on to Preity Zinta.
Balraj Kapoor (Amitabh Bachchan) is a businessman who dotes on his son Avinash a.k.a. ‘Avi’ (Salman Khan) and equally adores his daughter-in-law Malvika a.k.a. ‘Millie’ (Rani Mukerji). His gorgeous and understanding wife Shobhna (Hema Malini) makes his life perfect. One day, tragedy strikes and they lose Avi in an accident. Millie is devastated. She has stopped smiling or being happy about anything in life. Balraj cannot see that and decides to bring happiness back into his widowed daughter-in-law’s life. He connects with Rajat (John Abraham), Millie’s childhood friend who also loves her. Despite opposition from Shobhna and others in the family, Balraj gets the two married.
The film is a heartwarming take on Indian traditions, gender bias and oppression on women that is still prevalent in the society. It also is a beautiful example of how a daughter-in-law can become a daughter only once the in-laws become parents.
Wiki Trivia: Declared a flop in India due to mostly negative reviews unfavorable word-of-mouth, the film did great business overseas, especially in the UK markets.
Ritu (Shradha Arya) bringing her friend Jia (Jiah Khan) home for the holidays. Ritu’s parents Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Amrita (Revathi) have a beautiful home in Kerala. Jia instantly hits it off with Vijay. But this cordial banter has the undercurrents of something bigger. Vijay falls in love with Jia, a girl his daughter’s age, leaving his daughter and wife devastated and shattered.
A story of attraction and lust, the film and Bachchan’s character was nothing less than scandalous. In showbiz, where image is everything, Big B took the plunge and played a character which will not strike a chord with everyone and yet, with his impeccable performance as a lusting old man, he owns it and the audience.
Wiki Trivia: The entire film was shot on a one-go shoot schedule in Kerala. There were claims that the story is lifted from Vladimir Nabokov’s LolitabutAmitabh Bachchan cleared the air in a television interview, denying any inspiration.
Cheeni Kum (2007)
Buddhadev Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), a 64-year-old chef and owner of London’s top Indian restaurant, falls in love with a 34-year-old Nina Verma (Tabu). Against all odds, the two decide to get married but Buddhadev has to first woo the bride’s father Omprakash Verma (Paresh Rawal), who is younger to him.
Post Nishabd, Bachchan once again romanced a woman much younger to him. While that’s not new, what’s unique about both these love (and lust) stories is that unlike other Bollywood actors who shy away from playing their real age on screen, Big B plays himself on the big screen, making the relationship dynamics real.
Wiki Trivia: The 7 soundtrack album of the film didn’t have even one original score. Composer Ilaiyaraaja used the tunes of his old songs in other languages for the Cheeni Kum album.