This is about my experience with Amitabh Bachchan. It might be a small gesture on your part, but it had a long lasting impact on me.
One has to rise to Big B’s level to say something about him.
The year was 2002 and I had just returned from the US, where I was on a student exchange programme. I saw how merchandising was huge there, especially in Hollywood. It gave me an idea about using merchandising as a new age marketing tool in India as well.
While I was toying with the idea, I read about Mr Bachchan’s 60th birthday, I instantly thought of gifting him a chair with his image on the back, something which could sit in his study. I was ready with a merchandise on ‘Brand Bachchan’.
I went to the hotel where the celebratory bash was supposed to happen, a day before his birthday and met the F&B Manager. He was surprised at first then he refused as it was a closed party. It was an event with very few people from the Indian and international press as Jaya Bachchan was launching her book—To Be Or Not Be Amitabh Bachchan.
I was told that the security, guest list and everything else has been handled by the Bachchans’ team. I came home disappointed. On the day of the event, all the roads leading up to the venue were cordoned off. However, I somehow managed to sneak in the wooden chair inside the lobby.
There was a huge crowd of filmmakers, cancer survivors and the press. There was a stampede like situation. There was an announcement that we could get the book signed by him but entering the venue seemed really difficult.
Then I saw Abhishek Bachchan coming inside the lobby and showed him the chair, He smiled and said he would get me inside the hall. But then suddenly my name was being paged and there I was, in front of Mr Bachchan, smiling at me. With all his humility, he got a picture clicked with me. My camera didn’t work but one member of the international press clicked my pictures with him. Very graciously, she left my pictures at a photo lab opposite Mehboob Studio before leaving India.
Anyway, this led to the next big moment when I met Big B at his place in Jalsa and he promised to come for my exhibition.
As they say, when you want something real bad, the universe conspires to make it happen. I had Amitabh Bachchan to open my exhibition. What started with just one gift idea, was getting validation by the ‘Shahenshah’ of Indian films. I still remember the call from his secretary saying he’s on his way.
Big B looking at my creatives closely that night is my belief that his attention is the rarest & purest form of his generosity. Then he addressed the media saying “this is a first”.
He said, “When I started out I never knew I’ll get to see something like this. I love everything on display and wish I could take everything home.”
These words have stayed with me.
A day after the show, I had an open house for my merchandise in Andheri. Around midday, I got a call from Pooja Jain, owner of Parker Pens (Big B was their brand ambassador back then.) She told me that Mr Bachchan was in the morning flight to Delhi with her and he mentioned that he liked what he saw at the show last night, so she took my number from his office and got some of my stuff picked up.
My chair is kept at the entrance lobby of Jalsa.
There might be many stars but there is just one superstar—Amitabh Bachchan. And his tremendous sense of observation and humility are the reasons behind it.
Happy birthday, Mr Bachchan.
(Author Suneeta Nanda is a stylist and lifestyle guide)