My earliest recollection of the Bachchan is of a movie titled Kala Paththar (Black Stone) in which Amitabh plays a man tormented by a cowardly act in his past. Until recently when I saw the movie again I didn’t even remember the entire story. But I remember being awed by the man’s presence on the screen. Unfortunately for me I caught him on his downward spiral. During my growing up years I would watch Amitabh movies and wonder what all the noise was about.
The 80s and the 90s were not the best years. It was the 70s in which Amitabh strode across the screen like a colossus. With his hands on his hips, the top three buttons of his shirt undone, and anger in his eyes, he captured the imagination of a nation.
“Vijay” was everyman striking out at the injustice around him.
In a country led astray by Nehru’s distrust of big business, and mired in the hopeless pits of a bureaucracy, India was ready for “Vijay”. If it hadn’t been Amitabh it would have been someone else. We are just lucky that it was him.
After the social films of the 50s, and the Rajesh Khanna dominated romantic 60s, India was looking at a bleak future.
In pre-independent India the leaders had promoted independence as the solution to all evils. The decade following independence saw India at its idealistic best. Every thing was “of the people, for the people and by the people”. But things did not pan out just so.
The solution was very ostrich-like and Bollywood conjured up romantic dreams, which were very much like tinted glasses. An entire nation lost itself to Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar.
But under all this romance there was a volcano waiting to erupt and Amitabh became the Big B.
Through movies such as Zanjeer, Deewar, Trishul, Sholay, Amar Akbar Antony, Kaalia, Vijay took on the system, the bad guys, the world and India egged him on. This phase culminated with his National Award winning Agneepath.
By that time he was bigger than any screen in India. If they had the IMAX screen then, they would have found him to large for that too. What followed was tragic. The list of movies he did in that phase of his life are not just forgettable, but torturous. Smartly Amitabh walked away, seemingly into the twilight.
The year 2000 saw the return of the Phenomenon. The vehicle was the smallest canvas possible a television screen. What followed was movie history.
Bollywood must have had movies written for strong 60-year-olds, but under the notion that India did not want to see 60-year-olds as the main protagonist these must have been lying in some corner gathering dust.
Suddenly people couldn’t get the dust off those scripts fast enough.
Another generation of Indian children grow up watching a man who has been the face of the Indian male for four decades.
Vijay maybe older, but the fire burns just as strong.