Amitabh @80: Yeh jahan khade hote hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hai
When you reach the age of 80, have been a public figure for most of your life and are famous the world over, there is very little that is not known about you. Amitabh Bachchan’s 80th birthday has become an occasion to not just celebrate a personal age milestone, but celebrate the legend and his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema. As people say, it is a festival rather than just a birthday!
People were seen lining up outside Bachchan’s Mumbai residence, Jalsa, last night to wish him on his birthday, and the actor obliged his fans by appearing before them at midnight.
It was on October 11, 1942 that Bachchan was born to poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and his social activist wife Teji Bachchan at Prayagraj, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His parents had chosen the name Inquilab for their first born, but the child was given the name Amitabh, a name suggested by well-known poet Sumitranandan Pant. Though the family surname was Shrivastava, Harivansh Rai adopted the surname Bachchan (which means child-like) as he was against the caste system.
Bachchan had a early exposure to the world of arts and literature, but it is said that it was his mother Teji who could have influenced his decision to take to acting.
A tall, lanky, dark young man with a deep baritone voice, Bachchan struggled to find a footing in the film industry. Looking at the pinnacle of success where Bachchan stands today, it is difficult to imagine that he had even slept on a bench at Marine Drive for a few nights in his early days.
Given his well-recognised voice, one would have thought that he would easily find work at a radio station. But Bachchan had, in fact, failed at an audition for a news reader for All India Radio.
Why the world loves Big B?
The love that legions of fans spanning generations have for Bachchan is no mere adulation for a film star. In the 70s and 80s, he embodied the angst that the young brigade was experiencing at that time – against corruption, poverty, unemployment, price rise, and a general feeling of helplessness during the Emergency times. If he was called the ‘Angry Young Man’ at that time, then every young Indian saw his own self in the screen characters that Bachchan played – fighting against the system, every punch that he threw at the bad guys was the punishment that the young Indians saw themselves meting out to whatever or whoever was troubling them.
That is the kind of connect that Bachchan has built with his fans.
However, this connect was somewhat weakened in the late 90s and the advent of the new millennium, when Bachchan’s films failed at the box office one after the other. But that was a time of transition for the entire nation and old formulaic systems were being rejected as Indians were coming out of Licence Raj and were standing at the edge of an Internet boom.
Politics and business were perhaps the only two ventures where Bachchan didn’t see success. Ironically, politics distanced him from his loving fans, while his ABCL business almost ruined the actor financially.
It was not till ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ came that proved to be a ‘sanjeevani booti’ for Bachchan. It not just provided the much needed financial succour, but also gave him a fresh lease of life as a performer.
Post that, the world saw Bachchan in new avatars and characters on screen, acting closer to his age and in roles written specifically for him. The ‘Angry Young Man’ had mellowed with age, but even though he was no longer seen throwing punches at the bad guys, he was still instilling discipline in high-on-hormones school boys (‘Mohabbatein’), fighting criminals and religions strife as a strict and dedicated senior police officer (‘Khakee’, ‘Dev’, etc.), fighting legal battles for defenceless young women (‘Pink’), avenging remorseless criminals who had gone scotfree (‘Te3n’, ‘Badla’, ‘Chehre’).
Age has given Bachchan the liberty to experiment with different kinds of roles. Could his ardent fans of the ‘Zanzeer;, ‘Deewar’, ‘Sholay’ days have ever imagined him play the role of the bowel movement suffering cranky old Bhaskor Banerjee (‘Piku), or the greedy miserly old Chunnan 'Mirza' Nawab (‘Gulabo Sitabo’) where Bachchan is unrecognisable , or a sprightly old man in ‘102 not out’?
An entirely new fan base of retired elderly people have got inspired by Bachchan’s role of Raj Malhotra in ‘Baghban’, who decides to disown his ungrateful sons, and instead choosing to lead a life of dignity.
Shahenshah for Brands
It is not surprising that given the huge fan base and the equity that Bachchan commands, he is a darling of brands. It is interesting to note that brands are associating with him in his later years rather than when he was much younger and a Bollywood superstar. Age has given him that gravity that brands look for – a personality that people trust, look up to and also listen to.
Bachchan’s brand associations are numerous and spans across categories – from Government campaigns like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Gujarat Tourism, and Polio vaccination (‘Do boond zindagi ke’), to ICICI Prudential Life, Dabur Chyawanprash, Just Dial, Emami, Kalyan Jewellers, FirstCry, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Maggi, Parker Pen, Lux Innerwear, Dr Fixit, Pepsi, Tata Sky, Mankind, Reid & Taylor, Flipkart, TVS Jupiter, Cycle Agarbathi, Tanishq, Bikaji, among many others.
Take a look below:
Social media presence:
Bachchan also has a strong fan base on social media, with 39 million followers on Facebook, 31.4 million followers on Instagram and 48 million followers on Twitter.
He frequently updates his social media feeds, keeping his fan base enthralled with snippets from his and his family’s life, sharing Bollywood memorabilia, as well as information about his upcoming projects. Just a day before his birthday, on October 10, 2022, Bachchan shared the first look of a poster from his upcoming movie ‘Uunchai’.
Wishes from brands and netizens are pouring in: