Fifty Years Later, Amitabh’s Will To Work And Win Is As Strong As Ever
Ali Peter John
I could never in my wildest imagination know that I would be a witness to the rise of the greatest star I have known, now for fifty years.
Some fifty memorable moments to which I was a very close observer.
- I was the junior most assistant of K.A Abbas when he signed Amitabh for ‘Saat Hindustani’ for only five thousand rupees
- I started knowing him while the shooting of ‘Saat Hindustani’was in progress in Goa.
I used to see him in the company of Anwar Ali, the younger brother of the comedian and filmmaker Mehmood. He used to live in the house of Mehmood and sometimes even were the clothes off Mehmood Bhaijaan’ as he called him.
- I saw him being treated like a rank newcomer by the superstar ‘Rajesh Khanna’and Hrishikesh Mukherjee encouraging him. Khanna even insulted him openly at times.
- I saw him facing one flop after another till the last one called ‘Bandhe Haath’with Mumtaz as his heroine. Mumtaz was considered a lucky mascot for many heroes, but she couldn’t help him succeed.
- It was after ‘Bandhe Haath’, his twelfth flop that he packed his bags and came to Anwar Ali’s house to bid him goodbye as he believed he stood no chance of making it. Anwar who called him ‘Bhidu’asked him to stay back and he did and his luck changed.
- He was in love with Jaya Bhaduri who was doing Prakash Mehra’s ‘Zanjeer’and it was Jaya and the two veteran actors, Pran and Om Prakash who recommended him to Prakash Mehra and he was signed after big actors like Dev Anand,Raaj Kumar and Dharmendra rejected the role of Inspector Vijay.
- It was the scene in‘Zanjeer’where he kicks the chair on which Pran, the dada of the area tries to sit that made him an overnight star.
- He was soon doing a variety of roles with very different directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai.
- It was in the late seventies that he was branded as ‘the angry young man’, “the number one to ten star” and the numero uno.
- It was after the grand success of ‘Abhimaan’that he married Jaya in a very private ceremony with the then controversial Sanjay Gandhi, his childhood friend as the only special guest.
- He was doing a very different film called ‘Do Anjaane’with Rekha and that we the beginning of the rumours of their having a roaring affair. He is said to be responsible for bringing about a transformation over Rekha as an actress and a person.
- Or was Yash Chopra who took advantage of the triangular love story and created a casting coup with Amitabh and Jaya playing husband and wife and Rekha plain the other woman.
- It is said that a showdown between Rekha and Jaya while they were having dinner when Amitabh was out that led to the break up between Amitabh and Rekha, but Rekha still believes that she is in love with ‘him'(she never calls him by his name) and even wears a ‘sindoor’in her forehead which is to show that she is married to ‘him’.
- Amitabh got into politics because of the request made by his friend Rajiv Gandhi, was elected from Allahabad, defeating a political giant like H.N Bahuguna who lost his deposit and was so shocked that he died a few months later. Amitabh quit politics over the Boforce scam and has never shown any inclination of getting back into politics.
- He started his own company, ABCL and went into heavy debt and had to even mortgage his bungalow, ‘Prateeksha’. It is believed that he got out of all his financial problems because of the powerful politician, Amar Singh who became such an important part of the Bachchan family that Amitabh had a special room for him in ‘Jalsa’. Amar Singh also got Jaya into the Samajwadi Party of which she is still a powerful MP.
- Amitabh had taken a five year break from films, but it worked to his disadvantage and he decided to stage a comeback. He personally went to his old friend, Yash Chopra and asked him to give him work. Aditya Chopra was making ‘Mohabbatein’and he brought Amitabh and Shah Rukh together for the first time.
- Incidentally, all the films made under ABCL flopped and he closed down the company, only to revive it much later as AB Corp.
- He now started a new way of selecting his films. He had a team of old and new writers who went through the scripts offered to him and they suggested which films he should do or not to do.
- It was KBC that gave him a grand new lease of life and he is still doing KBC which is still going strong after twenty years.
- His story about the accident on the sets of ‘Coolie’is now well-known. There was an entire aircraft emptied of all seats to make him lie on his flight to Mumbai. It was raining heavily when the flight landed and no ambulance was available to take him to the Breach Candy Hospital. It was Bal Thackeray who was a great fan who made arrangements for the ambulance and that was how the two became very good friends.
- He was declared“clinically dead”on August 2,1982, but it was Jaya who saw one of his toes moving and woke up all the doctors and the staff in the middle of the night. Dr Farukh Udwadia who was in charge who asked all the doctors to pump him with Cortizone injections. He was called mad but he asked his associates to keep injecting him and he came back to life and from then on, he was on the way to recovery.
- Two ailments became known after his accident, peritonitis and myasthenia gravis, a crippling disease of the nerves and muscles.
- There were many doctors who claimed credit for bringing him back and among them are Dr Udwadia and Dr Jayant Barve who is still his personal doctor and now has a hospital of his own and drives a Mercedes which is supposed to be a gift from Amitabh. According to Manoj Kumar, it was also the homeopathic medicine recommended by him and administered by two doctors, Mehta and Shah that also played a part in healing him.
- Amitabh has been living a very disciplined life after the accident. He is a complete vegetarian, he doesn’t drink or smoke and hits the gym at the JW Marriott at five thirty every morning.
- He has stopped working with all his older directors and is now only working with young directors, the latest being the director of‘Sairat’, Nagraj Manjule and has completed his film ‘Jhund’in one schedule of forty days in Nagpur. At seventy six, he is playing a football coach who trains boys from the middle class and lower middle class.
- He can still work twenty and sometimes even twenty four hours, sometimes shooting in heavy rain.
- When asked how he does certain things which men half his age will think twice of doing, he says,“you face trouble if you believe that you are in trouble, otherwise every thing is normal”.
- This is the same answer he had given Anupam Kher when he asked him how he could shoot in woolen clothes, with a very thick bread and hair all over his face and with no fan or air-conditioners working.
- Strangely, one thing is common between Amitabh and Rekha. They have vowed not to write their autobiographies.
- His one line solution to all problems in life is what he has learnt from his father, Dr Harivanshrai Bachchan who he calls the greatest superstar in his life. The line says, fight everything with your will and don’t worry about the consequences and you will never call or fail”.
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