I know, Mr. Bacchan that all your Bungalows will be turned into gardens of some of the best and most expensive bouquets By – Ali Peter John
I cannot afford to by those bouquets and even if I did, I would not be sure whether my bouquet would reach you.
So, I have decided to present you with my own kind of bouquet which will be a large bouquet of memories which I think and feel are much more precious than all the roses in the world.
So, here goes my bouquet and I hope you will accept them. You have accepted all my previous bouquets, especially on your birthday.
You first came to Bombay with your father when you were only 14 and had sat quietly in the corner of the bungalow, “Bhaav Deep”, the house of the then big star, Chandrashekhar who had the pleasure of hosting Kavi sammelan and Mushaira in his house, even though he was not a very well educated man.
No one took you seriously then, you were just the son of a poet Shri. Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
Years later, you responded to an invitation from your friend Tinnu Anand to come and meet K.A Abbas who was desperately looking for a replacement for Tinnu,who had backed out at the last minute to join Satyajit Ray as one of his many assistants,you were signed for your first film by Abbas who paid you 5,000 Rupees and told you that you would have to share a dormitory with the other members of the unit in Goa where the whole of Saath Hindustani was shot.
You kept looking for work some or the other way. You made friends with some of the young students from the FTII which includes an actress Jaya Bahaduri, Danny Dangzonpa and Asrani, who were already busy with work.
They all lived at Beach Apartment in Juhu where you landed up every morning to accompany them to their shooting to see if you could catch the attention of some film maker or the other.
You had got a small apartment in a building called Mangal where you lived alone with a servant and a security guard called Wilfred Vaz.
You kept finding the breaks, but almost all the films you signed turned out to be big flops, even though you were mostly teamed with Jaya and you also had the good fortune to work with some of your favourite senior actresses like Mala Sinha, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz, but none of them could save you from the pit you kept falling into and time and again.
It was during this bad phase of your life that your all time favourite actor Balraj Sahni died suddenly and you were conspicuous by your presence even though you stood all alone under a coconut tree silently, you had no choice because no one wanted to talk to an unlucky and panauti actor.
This was also the time when you faced the maximum humiliation and we’re even dropped from films in which you had shot for six or seven reels and replaced by actors like Sanjay Khan.
Young actors like Anil Dhawan, Naveen Nischal and even Jeevan Kumar refused to work with you as they did consider you an actor, leave alone being a competitor for them.
You became a very good friend of Jaya and your friendship led to love. There is this one scene I can never forget.
Jaya was working with the superstar Rajesh Khanna in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bawarchi at the he Ranjit Studio and you accompanied her, the superstar as usual arrived late and looked down on you and only greeted Jaya and then told Jaya something that she would never forget.
He asked Jaya if you were in love with the lambu and she was silent and he continued saying that she was making the biggest mistake of her life by going around with an actor who had neither the looks not the talent and had absolutely no future and he walked away.
I remember how Jaya told you, ” Ek din dekhna, woh super star kahaan hoga aur yeh mera dost kahaan hoga” that line turned prophetic for you.
You had decided to quit after eleven of your films flopped, but you were stopped by your friend Anwar Ali, your friend and co-artiste in Saath Hindustani, besides being the younger brother of the ace comedian and filmmaker Mahmood.
The life took a completely new turn when you were signed by Prakash Mehra to play the role of Inspector Vijay in ‘Zanjeer’, a role as is well known which was turned down by big stars like Dev Anand, Raaj kumar and Dharmendra, only because the hero of the film had no songs. You were an overnight star.
You had also become a very good friend of music directors Kalyanji – Anandji who made you a part of all their tours abroad which made you a bigger star.
You we’re slowly but surely learning the ropes and your love for Jaya had grown many folds.
The same Kalyanji- Anandji wanted Jaya to join you on one of the tours. Your father who was aware of your relationship with Jaya put down his foot and said Jaya could go with you abroad only after marrying you.
You are a great follower of your father and did exactly what he asked you to do and you married Jaya in a very private ceremony at which only celebrity was your school day’s friend Sanjay Gandhi, who was very much in the news because of all his wild doings as the right hand man of his mother, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
The shows abroad continued. You signed some of the biggest films, but Jaya had decided to opt out and had given up working in films till years later. You had two children, Shweta and Abhishek and were a very doting father even though you were neck deep in work .
Things were going very well for you till that fateful afternoon in Bangalore when you were shooting for” Coolie ” and it was a matter of life and death for you for the next two months.
You came out of hospital as a great survivor and I remember how you were greeted by banners screaming ” Welcome home Amitabh” all along the route from the hospital to” Prateeksha”.
It was a very moving site to see your old father welcoming you, your mother kissing your forehead, your little children trying to embrace you and your wife Jaya doing a Puja before you entered the door of Prateeksha.
You hardly had any strength to walk or talk, but you still sat before the limited media and told them how thankful you were to all the Billions of people who you didn’t know and who prayed for you all the time.
Even in that condition, you had the optimism to say that you would try and that you would really try to live upto the expectations of all those who had faith in you and expected you to stage a grand fight back and what a way you did and are still doing !
You had shifted to a Bungalow in Madh Island because of the instructions of the doctors.
You made it a point to send your children to school by first travelling by a ferry and a car would wait for them on the other side to take them to their Scottish Orphanage school in Mahim. You always wanted them to be in touch with the realities of life.
You started shooting again with the same shot of Coolie in which the black belt actor Puneet Issar had knocked you out with that one punch because you always told the villains/ fighters in your films to hit you real and you would hit them real too, to make the scene look real. That was the beginning of another innings for you as an actor.
You took the whole world by surprise when you had decided to take a five year long sabbatical and you did all the homework and gave Jaya the freedom to work again and you sat at home catching rats in your office and going on rounds all around Bombay to see all the nooks and corners of Bombay that you had never seen.
Places like Mohammed Ali road , Bhindi Bazaar, Null Bazaar and Chor Bazaar. You also took time of all the domestic issues and there were rumours that you would never return as an actor but I had once told you when you were busy trying to trap a rat that an actor like you could never go away and would have to come back.
You did repent and one day good sense dawned on you and you went to your good friend , Yash Chopra and literally begged of him to give you some work as you had no work at all.
Yash was not making any film at that time, but his son Aditya Chopra was making Mohabbatein and Yash recommended you for the role of the Principal in the school where Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai were two of the many students.
Mohabbatein gave you one more breeze of life,this time as a senior character actor with a grey beard and every film that you did after Mohabbatein.
But your Kismat seemed to be determined to put you on test all the time. You found ABCL which was to be an international company to make films and plan grand events.
You received a trippling blow when your first International event Miss World Pageant flopped miserably so did the films you made like Mrityudata, Sooryavansham, Major Saab and two small films made with actors like Arshad Warsi and Chandrachoor Singh.
You were in such a big financial mess that you even had to mortgage your house. Luckily for you, there were big time game players like Amar Singh and Subroto Roy of Sahara who bailed you out and you were able to pay off your debts of Rs 150 crores.
You were now determined to take your acting career seriously and you received one big shot in the arm with the beginning of KBC which it is difficult to believe is still very popular and running in its 11th season.
I remember the grand celebration of your 60th birthday. Jaya had brought out a special coffee table book about you to celebrate the occasion.
I was fortunate to be a part of it as Jaya called me once and asked me if I have any photograph of ” Amit”.
I was very relieved because it was just at that time that I was almost single handedly bringing out a special issue of screen on you.
I had bought photographs with my own money to see that I had a good issue, but my News Editor who was a cook before he was an assistant to a big PR man called Bunny Reuben who had lost out on his business and had put on this man who was his assistant to Screen.
His only job was to bring a new book of recipes for my editor who was a woman and she was so pleased with him that she had overlooked me when it came for promotions and made him my News Editor.
He had some panga with me and I knew he would not take any of the photographs I had bought for the issues and I had to pay the photographer besides listening to a volley of the choicest expletives in Hindi for trusting the chef who he knew would never use his photographs.
I took the entire box of photographs to Jaya and she not only paid me for all the 450 photographs , but also acknowledged my contribution to the coffee table book. It was a bright end to an ugly beginning.
On the afternoon your birthday was being celebrated you sprung another surprise when you invited Karishma Kapoor on stage and introduced her as the “Hone waali bahu” of the Bachchan family and even announced a formal engagement but unfortunately this engagement had to be called off within months and Karishma married a young business man called Sanjay Kapur from Delhi and Abhishek fell in love with and married Aishwarya Rai.
Your career was going strong and writers and directors of the new generation were busy creating special roles for you and you played them all, from Baghban to Black ,from Paa to Pink and from Piku to Badla and finally to 102 not out and you are still counting at an age when other men your age would be playing with your grandchildren Navya Navelli and Aradhya.
But you, what do I say about you, a man who was hungry for work when he was 40 and is till very hungry when he is entering in his 78th year of an illustrious life, like of which no actor I know in India has achieved.
I remember some of the other moments in your personal life,your struggle with asthma and how you were supposed to have jumped off the 18th floor of the now defunct Sea Rock Hotel and were saved in the knick of time by your co-star , your senior but your younger brother in several films, Shashi Kapoor.
There was a story and I think it was true,you were said to be carrying a letter of agreement signed by Shashi Kapoor and wherever you found an Opportunity to fit in Shashi in a role parallel to your role , you made sure that Shashi got it.
Because you knew how much Shashi was in financial trouble because of his madness of going in for making what were called art films and new wave films.
I had my own experience about your asthma . I had invited you for the annual day celebration of a coaching class in Mulund, a faraway suburb which you had not even heard about, but you had accepted my invitation in just 10 minutes and you were in Mulund , driving your Maruti 800 with me by your side and you whistling and singing all the way as if you had known Mulund from the days of Adam and Eve.
You were surprised to see a massive crowd and even told me” Lagta hai saara suburb hee bahar aa gaya hai, chalo aa Gaye hain, dekhte hain kya hota hai”, it was a holiday in Mulund that day.
On the way back when we were caught in the most horrifying traffic jam. It was Christmas day.
You were in a very good mood and then suddenly you looked pale and told me that you had an attack of asthma because of the allergy from marigold flowers you were honoured with .
You asked me to somehow catch the attention of your body guards and I still can’t believe how those two body guards made way for your Maruti 800 to pass and we somehow reached Prateeksha and as soon as the Maruti 800 entered the gate , you collapsed and had to be carried in …
There are so many more rare roses to be placed in this humble bouquet , but I will leave them for another birthday or another occasion in your life and I know and am sure that you are blessed to live a very long life.