Sometime in the sixties a little boy accompanied his famous father, the renowned Hindi poet Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan to all the kavi sammelans and mushairas at which his father was very popular and was in great demand in various cities in Uttar Pradesh and other states where Hindi was a known magazine. That boy was Amitabh Bachchan.
His being in constant touch with his father gave Amitabh the opportunity to know how popular his father was and how lovers of Hindi poetry went into resounding rounds of applause and how he sent them into raptures every time he recited one of his poems, the most popular ones being from his collection of poems, “Madhushala”.
The young Amitabh made up his mind to read every poem written by his father and gradually mastered the art of reciting his father’s poems, every one of them without referring to a book or any piece of paper. He took up a job in Bird & Co in Calcutta, but he never lost touch with his father’s poetry, even his latest works.
Amitabh then came to Bombay to try his luck as an actor and after the initial failures and humiliation became the superstar of the country but his father was always the superstar for him and he made it a point to recite his father’s poems at every opportunity he found. Talking about his father, Amitabh once said, “I am no star or superstar. I have seen the stardom of my father as a poet and I can in no way be compared to him. I may be a star or superstar for some time, but my father will be a superstar for me for all time”.
He had made special arrangements to have a prominent corner in his house in “Prateeksha” where he had a specially designed book rack which was only for the books of his father and he had the edges of the pages of every book in gold and his entire collection was given the name “Bachchanama”.
Amitabh made it a point to see how he could accommodate his father’s poems in some meaningful films and among the films in which he had two poems of his father were “Agneepath” and “Main Azaad Hoon”.
Amitabh even made his father’s poems known in different parts of the world when he took time off and flew to countries like France, America and even some of the Gulf countries to take part in special programmes and functions arranged to honour his father.
At seventy-three, Amitabh is still the greatest fan of his father about whom he says, “he was a poet far ahead of his times and every poem of his is still relevant today and will always be. I may admire many other legends but there is no one I can admire as much as I admire my father”.
Amitabh has even inherited some of his father’s qualities, especially his determination and will power and his respect for time. He once told me a story about his father’s determination. He used to go for a walk every morning. He once saw a huge boulder in the way and decided to take it home. He was too weak to even imagine trying something like that, but his determination showed him a way. He pushed the boulder a little every morning without letting anyone know and after days of his experiment and his never say die spirit he succeeded and his family was taken by surprise one morning when they saw that boulder right outside their door. Amitabh has the same kind of determination and I remember one of the doctors at the Breach Candy hospital who was treating him after that near fatal accident in 1982 telling me that Amitabh had survived not so much because of the treatment he received but because of his determination to fight and not let death get the better of him.