Friday, June 03, 2005

Reinventing oneself - Amitabh Bachchan

It was 1980, I was in my first standard and my uncle asked me in a playful mood, who is your favourite actor. I said, proudly, Amitabh Bachchan. And my uncle said, "By the 10th standard, you would have forgotten about him". By about 1990, uncles forewarning sounded true. Amitabh almost did not really matter to the Indian movie world any more. He dabbled in politics, morphed himself into a corporate entity and was almost lost. There were the Anil Kapoors, the Amir Khans, Shah Rukhs were beginning to blossom and it was the age of teeny bopper love stories. My uncles prediction loomed.

25 years later, today in 2005, he is still around. He is a formidable competitor to his son (actually not, since he is a bigger crowdpuller than most heroes any day). Of course we all know how he managed it.

Somewhere between the 1990s, he decided to "act his age". So whats the big deal? Indian heroes act as college kids forever. Caked with layers of make up and potbellies they refuse to move with their age. Amitabh was perhaps the first person to break this mould. Result: There are stronger roles for senior characters when Amitabh does a movie. With him are the many heroines of yesteryears who get a look in. So, has he redefined the industry again, as he did in the 70s, with his angry young man image? Perhaps yes. He entered televisions at a time most film stars shunned TV. He floated a company, ABCL, which was perhaps a little ahead of its times, among other things. It was not an easy journey, scarred as it was by his firm bankruptcy, his bungalow pledged to redeem creditors, but he made it and how. His firm is now on a firm footing, his creditors paid.

But the key here is about reinvention. Most people (like the mouse in the who moved my cheese) do not recognise that at a particular turning point, something different has to be done. One cannot keep on doing the same thing for ever. Amitabh Bachchan is one of those rare individuals who has reinvented himself at every step (and found success).

So, coming back to my uncles prediction, Amitabh still remains my favourite actor.

13 comments:

Charu said...

Bingo! the turning point for him was when he "decided to act his age" - he went thru a terrible phase in between when everyone loved to write him off and nothing he ever did seemed to go right. and then he went on and found things to do that seemed to have been made just for him - recently, in the course of work, i was talking to some teenagers - and rated him as their favourite along with John Abraham!

Sunil said...

Bang on.

On the other had, Rajinikanth and Chiranjeevi aren't able to do that yet :-))

But the greater malaise in Indian cinema is that unless you are an Amitabh, you can't really "act your age" and remain a "hero".

Abi said...

Nice post!

I have taken the liberty of book-tagging you. I look forward to what you have to say!

Neelakantan said...

True again I guess. I am not sure an old Shah rukh would be able to pull off an Amitabh.

Not just the Chiranjeevis and Rajinikanths, even the Mammoottys and Mohanlals are stuck in the same trap, though they do many image breaking roles every now and then.

shank said...

I remember Amitabh himself acknowledging when he was acting (!?) in Mrityudaata that the Indian film industry does not follow Hollywood, where a DeNiro or an Al Pacino was the hero of a movie when playing the role of 40+ year man.
Also, look at the way it worked, initially AB's movies had a younger hero and heroine so that it would not look like an adult (40+) movie only. However, somewhere someone changed it all. But, do you think he still plays his age in the movie? He still pub-hops and dances with Akshay in a discotheque. The only movie where he plays his age is "Khakee" where-in he is shown panting after chasing Ajay Devgun. Call that the only sign of age-ing

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Anonymous said...

Amitabh Bachchan movies have no takers.

http://www.parinda.com/news/december2006/15.shtml

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