The man who made his own, the sobriquet of Indian Cinema’s Angry Young Man, Amitabh Bachchan just turned 71 on 11 October. Arguably one of India’s finest popular actors, he has essayed a vast array of roles that borne testimony to his immense histrionic talent and tremendous versatility and staying power.
Indian Cinema’s Angry Young Man, Amitabh Bachchan just turned 71
It is well known that Amitabh Bachchan’s film career started with the rather forgettable Saat Hindustani. However, it is less well known that he had in fact made his actual debut prior to that as a narrator in Bhuvan Shome, an award winning film my Mrinal Sen.
His 44 year long career has seen a series of ups and downs over the years – peaks of stunning success and the nadirs such as his accident, his ill-advised foray into politics, the resounding failure of ABCL. He is Bollywood’s colossus and has always shown tremendous resilience – emerging stronger and more successful from each setback – reinventing and repackaging himself each time.
It is rather fitting that he has played characters named Vijay the maximum number of times (causing an entire generation of baby boys to be named Vijay after his more iconic roles) since he has been the one to repeatedly emerge triumphant from odds that would have felled a lesser man. We look at some of his best, most memorable movies and songs from some of those movies below:
Amitabh Bachchan’s Top 10 Movies of All Time
(A wholly subjective list, in chronological order)
- Zanjeer (1973) – This was the birth of the angry young man. This was Amitabh Bachchan’s first solo hit (Anand was his first official hit, but most film buffs would say it was a film that belonged to Rajesh Khanna). Also, it is one that should never have been remade (what were you thinking Apoorva Lakhia!)
- Abhimaan (1973) – I confess, more than Amitabh Bachchan and his vulnerable portrayal of the tormented star whose wife outclasses him, this movie finds a place in the top ten simply because it features some of the all time great Hindi movie songs – each one a gem.
- Deewar (1975) – This was the birth of the antihero in Hindi films – SRK cottoned on to the theme much later. And extra points for “Aaj khush to bahut honge tum” – that mandir scene that is the joy of a thousand mimics!
- Sholay (1975) – What can I say about this film which has not been said before – iconic, littered with the most oft repeated and imitated lines in Hindi cinema, the best revenge saga, the best buddy film, the best comic moments, some of the most memorable characters ever in a Hindi film…. Sholay is a matchless classic and will remain etched the collective memory of India’s film viewing janta for all time.
- Chupke Chupke (1975) – We saw Amitabh Bachchan’s remarkable flair for the comic – properly showcased – for the first time in this utterly delightful movie, worthy of being watched, re-watched and then watched yet again.
- Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) – A most implausible story but also one of the most endearing Hindi movies ever made. A masala film in its true sense – drama, emotion, comedy, romance, action, national integration, justice & comeuppance – all that transforms a mere movie into a classic.
- Silsila (1981) – Initially people gave a thumbs-down to Amitabh Bachchan as the brooding lover, but over the years this movie has become a classic; the quintessential story of love, loss, adultery and an uncontrollable passion that flies in the face of convention.
- Kaala Patthar (1979) – Though this was not a huge commercial success and featured Amitabh Bachchan as one of the leads rather than the leading man, he made a terrific impression in this rather unusual story. He played Vijay yet again – a beautifully nuanced role of a conflicted soul struggling to make peace with himself.
- Baghbaan (2003) – The Indian film industry is not much given to subtlety or understatement. In an industry where over the top displays of melodrama are considered good acting, his role as Raj Malhotra – disillusioned by his children and yearning for his wife – was low key but moving and utterly convincing
- Paa (2009) – I personally am not a huge fan of this movie and thought that Big B was physically too large for the role. In spite of this however the 60+ man managed to play the role of a 12 year old with progeria with such aplomb that he managed to persuade us that no one could have done it better!
It was a difficult job to pare down Amitabh Bachchan’s awe inspiring and prodigious filmography to just 10 movies and there are scores of his movies that rightly deserve to be listed along with these. And I do also think that there was a time when even this great man was misguided enough to make some abysmally bad movies too. The top 10 worst movies is a list for another day.
Some of the most popular songs from the movies mentioned above are as under