The One Man Industry

If success is all there is in life, there would be no room for learning. Failure is an important aspect of one’s life for more often than not, it is through these debacles that one learns the real value of living and the essence of what he has. Amitabh Bachchan, the most popular and highest paid Bollywood actor is the epitome of a wheel. His life has gone through several failings, others serious enough to ruin his name in the Indian society, however, in the face of all the controversies he went through, he still managed to resurface and continue his life.

Bachchan is the son of the well-known poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and socialite Teji Bachchan. He received his early education from Allahabad’s High School and finished his college art degree in Sherwood College and his science degree from the University of Delhi (bollywoodblog. com n. pag. ). Growing up, he already had his visions of becoming and actor so when he finally graduated, he worked his way to Bollywood. However, his Bollywood dream was not an easy aspiration to realize.

He had to go through several trials before finally contributing his talent to the acting scene. Bachchan first worked as a freight broker in a shipping company in Calcutta (Noronha n. pag. ) then moved to Bombay to pursue an acting career. When he applied for an acting stint, he was refused because his stature was not of a Bollywood actor material. He is 6’3”, too tall for the Bollywood scene and he also had a fair complexion which was not too ideal for an actor (apunkachoice. com n. pag. ).
He was given a break though as a narrator after Indira Gandhi, the mother of his friend, Rajiv Gandhi and the Prime Minister then, made a recommendation letter (indiazen n,pag. ). His baritone voice earned him several projects, not as an actor but merely as background voice. It was only after a few years that he was able to infuse the acting scene with his dramatic prowess. His first movie, Saat Hindustani in 1969 was not very successful and did not even earn him an award, nevertheless, it served as his passport to the acting industry.
The movie which really gave him his first break was Abhimaan in 1973. This movie gave him the attention he needed to remain in the entertainment world. He starred in this movie with the famous actress Jaya Bahduri, who later on became his wife. They have two children, the other one is also engaged in the film industry (Noronha n. pag. ). After his first successful movie, Bachchan also starred in several others. Among these movies was Zanjeer which placed him on equal footing with famous Bollywood actors.
The movie showcases a quasi-revolutionary fervor that is also linked to a private trauma (Mishra 134). Through the movie, Bachchan came to be classified as “the Angry Man” because of his role as a strict police officer. His portrayal showed rebelliousness, a feeling which was not normally featured in Indian films at that time. The rebellious attitude which he established in the film did not only give a new taste in the film industry but it also showcased the emotion that was then reigning in the hearts of the Indian lower-middle and slum-dwelling classes (Mishra 134).
Bachchan portrayed other roles depicting rebelliousness after the Zanjeer movie. Among the movies that he starred on were Deewar (Wall) in 1975, Sholay (Embers) also in 1975, Amar Akbar Anthony in 1977, Don in 1978, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar also in 1978, Laawaris in 1981, Silisila (The Affair) also in 1981, Namak Halaal in 1982 and Black in 2005. He did many others but these are the top ten movies that he starred on as classified by BBC news (n. pag). All of these films became spectacular and box office hits in the Indian community (entertainmentoneindia n.
pag). Bachchan’s flare in the entertainment world cannot solely be attributed to his skills in acting but more on the attitude that he exude in the roles that he played. Unlike the famous actors before his time, he introduced a new blend in the Indian movies—rebelliousness. He did not fall for the stereotype characters and plots that were reigning then, instead he depicted antagonism and rage. This new blend in the movies was well accepted by the Indians, not only because it was a new approach but also because this was a part of what they were then feeling.
The movies which the actor made were more realistic, making the audience relate with what is being shown. Life to Bachchan is not all about romance and happy ending, life is more than that. It includes trials, conflicts and resentment. The approach that Bachchan infused into his films also destroyed the prevalent plot in Indian movies. Films that were prevailing before Bachchan’s time mostly revolved on the character rather than on the story but with his depiction of revenge and anger, the idea of a character was destroyed and the focus was placed more on the story.
Mishra (128) enumerates some of the reasons behind the success of Bachchan’s carreer. The first according to the author, is the fact that he was conversant both with the Hindi language and the other dialects. He is the first partition major star who came from the Hindi-speaking heartland of Uttar and Pradesh and who was thoroughly conversant with standard Hindi as well as the other dialects, notably Avadhi (Mishra 128). Knowledge of the language and the dialects was necessary for an actor as this enhances his capacity to better communicate with his audience and beautifully portray the character that he wants to depict in the movie.
This also gives him vantage point as compared to other actors who are not conversant with the dialects that he knows because it establishes a closer connection with the viewers. The closer the connection that the actor establishes, the better is the appreciation that the spectators will give to the performance. It must be understood that movies are not just about acting, it is also about communicating with the people and trying to convey a message across. (The second reason for Bachchan’s success is the challenge that he posed) on the figure of the noble, transcendent Rama as the dharmik model of the hero.
His roles deployed features that belonged to the antihero Karna in the (Indian epic) Mahabharata while the generic frames of his films destabilized the dominant cinematic form much as the baroque Traverspiel destabilized German tragedy. Finally, he projected this antiheroism into the very modern notion of the angry young man in rebellion and grafted this into the figure of a subaltern hero as an agent of national reconciliation. The rebelliousness thus synthesized reflected the disenchantment, the oppression, the hopelessness of the slum dweller who saw in Bachchan’s acts of antiheroism a symbol of his or her own aspirations.
The rags to riches theme that always paralleled the narrative or personal revenge in Bachchan’s films was the imaginary fulfillment if the slum dweller’s own fantasies (Mishra 128). All of these were not evident in the films that were crafted before Bachchan entered the cinema scene or if they were, it was not as emphatically portrayed as Bachchan did. He said that his commendable performance can be attributed to his genes and the influences of his father’s writings. As a child, he was exposed to the liberal and rebellious writings of his father and this somehow built in his system the same principles that his father advocated (Mishra 128).
Many found it ironic that the son of a socialite is espousing the cause of the poor people in India. Nevertheless, his background was not a hindrance to his realistic performance of the lower class Indians. This might have been because of his early exposure to the problems that face the lower class Indian nationals. The source of his acting was not merely dependent on the script—it was beyond it. He was driving source for his acting from his own ideologies which were shaped by his father’s principles. He had a deeper cause for his performance and exude greater realism.
As a result of this, he dominated the Indian movies for quite sometime, leaving no room for the other actors. His influence to the Indian populace was so great that when he met an accident while filming the movie, Coolie, the whole nation prayed for his recovery. There was also a great number of Indians who donated blood for the actor. During the taping for the movie, Bachchan wanted a scene to be realistic so he suggested how the punch should be undertaken unfortunately, the acting got so intense that he ended up in pain.
For several days, the doctors cannot find the source of Bachchan’s hurt, until one day, a doctor was able to detect a dark spot on his intestine. The dark spot was his undigested when the punch in his abdomen was made. After seventy-two hours of pain, the undigested food could have turned into poison (Mishra 142-143). His intestine was also ruptured as a result of his fall on the steel table after the punch administered by the stuntman (Chopra n. pag. ) The doctors opted for an immediate operation, however, while he was in the operating table, he lost signs of life.
He was declared clinically dead until his wife, Jaya shouted that he saw him move his toe. After this remarkable statement of his wife, the doctors were able to revive him (Mishra 142-143). Throughout the period that he was in the hospital, his supporters speculated that the punch that he received was real and intentional—that it was meant to hurt him. However, no proof was established to back up the claim. After the recovery, Bachchan continued filming the movie to where he left off.
He also thanked those who offered prayers for his recovery and the support that the entire nation devoted to him. To date, he is the only movie actor who received such sympathy. People from all walks of life showed all the support they can give and it was as if life in India stopped for Bachchan. Life only returned to its normal shape when it was declared that he is already safe (Mishra 142-143) Aside from acting, Bachchan also tried his luck in politics after he was swayed by his friend Rajiv Gandhi, whose mother was assassinated and won by sympathy vote.
Bachchan was elected to a Parliamentary seat, however, this prestigious position did not prove beneficial to him as his name was included to a political controversy. Bachchan, his brother and Rajiv were accused with bribery. It was rumored that the Boffors company bribed Indian politicians to ensure that the government will buy tanks and other military equipment from them (Mishra 144). This hullabaloo seriously injured the name that Bachchan was able to established through time so he decided to quit politics two years after he first explored it.
After his flop in the field of politics, Bachchan returned to his first love—film making. Bachchan is well loved by the Indians and his acting widely accepted, however, these love and acceptance were not enough to keep his star shining after the political controversy he faced. Mishra, however, points out that his breakdown in politics is not the direct cause of his collapse as a star. Just like the period when he started his sensational career as an actor, the people then were looking for variety, for something new to watch, the Indians also felt this way at some point when Bachchan was the king of the charts.
The people were worn-out with the constant revenge and anger theme in his movies and were looking for something new—for a new approach in movies. This was the time when the need to revive Romanticism was felt. The revival of romance in the films brought back the idea of a character and once again motivation replaced generic predictability, something which Bachchan turned his back on (Mishra 138). For Bombay cinema to survive, the romantic twist had to return. And so, as Bachchan’s star waned, romance returned (Mishra 138). After his political stint and cinema flops, Bachchan shifted his attention to a new venture.
He created a multi-faceted commercial enterprise known as the Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited or ABCL. The company delved in production and distribution of films and other ventures that involved the movie industry. For sometime, the company enjoyed success in producing movies and even catered the Miss World pageant in India in 1996. However, in its latter years, it faced so many debts that it reached bankruptcy (Indiaoye). His failure both in the political and business worlds, prompted him to go back to where he established his name—the entertainment industry. At 55, he filmed his comeback movie, Mrityutada.
It was not as successful as his previous movies but it was enough to sustain him in the entertainment field. Two years after his comeback film, he was named in a BBC poll as the Superstar of the Millennium. This title placed him in equal footing with Sir Lawrence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin and Marlon Brando. Aside from this, he is also the first Asian actor to be included in Madame Tassaud’s wax museum (hindi lyrix n. pag. ). According to Mishra, Bachchan’s success in his career is not only because of his talent in acting but also because of his skill in building his image outside the theater houses.
The author suggests three stages in the life of Bachchan that moulded his image as an actor. First is his relationship with his leading ladies, particularly Rekha. Rekha, the daughter of the Hindi actor Ganeshan, is a tall and good looking woman who exhibited real acting talent. She was one of the few actors then who brought “real sense of character to the films”. She was suspected by journalists to have established a romantic relation with Bachchan and this suspected relationship was “extensively documented in the fanzines”. Mishra suggests that this added to the growth of the “quietly sanctioned counternarrative” by the actor himself.
However, Bachchan imposed censorship when journalists began to pester him (Mishra 140). The affair of Rekha and Bachchan was better revealed in the movie Silsila (Continuity, 1981). In this movie the actors showed what they could not reveal in real life—depicting the love triangle that exists between Jaya, the wife; Bachchan, the husband; and Rekha, the mistress (Mishra 141). In real life, Bachchan denied all allegations of an affair that exists between him and Rekha but the latter had less disavowal in her system. She was more open although not explicitly with the relationship that he has with the Indian icon.
Jaya also admitted that girls were a problem with Bachchan but she did not elaborate on his affairs. Bachchan reiterated in an interview that Rekha was just his leading lady and nothing else (cited in Mishra 140). The other two the Mishra talked about were his near death experience while filming the movie Coolie and the Bofors controversy. During the period that he was in the hospital fighting death and trying to survive, life in India seem to have been brought to halt. Temple houses and mosques were filled with people trying to offer prayers for the fast recovery of their beloved star.
The Prime Minister then, his friend Rajiv Gandhi, cut his international trips to see him. The kind of emotion Amitabh has evoked among Indians across the globe is absolutely phenomenal, said film director Ramesh Sippy (Chopra n. pag). To reiterate, Mishra (146) said that no correlation should be made between Bachchan’s failure as a politician and the flop of his comeback movie. According to the author, Bachchan’s return in the film industry and the people’s cold reaction to the movies that he made is not the direct effect of the Bofors deal.
Bachchan’s waning as a star can only be attributed to the return of romance in Indian films, something which the actor did not patronize. After his comeback movie, Bachchan became the host of “Who wants to be a millionare? ”. This undertaking proved successful for him as he was able to woo many Indians to watch his show. Movie theaters have adjusted the screening of their movies in order to accommodate the program time of Bachchan’s game show. Moreover, he has also tried acting in other genres like comedy and drama and he also proved triumphant in these fields. It only goes on to say that the king of Indian films has regained his thrown.
Aside from going back to the film industry, he has also invaded the advertising industry. He is the most sought after promoter of products such as clothing among others. The Indian icon, now in his 60’s, remain to be active and show no signs of slowing down. Many Indians still look up to him despite his age not only because of his legendary achievements but also because of the way he plays his age. In a BBC new report (n. pag. ), it was stated that Bachchan has made aging cool. He acts his age and yet he still manages to go with the flow of modern times, something which only a few could do.
More than his acting career, Bachchan is extraordinary for his attitude towards life. Despite the failures he faced and the narrow roads he walked through, he still manages to get up everytime and continue where he left of. He does not allow any fiasco to pull him to the ground level and never get up again. He also has established a certain charm with the Indian people that they keep on accepting him despite his failures and continuously gives him the chance that he needs. Without this charm, he would have had a hard time bringing back the luster of his name in the face of all the controversies that he had been through.
Today, he continues to live up his image as the legend of Indian television. It must be remembered that Bachchan’s influence in the movies in India is remarkable because he defied the odds at a time when everyone was into romance. Through his acting abilities he was able to change the genre of the themes in Indian movies and provided variety. Without him, there would have been no variety in the Bollywood films and the film makers would have just stuck with the traditional portrayal of a character in the movie. He introduced innovation and experimentation in Indian movies.
His significance as an actor and influence to the Indian populace is indelible because of the great contribution that he made in the movies and also because of the way his movies shaped the minds of the people. From the early 70’s until the 90’s he was the only actor who was patronized by the Indian people. It seemed that he was the only actor then existing thus the title, “one man industry”. It would take a really brilliant man and a well-skilled actor to be able to dominate the film industry which is considered to be the biggest in the world and holds a record high of movies produced annually in the world (MSN Encarta onlone encyclopedia n.
pag. ). To date, India is the country which has the highest number of movies produced annually registering 800 movies a year (Chopra n. pag). Only a few people could exert such an influence in a such a big industry. Films to the Indian people is very important and well patronized because to them, cinema is not just entertainment. It is all about passion. Since the dawn of film production in the country, the entertainment industry has produced 27,000 films in 52 languages. Everyday, people in India flock the 13,000 movie houses in the country and enjoy the song and dance that the movies offer (Chopra n.
pag). Many of the films that Indians produce come from the factories of Mumbai or Bombay. The film industry in Bombay is what is known was Bollywood it is India’s Hindi film capital and the home of ten sprawling studios. The movies that are produced in this part of India have ranging budgets, some start big time amounting to five million dollars while the others have to content themselves with a meager fund of fifty-thousand dollars and create the movie within ten to fifteen days.
Many parts of India are also flustering with movie producers but nothing could still match Bollywood, the industry where Bachchan established his name. Bollywood according to Chopra has a wider audience reaching to Indians who are scattered across the globe and the stars are considered gods. (Chopra n. pag. ). Through the years, many changes have also been undertaken in the Hindi films. It has leaped giant steps in terms of the technical production but its themes are leaping like babies, one small step at a time. The themes that it used to foster traditionally remain to be evident in Hindi films. (Chopra n.
pag). This only shows that Hindi films can hardly be infiltrated and changed overnight as they are influenced by culture and tradition and it took a really powerful man such as Bachchan to have changed the twist of Indian films for a certain period in history. Works Cited “Amitabh Bachchan Biography. ” N. d. A punk choice. com. 28 April 2008. <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:tMmXFrEUNJcJ:www. apunkachoice. com/celebrities/amitabh_bachchan/ +Amitabh+Bachchan+and+His+Actor+Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=ph> “Amitabh Bachchan. ” N. d. Bollywoodblog. com. 28 April 2008 <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search?
q=cache:T3RfVnTCvk8J:www. bollywoodblog. com/tags/Amitabh-Bachchan/+Amitabh +Bachchan+and+His+Actor+Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=ph> “Amitabh Bachchan. ” N. d. Indiazen. com. 28 April 2008 <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:GJ5ADXzT3zUJ:www. indiazen. com/view/bollywood/Bollywood- Actors/Amitabh-Bachchan/+Amitabh+Bachchan+and+His+Actor +Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=ph> “Amitabh Bachchan. ” N. d. Hindilyrix. com. 28 April 2008. <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:RmqIkX8hpagJ:www. hindilyrix. com/singers/singer-amitabh-bachchan. html +Amitabh+Bachchan+and+His+Actor+Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=ph>
“Amitabh Bachchan: The Comeback Man. ” N. d. BBC news. 28 April 2008 <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:Z3iqFDJ0_nMJ:news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/south_asia/4487416. stm+Amitabh +Bachchan+and+His+Actor+Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=13&gl=ph> “Amitabh Bachchan. ” N. d. Indiaoye. 28 April 2008 <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:IveSVtLw8eYJ:www. indiaoye. com/amitabh. htm+Amitabh+Bachchan+and+His +Actor+Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=18&gl=ph> Chopra, Anupama. “Bollywood: India’s Star Machine”. n. d. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia side bar. 28 April 2008 <http://encarta. msn.
com/sidebar_762512458/Bollywood_India’s_Star_Machine. html> Mishra, Vijay. Bollywood Cinema Temples of Desire. New York and London: Routlege, 2002: 125-156 “India: Theater and Film. ”n. d. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 28 April 2008 <http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761557562_5/India. html#p98> Noronha, Sunil. “The Angry Man-Amitabh Bachchan. ” 18 may 2006. Entertainmentoneindia. 28 April 2008. <http://209. 85. 175. 104/search? q=cache:IaEXUW1xhSAJ:entertainment. oneindia. in/celebrities/star-profile/amitabh- bachchan-180506. html+Amitabh+Bachchan+and+His+Actor +Career&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=ph>

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