Amitabh Bachchan born as Amitabh Harivansh Srivastav on October 11, 1942 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most prominent Indian film actors of Hindi cinema. He gained popularity in India in the 1970s as an action hero and over the decades of his career which have since spanned numerous film genres, he has become one of the most prominent figures in the history of Indian cinema. Bachchan holds the record for the most number of Best Actor nominations at the Filmfare Awards and has won three National Film Awards and twelve Filmfare Awards to date.
In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer and television presenter of Kaun Banega Crorepati, India's version of the British television game-show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. He was also an elected member of the Indian Parliament from 1984 to 1987.
Bachchan is married to Jaya Bhaduri also an actress. They have two children, Shweta Nanda, a television presenter and Abhishek Bachchan, who is also an actor in Bollywood and is married to Aishwarya Rai.
Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, Amitabh Bachchan hails from a Hindu Kayastha family. His father, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a well-known Hindi poet, while his mother, Teji Bachchan, was a Sikh from Karachi-Pakistan. Bachchan was initially named as Inquilab, inspired from the phrase Inquilab Zindabad, during the Indian independence struggle but was re-christened Amitabh which means, the light that would never go off. Though his last-name was Srivastava, his father had adopted the pen-name Bachchan, under which he published all his works. It is with this last name that Amitabh debuted in films, and, for all public purposes, it has become the surname of all members of his current family. Amitabh is the elder of Harivansh Rai Bachchan's two sons, the second being Ajitabh. Even today, Bachchan has a high degree of respect for his father, and has proclaimed that "he can never be the man his father was". His mother had a keen interest in the theatre and was also offered a role in a film, but preferred her domestic duties. She had some degree of influence in Amitabh's choice of career because she always insisted that he should take the centre stage. Bachchan's father passed away in 2003, and his mother—on December 21, 2007.
Bachchan has a double M.A. (Master of Arts) degree. He attended Allahabad's Jnana Prabodhini and Boys' High School (BHS), followed by Nainital's Sherwood College, where he majored in the art stream. He later went on to study at Kirori Mal College of the University of Delhi and completed a Bachelor of Science degree. In his twenties, Bachchan gave up a job as freight broker for the shipping firm, Bird and Co., based in Calcutta, to pursue a career in acting.
He married actress Jaya Bhaduri on June 3, 1973 according to Bengali rites. The couple have two children: daughter Shweta and son Abhishek.
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969 as one of the seven protagonists in Saat Hindustani, a film directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. Starring opposite actors such as Utpal Dutt, Madhu and Jalal Agha the film was not a financial success but Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Newcomer. The critically acclaimed and commercially successful Anand (1971) followed, where he starred alongside Rajesh Khanna who was the leading popular actor at the time. Bachchan playing the role of Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee treating a cancer patient, a doctor with a cynical view of life and the dark reality of his nation garned him a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance. Amitabh then played the role of an infatuated lover in Parwaana (1971) opposite Navin Nischol, Yogeeta Bali and Om Prakash and was a rare instance of him portraying the villain.This was followed by several films which were not particularly successful at the box office including Reshma Aur Shera (1971) and during this time he made a guest appearance in the film Guddi which starred his future wife to be Jaya Bhaduri opposite Dharmendra. Noted for his deep baritone voice early on in hs career, he narrated part of the film Bawarchi later. In 1972 he made an appearance in the road action comedy Bombay to Goa directed by S. Ramanathan. He starred alongside actors such as Aruna Irani, Mehmood, Anwar Ali and Nasir Hussain. During his struggling days he stayed in Actor, Director & Comedy's Monarch Mehmood's House for 7 (Seven) Long Years.
Rise to Stardom 1973-1983:
1973 saw a significant development in Bachchan's career when director Prakash Mehra cast him in the leading role for the film Zanjeer (1973) as Inspector Vijay Khanna. The film was a sharp contrast to the romantically themed films that had generally preceded it and established Amitabh in a new persona – the "angry young man" action hero of Bollywood, reputation he was the acquire in pictures that followed it. It was his first film as the leading protagonist to achieve box office success and earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. 1973 was also the year he married Jaya, marrying on June 3 of that year and around this time they appeared in several films together, not only in Zanjeer but in films such as Abhimaan which followed and was released only a month after their ceremony in July 1973. Later Bachchan played the role of Vikram in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role opposite Rajesh Khanna and Rekha was praised and won him the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.
In 1974 Bachchan made several guest appearances in films such as Kunwara Baap and Dost before playing a supporting role in the highest grossing film of that year Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. The film directed and written by Manoj Kumar which addressed themes of honesty in the face of oppression and financial and emotional hardship was a critical and commercial success, placing Amitabh opposite Kumar himself, Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman. Bachchan then played the leading role in film Majboor released on December 6 1974 which was a remake of the Hollywood film Zigzag starring George Kennedy but was only a moderate success at the box office. In 1975 he starred in a variety of film genres from the comedy Chupke Chupke, the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. However 1975 was the year when he appeared in two films which are regarded as important in Hindi cinematic history. He starred in the Yash Chopra directed film Deewar opposite Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, and Neetu Singh which earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975, ranking in at number 4 and the Indiatimes Movies ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. Released on August 15, 1975 was Sholay (meaning fire) which became the highest grossing film of all time in India earning Rs. 2,36,45,00,000 equivalent to US$ 60 million, after adjusting for inflation. Bachchan played the role of Jaidev opposite a cast which included some of the top names in the industry including Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan. In 1999, BBC India declared it the "Film of the Millennium" and like Deewar has been cited by Indiatimes movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. In that same year, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare awards awarded it with a special award called Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
After the phenonemal success of films such as Sholay at the box office, Bachchan had now consilidated his position in the industry and from 1976 through to 1984 would receive an unprecedented number of Filmfare Best Actor Award Awards and nominations. Although films such as Sholay cemented his status as Bollywood's pre-eminent action hero, Bachchan illustrated that he was flexible in other roles, successfully playing the romantic lead, in films such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and comic timing in comedies such as Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and of course earlier in Chupke Chupke (1975) . In 1976 he was once again cast by director Yash Chopra in his second film, Kabhi Kabhie, a romantic tale in which Bachchan starred as a young poet named Amit Malhotra who falls deeply in love with a beautiful young girl named Pooja played by actress Rakhee Gulzar. The emotional eclectic of the dialogue and softness of the subject matter proved a direct contrast to some of Amitabh's earlier grittier action pictures and those he would later go on to play. The film saw him nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award and was a notable box office success. In 1977 he won the Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Amar Akbar Anthony where he played the third lead opposite Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as Anthony Gonsalves. 1978 was possibly the most accoladed year of his career and he starred in all four of the highest grossing films of India in that year. He once again resumed double roles in films such as Kasme Vaade as Amit and Shankar and Don playing the characters of Don, a leader of an underworld gang and his look alike Vijay. His performance won him the Filmfare Best Actor Award and considerable critical acclaim as with his performances in Trishul and Muqaddar Ka Sikander which both earned him further Filmfare Best Actor nominations. On account of this unprecedented run and success he encountered at this stage in his career, he was billed a "one-man industry" by the French director Francois Truffaut.
In 1979 for the first time, Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the film Mr. Natwarlal which he starred in alongside Rekha. His performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Best Male Playback Awards. In 1979 he also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar (1979) and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed film Dostana in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. Dostana proved to be the top grossing film of 1980. In 1981 he starred in Yash Chopra's melodrama film Silsila where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and rumoured flame Rekha. Other films of this period include Ram Balram (1980), Shaan (1980), Lawaaris (1981), and Shakti (1982) which pitted him against legendary actor Dilip Kumar.
While filming Coolie in 1982, Bachchan nearly fatally injured his intestines during the filming of a fight scene with co-actor Puneet Issar. Bachchan had taken the liberty to perform his own stunts in the film and one scene required him to fall onto a table and then on the ground. However as he jumped towards the table, the corner of the table struck his abdomen resulting in a splenic rupture that saw him lose a significant amount of blood. He was flown out and needed urgent operation (splenectomy) and remained critically ill in hospital for many months, and at times was close to death. A rumor spread that he had died from the accident and a remarkable outpouring of support and concern by his fans and the nation in general followed. The accident received wider world coverage and hit the headlines in the UK something unheard of at the time. Many Indians prayed in temples or offered to sacrifice their own limbs to save him and later there were mile-long queues of well-wishing fans outside the hospital where he was recuperating. Nevertheless he spent many months recovering and resumed filming later that year after a long period of recuperation. The film was released in 1983 and partly due to the huge publicity of Bachchan's accident the film was a box office success.
The director, Manmohan Desai altered the ending for Coolie after Bachchan's accident. Bachchan's character was originally intended to have been killed off but after the change of script, the character lived in the end. It would have been inappropriate, said Desai, for the man who had just fended off death in real life to be killed on screen. Also, in the released film the footage of the fight scene is frozen at the critical moment, and a caption appears onscreen marking this as the instant of the actor's injury and the ensuing publicity of the accident.
Later, he was struck with Myasthenia gravis which occurred either because of the heavy medication that he took during his Coolie accident or because of the blood transfusion that he had received. His illness made him feel weak both mentally and physically and he decided to quit films and venture into politics. At this time he had developed a pessimistic view of his film career, and was concerned with how a new film would be received every Friday. Before every release he would negatively state, "Yeh film to flop hogi!" ("This film will flop").
In 1984, Amitabh took a break from acting and briefly entered politics in support of long-time family friend Rajiv Gandhi. He contested Allahabad's Lok Sabha seat against H. N. Bahuguna, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and won by highest victory margin in general election history (68.2% of the vote). His political career, however, was short-lived: He resigned after three years, leaving his term incomplete. The resignation followed Bachchan's implication and that of his brother in the 'Bofors scandal' by a newspaper which he vowed to take to court. Bachchan was eventually found not to be guilty of involvement in the ordeal.
His old friend Amar Singh helped him during a financial crisis due to the failure of his company ABCL. Therefore Bachchan started to support Amar Singh's political party, the Samajwadi party. Jaya Bachchan joined Samajwadi Party and became a Rajya Sabha Member. Bachchan has continued to do favors for the Samajwadi party, including advertisements and political campaigns. These activities have recently gotten him into trouble again in the Indian courts for false claims after a previous fiasco of submission of legal papers by him stating that he is a farmer.
Very few are aware of the somewhat self-imposed press ban on Bachchan. Stardust and some the film magazines got together to form an association that banned Bachchan for 15 years during his peak. They decided not to print anything about Bachchan in any of their publications. Bachchan had said that he had banned the press from entering his sets almost till the end of 1989. However, he had nothing personal against any particular magazine. It has been said that Bachchan had banned certain publications because he disliked what was being published about him and as such he vetoed them in an attempt to get them to conform this.
In 1988, Bachchan returned to films after a three year stint in politics and played the title role in Shahenshah, which was a box office success due to the hype of Bachchan's comeback. After the success of his comeback film however, his star power began to wane as all of his subsequent films failed at the box office. The 1991 hit film Hum looked like it might reverse this trend, but the momentum was short-lived as his string of box office failures continued. Notably, despite the lack of hits, it was during this period that Bachchan won his second National Film Award, for his memorable performance as a Mafia don in the 1990 film Agneepath. These years would be the last he would be seen on screen for some time. After the release of Khuda Gawah in 1992, Bachchan went into semi-retirement for five years. In 1994 one of his delayed films Insaniyat was released but was also a box office failure.
Bachchan turned producer during his temporary retirement period and setup Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd. (A.B.C.L.) in 1996 with the vision of becoming a 10 billion rupees (approx 250 million $US) premier entertainment company by the year 2000. ABCL's strategy was to introduce products and services covering the entire section of the India's entertainment industry. Its operations were mainstream commercial film production and distribution, audio cassettes and video discs, production and marketing of television software, celebrity and event management. Soon after the company was launched in 1996, the first film produced by the company was Tere Mere Sapne which failed to do well at the box office but launched the careers of actors such as Arshad Warsi and South films superstar Simran. ABCL produced a few other films none of which did well.
In 1997, Bachchan attempted to make his acting comeback with the film Mrityudaata, produced by ABCL. Though Mrityudaata attempted to reprise Bachchan's earlier success as an action hero, like most of ABCL ventures, the film was a failure both financially and critically. ABCL was the main sponsor of the The 1996 Miss World beauty pageant, Bangalore and lost millions due to the poor management of the event. The fiasco and the consequent legal battles surrounding ABCL and various entities after the event, coupled with the fact that ABCL was reported to have overpaid most of its top level managers, eventually led to its financial and operational collapse in 1997. The company went into administration and was later on declared as a failed company by Indian Industries board. The Bombay high court, in April 1999 restrained Bachchan from selling off his Bombay bungalow 'Prateeksha' and two flats till the pending loan recovery cases of Canara Bank were disposed of. Bachchan had, however, pleaded that he had mortgaged his bungalow to Sahara India Finance for raising funds for his company.
Bachchan later attempted to revive his acting career and had average success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998) and received positive reviews for Sooryavansham (1999) but most, however, then believed that Bachchan's glory days were over as all his other films such as Lal Baadshah (1999) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999) were box office failures.
In the year 2000, Bachchan stepped up to host India's adaptation of the British television game-show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? entitled, Kaun Banega Crorepati. As it did in most other countries where it was adopted, the program found immediate and profound success, in no small part due to Bachchan's charisma. It is believed that Bachchan charged a whopping Rs 25 lakhs (2.5 million Indian Rupees, approximately US$60,000 ) per weekly episode which strengthened Bachchan and his family both financially and morally after the setbacks that he had to cope after ABCL's collapse. The Canara Bank also withdrew its law suit against Bachchan in November 2000. Bachchan hosted KBC till November 2005, and its success set the stage for his return to film popularity.
Bachchan is known for his deep, baritone voice. He has been a narrator, a playback singer and presenter for numerous programmes. Renowned film director Satyajit Ray was so impressed with Bachchan's voice, that he decided to use his voice as commentary in Shatranj Ke Khiladi since he did not find any suitable role for him. Before entering the film industry, Bachchan applied for a job with All India Radio for the post of a news announcer, for which he was rejected.