50 years of Amitabh Bachchan: From 'Saat Hindustani' to 'Gulabo Sitabo', a look at the actor's illustrious career
Fifty years ago, when a 27-year-old man from Allahabad made his debut on the big screen as an actor in the ensemble cast of K.A. Abbas "Saat Hindustani", he was far from an overnight sensation. The film failed to click, and although people noticed the lanky man and his deep voice, it would be a while before he would really leave an impact. Amitabh Bachchan was far from being a star, but the film at least made him a familiar name in Bollywood He became a talking point only a couple of years later, when Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Anand" released in 1971. Despite reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna starring in the title role, Bachchan grabbed attention with his gravitas in the role of Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee.
The actor, who went on to star in 1971 Anand, was not a star, he was just a debutant who was looking for a big break. But he managed to prove his talent. In the film, he essayed the role of a doctor named Bhaskar Banerjee. The cult classic was Bachchan's first major hit, although its success is largely credited to Rajesh Khanna, the reigning superstar of the times. By the time Mukherjee cast Khanna and Bachchan together again in his 1973 release, "Namak Haraam", it was Bachchan's supporting role of Vikram that the audience rooted for. A new superstar was born. Amitabh Bachchan's reign had begun.
In the same year, Prakash Mehra's Zanjeer saw the birth of Bachchan's Angry Young Man avatar. He portrayed the role of a tough and honest police officer Vijay Khanna, who hates crimes and can go to any extent to finish it. The film was a turning point not only in Big B's career, but also in the course that the Bollywood screen hero's image would take. By the time the Yash Chopra's Deewaar released, Bachchan's Angry Young Man persona had become a rage among the masses. Nonetheless, there can be no count of Bachchan's best roles can be complete without the Ramesh Sippy blockbuster. Although Bachchan had a billing below Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra and Hema Malini in the film, his intense brooding persona captured imagination.
Later with Amar Akbar Anthony, Big B tickled the funny bone with his role of Anthony Gonsalves. The film had a lasting impact on pop culture, with Laxmikant-Pyarelal's distinct score, the dramatic one-liners, colourful characters and a peculiar mix of slapstick and melodrama. Big B continued exploring this brand of comedy in films such as "Laawaris" "Namak Halaal", "Satte Pe Satta" and "Bade Miyan Chote Miyan".
Acing his versatile persona, he made of the most suave antiheroes of Bollywood screen with Chandra Barot's "Don", scripted by Salim-Javed, which cast Amitabh Bachchan as a ruthless smuggler and his lookalike smalltown bumpkin. In 1990 with Agneepath, Big B raised the game of his Angry Young Man to the next level. In a daring experiment with the actor's biggest asset -- his baritone voice -- director Mukul Anand had Amitabh Bachchan speak in a cracked voice all through.
Although the 90s wasn't a stardom high for Big B, he bounced back in 2005 when he won his second National Award as Best Actor for his portrayal of a teacher of the differently-abled Michelle (Rani Mukerji) in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. For his role of Debraj Sahay, Big B reportedly did not take any remuneration from Bhansali. Four years later, Big B pulled off his role in Paa with elan in a role that won him his third National Award as Best Actor. In 2009, actor Amitabh Bachchan surprised the audience essaying a 12-year-old boy named Auro, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called progeria that causes him to age quickly. Few years later, Big B played Deepika Padukone's grumpy Bengali father, who is obsessed with his bowel movements in this slice-of-life drama. The Shoojit Sircar film subtly established the correlation between a man's physical condition and his emotional state. The film won Amitabh Bachchan his fourth National Award as Best Actor.
As his debut film Saat Hindustani completes 50 years today, it would not be wrong to say that Big B has seen it all, from touching the pinnacle of stardom to facing failure in his days of bankruptcy and then seeing a meteoric rise. His upcoming projects include Chehre, Gulabo Sitabo, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, Brahmastra and Aankhen 2.