Looking back at the Golden Age of one and only Amitabh Bachchan

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Bollywood Legends Series

Our Bureau
Mumbai

The years of 1970s and 1980s, when Amitabh Bachchan dominated the screen, gave us some of the finest films, starting with Zanjeer, Abhimaan, Namak Haraam, Deewaar, Trishul, Sholay, Kabhi Kabhie, Don, Kaala Patthar, Chupke Chupke, Amar Akbar Anthony and many more.

The year 1981 saw six Bachchan releases (Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Naseeb, Silsila, Kaala, Yaarana and Laawaris). Four of these, Naseeb, Yaarana, Kaalia and Laawaris, were among the year’s top grossers reaffirming Bachchan’s status as a box-office king.

Brooding and long-limbed like a basketball player, Big B was doing a lot of the latter in Naseeb, Laawaris and Kaalia. Three of 1981’s most popular hits, this masala bonanza was typical of the period. The same year, Bachchan teamed up with all his favourite directors, Yash Chopra in Silsila, Manmohan Desai in Naseeb and Prakash Mehra in Laawaris.

With them, he had struck a winning combo starting from the 1970s. The Bachchan of Naseeb, Laawaris and Kaalia is so different from the one of Silsila that you might mistake him for having a split personality. He was the fulcrum of both the middle-of-the-road and commercial Hindi cinema, doing most of the heavy lifting and proving, in the end, his own inherent versatility and talent for switching between genres — sometimes in the same film! He had been dubbed a ‘one-man industry.’

A couple of years earlier, he had done Kaala Patthar, which is now a cult classic. Released in 1979, Kaala Patthar featured Amitabh as a former Indian Navy Captain who worked in mines. The film also starred Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Sanjeev Kumar, Rakhee, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Prem Chopra among others.

Directed and produced by Yash Chopra, the screenplay of action drama was written by Salim-Javed. It was a critically acclaimed movie. Sharing a picture collage of Kaala Patthar reently, the actor wrote, “42 years of Kaala Patthar .. !!! phew !!! Been a while .. and so many incidents in the film from my personal experiences when I worked in the Coal Dept of my Calcutta Company, my first job before joining the movies .. actually working in the Coal mines in Dhanbad and Asansol …”

In an old interview with a leading daily, Amitabh revealed that, “Not many know that my first ever job was in Kolkata in 1962 where I worked in coal mines for 7-8 years. A lot has been changed in the city. Many flyovers have been made now. I love eating puchka pani opposite to Victoria memorial.” Even last year, Amitabh on his game show Kaun Banega Crorepati spoke about working in a coal mine.

On the work front, Amitabh is currently hosting the 13th season of Kaun Banega Crorepati. He will also be seen in Chehre, Jhund, Brahmastra, and Mayday. Recently, he completed the first schedule of Vikas Bahl-directorial, Goodbye. Moreover, he will also feature in the Indian adaptation of Nancy Meyers’s 2015 Hollywood film The Intern.


Big B’s five top thrillers

Parwana (1971): In this pre-Zanjeer suspense thriller Amitabh Bachchan was cast as an obsessive lover who decides to eliminate his object of adoration’s father when the old man refuses to let his daughter marry the stalker. The elaborate murder-alibi plan was to die for. Directed by Jyoti Swaroop who made one of Indian cinema’s most successful comedies Padosan, Parwana features Big B in one of his most underrated performances.

Majboor (1974): Salim-Javed’s clever adaptation of the Charles Bronson thriller Cold Sweat featured Amitabh Bachchan as a man who owns up to a murder he did not commit. The film directed by Ravi Tandon has many twists and turns that keep us glued to the end.

Benaam (1974): Based on Alfred Hithcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much this underrated thriller directed by the highly underrated Narendra Bedi had the Big B and Moushumi Chatterjee as a working-class couple whose only child is kidnapped after they witness a murder. The film had a terrific theme song composed by R D Burman and sung by Narendra Chanchal.

Wazir (2016): Written by producer Vinod Chopra, along with Abhijat (Munnabhai) Joshi Supriya Kelkar and Suketu Mehta this is quite comfortably the best Amitabh Bachchan thriller in years. Our heart never stops leaping into our mouths at the twists and turns that the characters encounter in their journey towards an apocalyptic finale.

Badlaa (2018): Amitabh Bachchan plays Badal Gupta, a hotshot lawyer on the verge of retirement who has never lost a case. Badal goes for the kill when he is invited to look into a case of a murder accused, a nonchalant imperturbable married woman named Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) whose morals are so reprehensible they make Indrani Mukerjea seem excusably misguided in comparison.


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