Amitabh Bachchan is so much more than an actor – he has defined an entire era of Bollywood and has been loved by generations. It seems that he has done it all: not only has he starred in some of the most iconic Indian films, he has also produced quite a few, served as a TV host and even moonlighted as a politician. He is renowned not only in India but across the world, for his stellar acting career, which includes some milestones in the Indian film industry.
A Career Full of Potential
Bachchan was born in 1942 in Uttar Pradesh, to a poet father and a mother that was a social activist and close to Indira Gandhi – and most importantly, loved the theatre. It seems only natural that the Superstar of the Millennium would direct his sensitivity into the arts and become an actor. His first main breakthrough was in the 1971 film Anand, where he managed to hold his own starring alongside Rajesh Khanna – a feat in itself. Bachchan delivered a beautiful portrayal of a cynical doctor and won the first of many awards to come when he won the Best Supporting Actor category in the Filmfare awards. From then on, it was only upwards for him, as he became the symbol of Indian filmography for the rest
As Forbes reports, he has starred in over 150 films during a career that spans across no less than 50 years and remains very successful to this day by starring in popular rom-coms like Bhoothnath Returns, which was released in 2014. Despite popular belief, Bachchan has played very diverse roles: in 1975 for instance, he played the introvert and sensitive small-time crook Jay in Sholay, alongside Dharmendra, while a few years later he portrayed the expert gambler Jai in 1979’s The Great Gambler. The film, which achieved cult status very quickly, mixes casino scenes with the underworld, spies and top-secret government projects, sharing many tropes with classic Western films like James Bond’s adventure in 2006’s Casino Royale or 1962’s Dr. No, both of which made it to Betway’s Top 10 Hollywood gambling scenes. In another career shift, he has hosted Sony TV’s Kaun Banega Croperati (the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire) for nine out of its ten seasons – returning for 2018’s 10th season.
India’s Angry Young Man: The Voice of a Generation
Although his acting choices have varied over the years, he has also developed a Bollywood acting trope that would be dubbed the “angry young man” by journalists. In that role, he depicted the anxiousness and restlessness of a whole generation of Indian young people, frustrated with the status quo and eager to challenge it – in short, everyone who was 20-something in India in the 1970s. His establishment of that persona came with the legendary role he got in 1973 in Zanjeer, which many other Bollywood actors turned down, hesitant to move away from the romantic hero cliché that they were used to. Bachchan took the chance, and it paid off big. After a shaky start in his career, he finally landed the big role that would propel him forward as a true protagonist. His portrayal of Vijay, a police officer who fights against the wrongs of a rigged system while remaining honourable and moral, created a whole new wave in Bollywood.
The masses finally had a hero to look up to, someone not afraid to channel their anger in an active way – but also someone with moral values. He portrays another character named Vijay a couple of years later, in the 1975 Bollywood masterpiece Dewaar, written by Salim-Javed. A man of modest means, Vijay struggles to make ends meet and escape a shameful legacy by turning to the criminal world. His perfect delivery of an anti-hero torn between the sacrifice of his moral values and his duty to his family, the role helped Bachchan reinforce his “angry young man” image. After a critical injury during filming Coolie in 1982, which gathered fans in support of their icon, Bachchan returned with his acclaimed Shahenshah, written by his wife, Jaya Bachchan. The film was an instant box-office hit and sees the Big B again portray an honest cop named Vijay – but who also is secretly a crime-fighting vigilante by the name of Shahenshah.
During his highly successful career, Bachchan received numerous awards and recognition for his acting skills. But after all is said and done, he will be remembered for a feat unlike no other in Bollywood history: for making the common man identify with his characters and for reflecting a generation’s anger, hopes and dreams on screen.