Amitabh Bachchan was born on 11 October 1942 in Allahabad, United Province, British India, is an Indian film actor. He first gained popularity in the early 1970s as the “angry young man” of Hindi cinema, and has since become one of the most prominent figures in the history of Indian cinema.
His father, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a well-known Hindi poet, while his mother, Teji Bachchan was a Sikh-Punjabi from Faisalabad (now in Pakistan). Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired from the famous phrase Inquilab Zindabad, during the Indian independence struggle. However, at the suggestion of fellow poet Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai changed the name to Amitabh which means, “the light that would never go off.” Though his surname was Shrivastava, his father had adopted the pen-name Bachchan (meaning child-like in colloquial Hindi), 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 family. Bachchan’s father died in 2003, and his mother in 2007.
Amitabh is the eldest of Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s two sons, the second being Ajitabh. His mother had a keen interest in theatre and had been offered a role in a film, but preferred her domestic duties. She had some degree of influence in Bachchan’s choice of career because she always insisted that he should take the centre stage. 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 now known as Kolkata, to pursue a career in acting.
Bachchan has won numerous major awards in his career, including four National Film Awards, three of which are in the Best Actor category, and fourteen Filmfare Awards. He is the most-nominated performer in any major acting category at Filmfare, with 36 nominations overall. In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer and television presenter, and was an elected member of the Indian Parliament from 1984 to 1987.
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969 as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen’s National Award winning film Bhuvan Shome. Thereafter he got his first acting role as one of the seven protagonists in Saat Hindustani, a film directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and featuring Utpal Dutt, Madhu and Jalal Agha. Though the film was not a financial success, Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Newcomer.
Anand (1971) followed, where he starred alongside Rajesh Khanna. Bachchan’s role as a doctor with a cynical view of life garned him his first Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. Amitabh then played his first negative role as an infatuated lover-turned-murderer in Parwaana (1971). This was followed by several films including Reshma Aur Shera (1971). During this time, he made a guest appearance in the fil
On 26 July 1982, while filming Coolie in the University Campus in Bangalore, Bachchan suffered a near fatal intestinal injury during the filming of a fight scene with co-actor Puneet Issar. Bachchan was performing 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 from which he lost a significant amount of blood. He required an emergency splenectomy and remained critically ill in hospital for many months, at times close to death. The public response included prayers in temples and offers to sacrifice limbs to save him, while later, there were 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 of 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.
In 1984, Bachchan took a break from acting and briefly entered politics in support of long-time family friend, Rajiv Gandhi. He contested Allahabad’s seat of 8th Lok Sabha against H. N. Bahuguna, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and won by one of the highest victory margins in general election history (68.2% of the vote). His political career, however, was short-lived: he resigned after three years, calling politics a cesspool. The resignation followed the implication of Bachchan and his brother in the “Bofors scandal” by a newspaper, which he vowed to take to court. Bachchan was eventually found not guilty of involvement in the ordeal.
In 1988, Bachchan returned to films, playing 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, for which he won his third Filmfare Best Actor Award, 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 first National Film Award for Best Actor, for his 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, setting up 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 was produced by the company. Tere Mere Sapne failed to do well at the box office but launched the careers of actors such as Arshad Warsi and South films star 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, the film was a failure both financially and critically. ABCL was the main sponsor of the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant, Bangalore but lost millions. 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 declared 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 attempted to revive his acting career and had average success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), and received positive reviews for Sooryavansham (1999) but 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 success. Canara Bank 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.
In November 2005, Amitabh Bachchan was admitted to Lilavati Hospital’s ICU once more, to undergo surgery for diverticulitis of the small intestine. This occurred after Bachchan complained of pains in his abdomen some days prior. During the period and that following his recovery, most of his projects were put on hold, including the television show he was in the process of hosting, Kaun Banega Crorepati. Amitabh returned to work in March 2006.
Bachchan is married to actress Jaya Bhaduri. They have two children, Shweta Nanda and Abhishek Bachchan. Abhishek is also an actor and is married to actress Aishwarya Rai.