Birthday Special: Amitabh Bachchan & the ‘Stardom’ Tax
Amitabh Bachchan is perhaps, the only star in Hindi cinema whose stardom has lasted for as long as one can remember, even after being completely snuffed out for more than a decade. It is a well-earned stardom; Big B is a face and entity that holds his place and charm on the cinematic scene even today. Perhaps, it was with a sense of clairvoyance that his parents named him ‘Amitabh’, a Buddhist deity known to symbolise longevity and ‘Infinite Light’. Big B has been the shine of celluloid for almost half a century and deservedly so.
Cost of Stardom
This stardom, however, has not come without a price, success usually doesn’t. From life-threatening accidents (Coolie), mega scandals (adultery, Bofors, Panama Papers...the list goes on), bankruptcy (ABCL), press bans, political harakiri and more, Big B has survived tough ups and downs while managing to cling to his stardom even when the sun seemed to have permanently gone down on the Angry Young Man. Yet, there seems to have been a bigger price he has paid, the loss of a voice and identity.
His return to public consciousness with KBC was not that of the star we had singularly loved through every brilliant and ridiculous film. This was a very cautious man, worn down by a little too much experience and a new-found faux humility that did not concur with the man who had famously banned the press on his shoots in response to them banning him. He now wore an over-pleasing cloak of ‘humility’ to serve his new-found image of this very well-meaning, grand and upright old man. Cloak because, he has never stood up to the very principle he believes makes up the virtue of humility, as he states in his tweet above.
Onus of Stardom
Perhaps, no one is more aware than Bachchan Sr. himself of how loaded is his legacy. His letter to his granddaughters (during the promotion of Pink) is soaked in this awareness yet the faux humility shows up in assigning his heritage to his father instead. The post-ABCL Bachchan seems to be consistently shirking off responsibility, handily employing this ‘humility’ to do the job. It brings into question his continual relevance.
It is not the choice of films but life-choices that constantly damn him, the latest being his insanely politically correct (and I daresay, cowardly) response to Tanushree Dutta’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Nana Patekar.
Perhaps, it would have been fair game for a septuagenarian to wish so had he not been milking his stardom for his own benefit for decades now, conveniently shifting everything from loyalties to bank balance for power and money.
Having grown up in the 80s with Big B looming large even through his decline, I don’t miss the Angry Young Man as much today as I miss the arrogant one inside him. Maybe he does too, what else could this line in the letter mean – “Do this and you would have done more than I have ever done…?” On his 76th birthday, along with wishes for longevity I also wish him resurgence of his ‘light’ with these lines from Pink.
Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal
Tu kisliye hatash hai
Tu chal, tere wajood ki
Samay ko bhi talash hai…