Amitabh Harivansh Rai Bachchan is one of the most iconic film stars in the history of Indian cinema. Instantly recognizable courtesy of his unparalleled ‘baritone’ voice and imposing frame, the superstar is an integral part of Bollywood and Indian television history. Originally from Uttar Pradesh, the actor took the Bollywood industry by storm in the 1970s and early 80s with movies like Anand, Zanjeer, Deewar, and Amar Akbar Anthony. His performances revolutionized the image of protagonists in the industry and Amitabh Bachchan, due to his movie roles, was popularly referred to as “the angry young man” of India.
Bachchan continues to be one of Bollywood’s most prominent figures and even made his Hollywood debut in The Great Gatsby, in 2013.
Originally named Inquilab Shrivastava, Amitabh Bachchan was born in British-ruled India to famous poet Harivansh Rai “Bachchan” and Teji Bachchan on 11th October 1942, in Allahabad. His name was later changed to Amitabh and he adopted his father’s pen name “Bachchan” as his surname. Five years later, Amitabh Bachchan was blessed with a younger brother, Ajitabh.
Amitabh Bachchan attended the Sherwood College in Nainital and followed it up with a bachelor’s of arts degree from the Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. After working as a freight broker in Calcutta, the ambitious young man decided to move to Bombay and take a shot at the booming Bollywood industry.
Amitabh Bachchan was born to famous Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and social activist Teji Bachchan, whom he lost in 2003 and 2007 respectively.
Shortly after the release of the mega-hit film Zanjeer in 1973, Amitabh Bachchan married his co-star- Jaya Bhaduri. The duo first met at the Film and Television Institute of India, where Jaya claims that she instantly fell for the actor. Amitabh Bachchan admits to falling in love with his co-star a little later, on the sets of the movie, Ek Nazar. The two got married and were soon blessed with two children- Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Bachchan-Nanda. Abhishek Bachchan is a prominent Bollywood actor who is married to former Miss World, Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The iconic Bollywood couple has a daughter. Big B’s daughter Shweta Bachchan-Nanda is married to industrialist Nikhil Nanda, and the couple has two children.
Amitabh Bachchan struggled when he came to Bombay and even spent a few nights on a bench at Marine Drive. He was considered “too dark” to play a protagonist in Bollywood by many. However, his deep baritone voice was put to use in 1969, when Amitabh Bachchan voice narrated the award-winning Bhuvan Shome. He followed this up with his acting debut as one of the seven heroes in Khwaja Ahmad Abbas’ Saat Hindustani. The public first took notice of the 6’1” actor when he played a doctor alongside Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand and bagged a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. A series of unsuccessful films followed but that didn’t dissuade the young man from pursuing his dreams.
Amitabh Bachchan set the industry on fire with his lead role in Prakash Mehra’s 1971 hit film Zanjeer. His stunning performance as an angry inspector was in stark contrast to the prevalent romantic heroes that dominated the protagonists’ roles in Bollywood. He earned the title “the angry young man of India” and his rise to the top was well underway. The actor went on to star in numerous successful movies across various genres and earned awards for several of them. In 1975, the superstar featured in two blockbusters, widely considered to be two of the greatest films in the history of Indian cinema- Yash Chopra’s Deewar and Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay.
The versatile superstar won critical acclaim for his performance as a romantic hero in Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie and for his role in the 1977 mega-hit Amar Akbar Anthony. The angry young man of Bollywood also mastered playing double roles, most notably in movies like Adalat, Kasme Vaade, and the award-winning Don. The roles and awards kept coming in for the Bollywood sensation and he was even nominated for Filmfare ‘Best Male Playback Singer’ for his vocal performance in the 1979 film Mr. Natwaral.
Bachchan became the face of Indian cinema and enjoyed phenomenal success for his roles in movies like Suhaag, Dostana, Silsila and Mahaan, where he played a double role. The actor overcame a fatal injury in the form of a splenic rupture in 1982 which he received while filming a fight scene for Coolie with co-star Puneet Issar. The nation held their collective breath but Bachchan was released from the hospital a few months later and continued filming. Coolie was a great success but the face of Bollywood decided to take a sabbatical from movies after he was diagnosed with the rare disease Myasthenia gravis, which made him extremely weak.
After a brief stint in politics, Amitabh Bachchan returned with the box-office hit Shahenshah. Although he enjoyed bits of success through films like Hum and Agneepath, the angry young man’s career was on a downward spiral and the actor effectively retired in 1992. He set up his own production house, ‘Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd.’ in 1996. The company never really took off and even Amitabh Bachchan himself appearing in its movies failed to spearhead its growth. The company collapsed in 1997 and the former face of Bollywood lost crores of rupees. Several legal battles haunted the man’s life and he was even sued by Canara Bank. Multiple failed attempts to resurrect his career cast doubts over the actor’s hopes of rejuvenated stardom.
However, in the year 2000, the film star finally got back to the top. The mega-hit film Mohabbatein, produced by the actor’s old friend Yash Chopra, where Amitabh Bachchan played a supporting role to Bollywood’s new hero Shah Rukh Khan. Bachchan’s performance earned him another much-awaited Filmfare award and the actor was back in business. Amitabh Bachchan also went on to host the tremendously popular TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati (India’s version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’). The superstar enjoyed further success in the form of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Ravi Chopra’s Baghban and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black. Bachchan was back in the spotlight and he earned several lucrative endorsement deals. From 2005-2006, the Bollywood legend starred in three hit films with his son Abhishek Bachchan- Bunty Aur Babli, Godfather tribute Sarkar, and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. In an intriguing twist, Amitabh Bachchan played Abhishek Bachchan’s teenage son in the 2009 hit film Paa, produced by Big B’s production house Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd.
The year 2013 saw Indian cinema icon Bachchan make his Hollywood debut in The Great Gatsby starring Hollywood legends Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Amitabh Bachchan proceeded to capture Indian audiences with his roles in the award-winning Piku, also starring Deepika Padukone, and 2016’s first hit film Wazir. His other 2016 releases include Te3n and Pink.
In 2001, Amitabh Bachchan began hosting the tremendously popular TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati (India’s version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’). The show went on to run for several years, with Amitabh Bachchan being one of the key elements that held it together.
The year 2014 saw Amitabh Bachchan debut in a fictional television show- Yudh. The show saw the superstar play the lead role of a businessman who has only a few years to live. Yudh was, however, met largely with mixed and negative reviews.