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By: Ali Peter John, IndiaFM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Thirty-seven years ago a young man with an unusual name like Amitabh Bachchan was looking out for a break as an actor. He found it a distant dream till Tinnu Anand decided to opt out as an actor as one of the seven Hindustanis in Saat Hindustani, a film being planned by K.A. Abbas. The filmmaker, who was upset with Tinnu who was also his assistant and the son of his best friend, Inder Raj Anand, asked Tinnu to find a replacement for him immediately as he had to shoot within the next few days. Tinnu luckily had a "Jaadu Ki Pudiya" in the purse. He had a photograph of a young man given to him by a girlfriend from Delhi who wanted him to show the photograph to some of his filmmaker friends. Abbas found something very striking about the face in the photograph. He asked Tinnu to send for him without any delay. The young man was working as a junior executive in Calcutta. Tinnu called him and he rushed to Bombay with his brother, Ajitabh. The two brothers met Abbas. He told Amitabh all about his role and bluntly said he would pay him a sum of Rs. 5,000/ - only for the entire film and that he would have to give him a month to shoot the film. He gave him twenty-four hours to let him know about his decision. Amitabh returned the next day and agreed to all his terms and conditions. His test was still not over. Abbas asked Amitabh whether he was related to Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan. He said he was his son. Abbas instantly picked up the phone and called Dr. Bachchan and asked him if he had given his son permission to work in films. Dr. Bachchan said if he (Abbas) was making the film with him he had no objection. It was only then that Abbas signed him.
Amitabh met another young actor, Anwar Ali, the brother of the well-known comedian Mehmood who gave him a place to stay in his bungalow. Mehmood took a great liking for him and decided to help him in whatever way he could and did. Hrishikesh Mukherjee had seen the young actor in Saat Hindustani and was very impressed, an impression which was going to pay Amitabh very rich dividends.
A leading producer, N.C. Sippy signed him for three films on the recommendation of Hrishida who was his partner. He signed him for Bombay To Goa for Rs. 5,000/-, for Anand Rs. 7,000/- and for Parwaana Rs. 7,500/-. He was in no position to bargain or make any demands.
The veteran actor Om Prakash worked with him in Parwaana and was astounded. He went all over, meeting filmmakers and other actors and telling them how he had worked with some of the best actors but had never had worked with an actor like this "lamba sa aadmi" with a very "bhaari" voice and "with a rare fire in his eyes". His word spread and one of them who took greater interest was producer Prakash Mehra but did not take any decision then. It was around this time that the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry had a special screening of Anand. It was a coincidence that Amitabh was to shoot in Pondicherry for S. Raamanathan's Bombay To Goa. And Amitabh saw something strange happening around him. First, just three people kept staring at him, then some more and finally he was surrounded by a crowd and some one asked him if he was the same man who had acted in Anand. He humbly said yes and it was the first time that he was mobbed.
Some other films with him followed and failed miserably till Prakash Mehra decided to make Zanjeer. Actors like Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar and Dharmendra had turned down the role of the leading man because there were no songs for the hero. Javed Akhtar, the writer recommended Amitabh. Jaya Bhaduri who was a leading actress agreed to work if he was taken as the hero. She was strongly supported by the veteran actors, Om Prakash and Pran. Amitabh was the leading man by sheer chance. His parents and his mentors, Abbas and Hrishida believed that he had made very big mistake by signing a B grade stunt film. Amitabh proved them all wrong when the film was released. At 12 noon he was an insulted flop actor. At 3.00 p.m. he was a superstar. And today at 64 when stars and superstars have come and gone he has stood supreme as the greatest ever superstar of all time. Koi shaque?
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