Amitabh Bachchan ([əmɪˈtaːbʱ ˈbətʃːən]; born Inquilaab Srivastava; 11 October 1942) is an Indian film actor, film producer, television host, occasional playback singer and former politician. He first gained popularity in the early 1970s for films such as Zanjeer, Deewaar and Sholay, and was dubbed India’s “angry young man” for his on-screen roles in Bollywood. Referred to as the Shahenshah of Bollywood, Sadi ka Mahanayak (Hindi for, “Greatest actor of the century”), Star of the Millennium, or Big B, he has since appeared in over 200 Indian films in a career spanning more than five decades. Bachchan is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actors in the history of Indian cinema as well as world cinema. So total was his dominance on the Indian movie scene in the 1970s and 1980s that the French director François Truffaut called him a “one-man industry”. Beyond the Indian subcontinent, he also has a large overseas following in markets including Africa (such as South Africa), the Middle East (especially Egypt), United Kingdom, Russia and parts of the United States.
Bachchan has won numerous accolades in his career, including four National Film Awards as Best Actor, Dadasaheb Phalke Award as lifetime achievement award and many awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies. He has won fifteen Filmfare Awards and is the most nominated performer in any major acting category at Filmfare, with 41 nominations overall. In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer and television presenter. He has hosted several seasons of the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s version of the game show franchise, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. He also entered politics for a time in the 1980s.
The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1984, the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015 for his contributions to the arts. The Government of France honoured him with its highest civilian honour, Knight of the Legion of Honour, in 2007 for his exceptional career in the world of cinema and beyond. Bachchan also made an appearance in a Hollywood film, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013), in which he played a non-Indian Jewish character, Meyer Wolfsheim.
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
Bachchan was born in Allahabad. His ancestors on his father’s side came from a village called Babupatti, in the Raniganj tehsil, in the Pratapgarh district, in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh, in India. His mother, Teji Bachchan, was a social activist and Punjabi Sikh woman from Lyallpur, Punjab, British India (present-day Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan). His father Harivansh Rai Bachchan was an Awadhi Hindu of Kayastha caste. His father was a poet, who was fluent in Awadhi and Urdu.
Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired by the phrase Inquilab Zindabad (which translates into English as “Long live the revolution”) popularly used during the Indian independence struggle. However, at the suggestion of fellow poet Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai changed the boy’s name to Amitabh, which, according to a The Times of India article, means “the light that will never die”. Although his surname was Shrivastava, Amitabh’s father had adopted the pen name Bachchan (“child-like” in colloquial Hindi), under which he published all of his works. It is with this last name that Amitabh debuted in films and for all other practical purposes, Bachchan has become the surname for all of his immediate family. Bachchan’s father died in 2003, and his mother in 2007.
Bachchan is an alumnus of Sherwood College, Nainital. He later attended Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. He has a younger brother, Ajitabh. His mother had a keen interest in theatre and was offered a feature film role, but she preferred her domestic duties. Teji had some influence in Amitabh Bachchan’s choice of career because she always insisted that he should “take the centre stage”.
He is married to actress Jaya Bhaduri.
Early career (1969–1972)
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969, as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen’s National Award-winning film Bhuvan Shome. His first acting role was as one of the seven protagonists in the film Saat Hindustani, directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and featuring Utpal Dutt, Anwar Ali (brother of comedian Mehmood), Madhu and Jalal Agha.
Anand (1971) followed, in which Bachchan starred alongside Rajesh Khanna. His role as a doctor with a cynical view of life garnered Bachchan his first Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award. He then played his first antagonist role as an infatuated lover-turned-murderer in Parwana (1971). Following Parwana were several films including Reshma Aur Shera (1971). During this time, he made a guest appearance in the film Guddi which starred his future wife Jaya Bhaduri. He narrated part of the film Bawarchi. In 1972 he made an appearance in the road action comedy Bombay to Goa directed by S. Ramanathan which was moderately successful. Many of Bachchan’s films during this early period did not do well, but that was about to change.
Bachchan and wife Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan in 2013; the couple got married in 1973, after the release of Zanjeer.
Rise to stardom (1973–1974)
Bachchan was struggling, seen as a “failed newcomer” who, by the age of 30, had twelve flops and only two hits (as a lead in Bombay to Goa and supporting role in Anand). Bachchan was soon discovered by screenwriter duo Salim-Javed, consisting of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. Salim Khan wrote the story, screenplay and script of Zanjeer (1973), and conceived the “angry young man” persona of the lead role. Javed Akhtar came on board as co-writer, and Prakash Mehra, who saw the script as potentially groundbreaking, as the film’s director. However, they were struggling to find an actor for the lead “angry young man” role; it was turned down by a number of actors, owing to it going against the “romantic hero” image dominant in the industry at the time. Salim-Javed soon discovered Bachchan and “saw his talent, which most makers didn’t. He was exceptional, a genius actor who was in films that weren’t good.” According to Salim Khan, they “strongly felt that Amitabh was the ideal casting for Zanjeer”. Salim Khan introduced Bachchan to Prakash Mehra, and Salim-Javed insisted that Bachchan be cast for the role.
Zanjeer was a crime film with violent action, in sharp contrast to the romantically themed films that had generally preceded it, and it established Amitabh in a new persona—the “angry young man” of Bollywood cinema. He earned his first Filmfare Award nomination for Best Actor, with Filmfare later considering this one of the most iconic performances of Bollywood history. The film was a huge success and one of the highest-grossing films of that year, breaking Bachchan’s dry spell at the box office and making him a star. It was the first of many collaborations between Salim-Javed and Amitabh Bachchan; Salim-Javed wrote many of their subsequent scripts with Bachchan in mind for the lead role, and insisted on him being cast for their later films, including blockbusters such as Deewaar (1975) and Sholay (1975). Salim Khan also introduced Bachchan to director Manmohan Desai with whom he formed a long and successful association, alongside Prakash Mehra and Yash Chopra. Eventually, Bachchan became one of the most successful leading men of the film industry. Bachchan’s portrayal of the wronged hero fighting a crooked system and circumstances of deprivation in films like Zanjeer, Deeewar, Trishul, Kaala Patthar and Shakti resonated with the masses of the time, especially the youth who harboured a simmering discontent owing to social ills such as poverty, hunger, unemployment, corruption, social inequality and the brutal excesses of The Emergency. This led to Bachchan being dubbed as “angry young man”, a journalistic catchphrase which became a metaphor for the dormant rage, frustration, restlessness, sense of rebellion and anti-establishment disposition of an entire generation, prevalent in 1970s India.
The year 1973 was also when he married Jaya, and around this time they appeared in several films together: not only Zanjeer but also subsequent films such as Abhimaan, which was released only a month after their marriage and was also successful at the box office. Later, Bachchan played the role of Vikram, once again along with Rajesh Khanna, in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role won him his second Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award.
In 1974, Bachchan made several guest appearances in films such as Kunwara Baap and Dost, before playing a supporting role in Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. The film, directed and written by Manoj Kumar, addressed themes of honesty in the face of oppression and financial and emotional hardship and was the top-earning film of 1974. Bachchan then played the leading role in the film Majboor. The film was a success at the box office.
Mid Career (1975–1988)
In 1975, he starred in a variety of film genres, from the comedy Chupke Chupke and the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. This was also the year in which Bachchan starred in two films regarded as important in Hindi cinema history, both written by Salim-Javed, who again insisted on casting Bachchan. The first was Deewaar, directed by Yash Chopra, where he worked with Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Parveen Babi, and Neetu Singh, and earned another Filmfare nomination for Best Actor. The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975, ranking in at number four. Indiatimes Movies ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. The other, released on 15 August 1975, was Sholay, which became the highest-grossing film ever in India at the time, in which Bachchan played the role of Jaidev. Deewaar and Sholay are often credited with exalting Bachchan to the heights of superstardom, two years after he became a star with Zanjeer, and consolidating his domination of the industry throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1999, BBC India declared Sholay the “Film of the Millennium” and, like Deewar, it has been cited by Indiatimes Movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. In that same year, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare Awards awarded it with the special distinction award called the Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
In 1976, he was cast by Yash Chopra in the romantic family drama Kabhie Kabhie. Bachchan starred as a young poet, Amit Malhotra, who falls deeply in love with a beautiful young girl named Pooja (Rakhee Gulzar) who ends up marrying someone else (Shashi Kapoor). The film was notable for portraying Bachchan as a romantic hero, a far cry from his “angry young man” roles like Zanjeer and Deewar. The film evoked a favourable response from critics and audiences alike. Bachchan was again nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award for his role in the film. That same year he played a double role in the hit Adalat as father and son. In 1977, he won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Amar Akbar Anthony, in which he played the third lead opposite Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as Anthony Gonsalves. The film was the highest-grossing film of that year. His other successes that year include Parvarish and Khoon Pasina.
He once again resumed double roles in films such as Kasme Vaade (1978) as Amit and Shankar and Don (1978) playing the characters of Don, a leader of an underworld gang and his look-alike Vijay. His performance won him his second Filmfare Best Actor Award. He also gave towering performances in Yash Chopra’s Trishul and Prakash Mehra’s Muqaddar Ka Sikandar both of which earned him further Filmfare Best Actor nominations. 1978 is arguably considered his most successful year at the box office since all of his six releases the same year, namely Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, Don, Kasme Vaade, Ganga Ki Saugandh and Besharam were massive successes, the former three being the consecutive highest-grossing films of the year, remarkably releasing within a couple of months of each other, a rare feat in Indian cinema.
In 1979, Bachchan starred in Suhaag which was the highest earning film of that year. In the same year he also enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success with films like Mr. Natwarlal, Kaala Patthar, The Great Gambler and Manzil. Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the first time in a song from the film Mr. Natwarlal in which he starred with Rekha. Bachchan’s performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer. He also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed film Dostana, in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. Dostana proved to be the top-grossing film of 1980. In 1981, he starred in Yash Chopra’s melodrama film Silsila, where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and also Rekha. Other successful films of this period include Shaan (1980), Ram Balram (1980), Naseeb (1981), Lawaaris (1981), Kaalia (1981), Yaarana (1981), Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (1981) and Shakti (1982), also starring Dilip Kumar.
In 1982, he played double roles in the musical Satte Pe Satta and action drama Desh Premee which succeeded at the box office along with mega hits like action comedy Namak Halaal, action drama Khud-Daar and the critically acclaimed drama Bemisal. In 1983, he played a triple role in Mahaan which was not as successful as his previous films. Other releases during that year included Nastik, Andha Kanoon (in which he had an extended guest appearance) which were hits and Pukar was an average grosser During a stint in politics from 1984 to 1987, his completed films Mard (1985) and Aakhree Raasta (1986) were released and were major hits.
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 overwhelming 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 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 and the top-grossing film of that year.
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.
Later, he was diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis. His illness made him feel weak both mentally and physically and he decided to quit films and venture into politics. At this time he became pessimistic, expressing concern with how a new film would be received, and stating before every release, “Yeh film to flop hogi!” (“This film will flop”).
Career fluctuations and retirement (1988–1992)
Bachchan during the shoot of 1990 Hindi film Agneepath
After a three-year stint in politics from 1984 to 1987, Bachchan returned to films in 1988, playing the title role in Shahenshah, which was a box office success. After the success of his comeback film however, his star power began to wane as all of his subsequent films like Jaadugar, Toofan and Main Azaad Hoon (all released in 1989) failed at the box office. Successes during this period like the crime drama Aaj Ka Arjun (1990) and action crime drama Hum (1991), for which he won his third Filmfare Best Actor Award, looked like they might reverse the trend, but this momentum was short-lived and his string of box office failures continued. Notably, despite the lack of hits, it was during this era that Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance as a Mafia don in the 1990 cult film Agneepath. These years would see his last on-screen appearances for some time. After the release of the critically acclaimed epic Khuda Gawah in 1992, Bachchan went into semi-retirement for five years. With the exception of the delayed release of Insaniyat (1994), which was also a box office failure, Bachchan did not appear in any new releases for five years.
Productions and acting comeback (1996–1999)
Bachchan turned producer during his temporary retirement period, setting up Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd. (ABCL) in 1996. ABCL’s strategy was to introduce products and services covering an entire cross-section of India’s entertainment industry. ABCL’s operations were mainstream commercial film production and distribution, audio cassettes and video discs, production and marketing of television software, and celebrity and event management. Soon after the company was launched in 1996, the first film it produced was Tere Mere Sapne, which was a moderate success and launched the careers of actors like Arshad Warsi and southern film star Simran.
In 1997, Bachchan attempted to make his acting comeback with the film Mrityudata, 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 the 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 raise funds for his company.
Bachchan attempted to revive his acting career, and eventually had commercial success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998) and Major Saab (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.
Return to prominence (2000–present)
In 2000, Amitabh Bachchan appeared in Yash Chopra’s box-office hit, Mohabbatein, directed by Aditya Chopra. He played a stern, elder figure who rivalled the character of Shahrukh Khan. His role won him his third Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. Other hits followed, with Bachchan appearing as an older family patriarch in Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love (2001), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001) and Baghban (2003). As an actor, he continued to perform in a range of characters, receiving critical praise for his performances in Aks (2001), Aankhen (2002), Kaante (2002), Khakee (2004) and Dev (2004). His performance in Aks won him his first Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor.
One project that did particularly well for Bachchan was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (2005). The film starred Bachchan as an ageing teacher of a deaf-blind girl and followed their relationship. His performance was unanimously praised by critics and audiences and won him his second National Film Award for Best Actor, his fourth Filmfare Best Actor Award and his second Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. Taking advantage of this resurgence, Amitabh began endorsing a variety of products and services, appearing in many television and billboard advertisements. In 2005 and 2006, he starred with his son Abhishek in the films Bunty Aur Babli (2005), the Godfather tribute Sarkar (2005), and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). All of them were successful at the box office. His later releases in 2006 and early 2007 were Baabul (2006), Ekalavya and Nishabd (2007), which failed to do well at the box office but his performances in each of them were praised by critics.
In May 2007, two of his films: the romantic comedy Cheeni Kum and the multi-starrer action drama Shootout at Lokhandwala were released. Shootout at Lokhandwala did well at the box office and was declared a hit in India, while Cheeni Kum picked up after a slow start and was a success. A remake of his biggest hit, Sholay (1975), entitled Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, released in August of that same year and proved to be a major commercial failure in addition to its poor critical reception. The year also marked Bachchan’s first appearance in an English-language film, Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear, co-starring Arjun Rampal and Preity Zinta. The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2007. He received positive reviews from critics who hailed his performance as his best ever since Black. Bachchan was slated to play a supporting role in his first international film, Shantaram, directed by Mira Nair and starring Hollywood actor Johnny Depp in the lead. The film was due to begin filming in February 2008 but due to the writer’s strike, was pushed to September 2008. The film is currently “shelved” indefinitely.
Vivek Sharma’s Bhoothnath, in which he plays the title role as a ghost, was released on 9 May 2008. Sarkar Raj, the sequel of the 2005 film Sarkar, released in June 2008 and received a positive response at the box office. Paa, which released at the end of 2009 was a highly anticipated project as it saw him playing his own son Abhishek’s Progeria-affected 13-year-old son, and it opened to favourable reviews, particularly towards Bachchan’s performance and was one of the top-grossing films of 2009. It won him his third National Film Award for Best Actor and fifth Filmfare Best Actor Award. In 2010, he debuted in Malayalam film through Kandahar, directed by Major Ravi and co-starring Mohanlal. The film was based on the hijacking incident of the Indian Airlines Flight 814. Bachchan declined any remuneration for this film.
In 2013 he made his Hollywood debut in The Great Gatsby making a special appearance opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. In 2014, he played the role of the friendly ghost in the sequel Bhoothnath Returns. The next year, he played the role of a grumpy father suffering from chronic constipation in the critically acclaimed Piku which was also one of the biggest hits of 2015. A review in Daily News and Analysis (DNA) summarised Bachchan’s performance as “The heart and soul of Piku clearly belong to Amitabh Bachchan who is in his elements. His performance in Piku, without doubt, finds a place among the top 10 in his illustrious career.” Rachel Saltz wrote for The New York Times, “Piku,” an offbeat Hindi comedy, would have you contemplate the intestines and mortality of one Bhashkor Banerji and the actor who plays him, Amitabh Bachchan. Bhashkor’s life and conversation may revolve around his constipation and fussy hypochondria, but there’s no mistaking the scene-stealing energy that Mr. Bachchan, India’s erstwhile Angry Young Man, musters for his new role of Cranky Old Man.” Well known Indian critic Rajeev Masand wrote on his website, “Bachchan is pretty terrific as Bhashkor, who reminds you of that oddball uncle that you nevertheless have a soft spot for. He bickers with the maids, harrows his hapless helper, and expects that Piku stay unmarried so she can attend to him. At one point, to ward off a possible suitor, he casually mentions that his daughter isn’t a virgin; that she’s financially independent and sexually independent too. Bachchan embraces the character’s many idiosyncrasies, never once slipping into caricature while all along delivering big laughs thanks to his spot-on comic timing. The Guardian summed up, “Bachchan seizes upon his cranky character part, making Bashkor as garrulously funny in his theories on caste and marriage as his system is backed-up.” The performance won Bachchan his fourth National Film Award for Best Actor and his third Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor.
In 2016, he appeared in the women-centric courtroom drama film Pink which was highly praised by critics and with an increasingly good word of mouth, was a resounding success at the domestic and overseas box office. Bachchan’s performance in the film received acclaim. According to Raja Sen of Rediff.com, “Amitabh Bachchan, a retired lawyer suffering from bipolar disorder, takes up cudgels on behalf of the girls, delivering courtroom blows with pugilistic grace. Like we know from Prakash Mehra movies, into each life some Bachchan must fall. The girls hang on to him with incredulous desperation, and he bats for them with all he has. At one point Meenal hangs by Bachchan’s elbow, words entirely unnecessary. Bachchan towers through Pink – the way he bellows “et cetera” is alone worth having the heavy-hitter at play—but there are softer moments like one where he appears to have dozed off in court, or where he lays his head by his convalescent wife’s bedside and needs his hair ruffled and his conviction validated.” Writing for Hindustan Times, noted film critic and author Anupama Chopra said of Bachchan’s performance, “A special salute to Amitabh Bachchan, who imbues his character with a tragic majesty. Bachchan towers in every sense, but without a hint of showboating. Meena Iyer of The Times of India wrote, “The performances are pitch-perfect with Bachchan leading the way. Writing for NDTV, Troy Ribeiro of Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) stated, ‘Amitabh Bachchan as Deepak Sehgall, the aged defence lawyer, shines as always, in a restrained, but powerful performance. His histrionics come primarily in the form of his well-modulated baritone, conveying his emotions and of course, from the well-written lines.’ Mike McCahill of The Guardian remarked, “Among an electric ensemble, Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang give unwavering voice to the girls’ struggles; Amitabh Bachchan brings his moral authority to bear as their sole legal ally.
In 2017, he appeared in the third instalment of the Sarkar film series: Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3. That year, he started filming for the swashbuckling action adventure film Thugs Of Hindostan with Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh which released in November 2018. He co-starred with Rishi Kapoor in 102 Not Out, a comedy-drama film directed by Umesh Shukla based on a Gujarati play of the same name written by Saumya Joshi. This film released in May 2018 and reunited him with Kapoor onscreen after a gap of twenty-seven years. In October 2017, it was announced that Bachchan will appear in Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra, alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
In 1984, Bachchan took a break from acting and briefly entered politics in support of a long-time family friend, Rajiv Gandhi. He contested Allahabad’s seat for the 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. He was framed in the scam and falsely alleged. This was cleared by Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom.
His old friend, Amar Singh, helped him during the financial crisis caused by the failure of his company, ABCL. Thereafter Bachchan started supporting the Samajwadi Party, the political party to which Amar Singh belonged. Furthermore, Jaya Bachchan joined the Samajwadi Party and represented the party as an MP in the Rajya Sabha. Bachchan has continued to do favours for the Samajwadi Party, including appearing in advertisements and political campaigns. These activities have recently got him into trouble in the Indian courts for false claims after a previous incident of submission of legal papers by him, stating that he is a farmer.
A 15-year press ban against Bachchan was imposed during his peak acting years by Stardust and some of the other film magazines. In defence, Bachchan claimed to have banned the press from entering his sets until late 1989.
Bachchan has been accused of using the slogan “blood for blood” in the context of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Bachchan has denied the allegation. In October 2014, Bachchan was summoned by a court in Los Angeles for “allegedly instigating violence against the Sikh community”.
Amitabh Bachchan at KBC-5 Press Meet
In 2000, Bachchan hosted the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), the Indian adaptation of the British television game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The show was well received. A second season followed in 2005 but its run was cut short by Star Plus when Bachchan fell ill in 2006.
In 2009, Bachchan hosted the third season of the reality show Bigg Boss.
In 2010, Bachchan hosted the fourth season of KBC. The fifth season started on 15 August 2011 and ended on 17 November 2011. The show became a massive hit with audiences and broke many TRP Records. CNN IBN awarded Indian of the Year- Entertainment to Team KBC and Bachchan. The Show also grabbed all the major Awards for its category. Bachchan continued to host KBC until 2017.
The sixth season was also hosted by Bachchan, commencing on 7 September 2012, broadcast on Sony TV and received the highest number of viewers thus far.
In 2014, he debuted in the fictional Sony Entertainment Television TV series titled Yudh playing the lead role of a businessman battling both his personal and professional life.
Bachchan is known for his deep, baritone voice. He has been a narrator, a playback singer, and presenter for numerous programmes. Renowned film director Satyajit Ray was so impressed with Bachchan’s voice that he decided to use Bachchan as the narrator in his 1977 film Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players). Bachchan lent his voice as a narrator to the 2001 movie Lagaan which was a super hit. In 2005, Bachchan lent his voice to the Oscar-winning French documentary March of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet.
He also has done voice-over work for the following movies:
- Bhuvan Shome (1969)
- Bawarchi (1972)
- Balika Badhu (1975)
- Tere Mere Sapne (1996)
- Hello Brother (1999)
- Lagaan (2001)
- Parineeta (2005)
- Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
- Swami (2007)
- Zor Lagaa Ke…Haiya! (2009)
- Ra.One (2011)
- Kahaani (2012)
- Krrish 3 (2013)
- Mahabharat (2013)
- Kochadaiiyaan (Hindi Version) (2014)
- The Ghazi Attack (2017)
Bachchan speaking at a function in 2013
Bachchan has been involved with many social causes. For example, he donated ₹1.1 million to clear the debts of nearly 40 beleaguered farmers in Andhra Pradesh and ₹3 million to clear the debts of some 100 Vidarbha farmers. In 2010, he donated ₹1.1 million to Resul Pookutty’s foundation for a medical centre at Kochi, and he has given ₹250,000 ($4,678) to the family of Delhi policeman Subhash Chand Tomar who died after succumbing to injuries during a protest against gang-rape after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. He founded the Harivansh Rai Bachchan Memorial Trust, named after his father, in 2013. This trust, in association with Urja Foundation, will be powering 3,000 homes in India with electricity through solar energy. In June 2019 he cleared debts of 2100 farmers from Bihar.
Bachchan was made a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the polio Eradication Campaign in India in 2002. In 2013, he and his family donated ₹2.5 million ($42,664) to a charitable trust, Plan India, that works for the betterment of young girls in India. He also donated ₹1.1 million ($18,772) to the Maharashtra Police Welfare Fund in 2013.
Bachchan was the face of the ‘Save Our Tigers’ campaign that promoted the importance of tiger conservation in India. He supported the campaign by PETA in India to free Sunder, a 14-year-old elephant who was chained and tortured in a temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.
In 2014, it was announced that he had recorded his voice and lent his image to the Hindi and English language versions of the TeachAIDS software, an international HIV/AIDS prevention education tool developed at Stanford University.
Amitabh Bachchan has invested in many upcoming business ventures. In 2013, he bought a 10% stake in Just Dial from which he made a gain of 4600 percent. He holds a 3.4% equity in Stampede Capital, a financial technology firm specialising in cloud computing for financial markets. The Bachchan family also bought shares worth $252,000 in Meridian Tech, a consulting company in U.S. Recently they made their first overseas investment in Ziddu.com, a cloud based content distribution platform. Bachchan was named in the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, leaked confidential documents relating to offshore investment.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
Amitabh Bachchan with the Olympic flame in London on 27 July 2012
Apart from National Film Awards, Filmfare Awards and other competitive awards which Bachchan won for his performances throughout the years, he has been awarded several honours for his achievements in the Indian film industry. In 1991, he became the first artist to receive the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, which was established in the name of Raj Kapoor. Bachchan was crowned as Superstar of the Millennium in 2000 at the Filmfare Awards.
In 1999, Bachchan was voted the “greatest star of stage or screen” in a BBC Your Millennium online poll. The organisation noted that “Many people in the western world will not have heard of [him] … [but it] is a reflection of the huge popularity of Indian films.” In 2001, he was honoured with the Actor of the Century award at the Alexandria International Film Festival in Egypt in recognition of his contribution to the world of cinema. Many other honours for his achievements were conferred upon him at several International Film Festivals, including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Asian Film Awards.
In June 2000, he became the first living Asian to have been modelled in wax at London’s Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Another statue was installed in New York in 2009, Hong Kong in 2011, Bangkok in 2011, Washington, DC in 2012, and Delhi, in 2017.
In 2003, he was conferred with the Honorary Citizenship of the French town of Deauville. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri in 1984, the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. The then-President of Afghanistan awarded him the Order of Afghanistan in 1991 following the shooting of Khuda Gawah there. France’s highest civilian honour, the Knight of the Legion of Honour, was conferred upon him by the French Government in 2007 for his “exceptional career in the world of cinema and beyond”. On 27 July 2012, Bachchan carried the Olympic torch during the last leg of its relay in London’s Southwark.
Several books have been written about Bachchan.
- Amitabh Bachchan: the Legend was published in 1999,
- To be or not to be: Amitabh Bachchan in 2004,
- AB: The Legend (A Photographer’s Tribute) in 2006,
- Amitabh Bachchan: Ek Jeevit Kimvadanti in 2006,
- Amitabh: The Making of a Superstar in 2006,
- Looking for the Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan and Me in 2007 and
- Bachchanalia in 2009.
Bachchan himself wrote a book in 2002: Soul Curry for you and me – An Empowering Philosophy That Can Enrich Your Life. In the early 80s, Bachchan authorised the use of his likeness for the comic book character Supremo in a series titled The Adventures of Amitabh Bachchan. In May 2014, La Trobe University in Australia named a Scholarship after Bachchan.
He was named “Hottest Vegetarian” by PETA India in 2012. He won the title of “Asia’s Sexiest Vegetarian” in a contest poll run by PETA Asia.
In Allahabad, the Amitabh Bachchan Sports Complex and Amitabh Bachchan Road are named after him. A government senior secondary school in Saifai, Etawah is called Amitabh Bachchan Government Inter College.
There is a temple in Kolkata, where Amitabh is worshipped as a God.