He reinvented the ‘old man’ character upside down, paving the way for Bollywood to welcome more of his kind into its fold.
There are some people – especially celebrities in South Asia – who live with nicknames their whole lives. Perhaps words are the best word. Meena Kumari was and always will be the “Queen of Tragedy”. Sunil Gavaskar is the ‘Little Master’, even as Sachin Tendulkar’s trademark wagon snapped at his heels above that label. Amitabh Bachchan “The Angry Man” was presented on a platter in his day when he depicted leading men who had fallen into anti-bourgeois panic, taking over the system and appeasing the souls of the poor in previously liberated India.
With his 80th birthday, the grumpy young man remains in the hearts of millions. Bachchan, unlike Tom Cruise or SRK – who are constantly subjected to aging screening for trying to “appear” as the sexiest millennial men – has never had to wade through the shame of counting his wrinkles or getting crow’s feet. Covered in patches of makeup. Like water, it flowed to whatever shape, size, or age he had to age—and so it remained in the public consciousness: the grumpy young man who faded (later) but never lost his elegance. It has always been defined by his attractiveness, never his age. Whatever he does – from playing Vijay in his blue denim shirt and khaki pants in “Deewar” (1975) to saying “no means no” in a crowded courtroom in “Pink” (2016) 40 years later – no one has satiated the allure in Bollywood as Bachchan did.
Between them, there were traffic lights. He did some bad movies, but they weren’t bad because he didn’t play like his age. It was bad because it was totally bad movies. The stigma of playing a role “not worthy of him” has never frightened him. Perhaps this is why the analysis of aging is so important in the context of the Amitabh Bachchan parameter.
On the one hand, he lived in a different era – a time when the public was more tolerant, less restrictive. No one seemed to care that he was in his forties playing 20 things; More so because, with Bachchan, the enduring legacy of Angry Young Man has become psychic references to viewers… It has been the mantle of conquering all cloaks.
On the other hand, he was comfortable with getting old and opted to turn his back on regular vanilla roles with ‘Mohabbatein’ in 2000 – taking the bold step of playing the ‘fatherly’ SRK.
However, he reinvented the ‘old man’ character on its head, and paved the way for Bollywood to welcome more of his kind into its fold. Bachchan did not do it the same way, for example, did it by Anil Kapoor, who, in his 60s, remained ‘young’.
Bachchan went bankrupt.
He played his retired grandfather madly in love with his wife in ‘Baghban’, groping for her (when he breaks up with her by sleight of hand) in a way a lover teenager does. He used the same intensity of burning he used in the ’70s and ’80s when my college champ’s knees turn jelly. Even an aging Bollywood fanatic got hooked and streaked and drowned because of it, no judgments have been made on the fact that he was a very less, more likable boy.
In “Nishabd” he reprized a watered down version of Humbert Humbert from “Lolita” (in the Hollywood film adaptation, the role was provided by Jeremy Irons in 1997, and James Mason in 1962). The movie was such a failure that 15 years ago Bollywood audiences, without the hindsight – and intricacies – of Netflix and other OTT platforms, couldn’t handle 60 things falling for a teenager. Bachchan has been criticized for being “chosen” to play the role. Not “how” he played it – quite easily, comfortable in his sexual state.
In “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehn,” he played a role – “Sexy Sam” – it was more complex and subtle than KJo’s candy-filled way of treating. Bachchan played the scandalous father of one of the heroes (his real son Abhishek Bachchan); He’s a widower, constantly talking about his late, much-loved wife who doesn’t allow him to be “promiscuous,” and now that she’s stopped having sex, he’s allowed to run away. The characterization was important because he is also an elder, a father to a family and a moral compass trying to set a model for others to follow.
In a way, “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” was a throwback to what Bachchan had done in the age- and appearance-soaked film industry. Today, he does not play roles worthy of older people. defines them.