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Ten big life lessons from Big B

When you see Amitabh Bachchan, you don't see a 76-year-old man with weak knees. You see a man of vigour, with a straight spine, striding ahead with purposeful steps.

 |  12-minute read |   11-10-2018
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1) Amitabh Bachchan has given us the finest lesson on Evolution!

From the time he bell-bottomed his way in and kicked open the doors through the time clad in pajama-kurta he gave meditated, measured performances — never overboard, loud or overbearing — but touching all the right chords with you; to the time he wore rock star jackets, ripped jeans, monogrammed handmade shoes and rapped with the swag only he can; finally to experiment, experiment, experiment — as Auro, the kid with Progeria in Paa, the pony-tailed irascible chef in Cheeni Kum, the shifty, looking-over-his-shoulder sceptical lawyer in Pink, the flamboyant photographer who finds it difficult to resist his daughter’s friend’s advances in Nishabd and now the Jack Sparrow-lookalike character he is about to play in the soon-to-be-released Thugs of Hindostan.

Amitabh Bachchan has constantly evolved himself for different medium. With Television, that changed his luck in a spectacular way, he has brought so much respect to it and opened avenues for TV Stardom for many after him.

bigb1_101118021947.jpgAlways measured performances — never overboard, loud or overbearing. (Photo: Indiatoday.in)

When social media came on the horizon, he took to it with a vengeance: He blogged deep into the night, or in the wee hours of the morning. And the once reticent, shy, taciturn man-of-few-words began to tweet like there was no tomorrow, garnering a following that has been the envy of this medium-bred millennial stars. In a 2015 Forbes ranking he was the only Indian star to be in the top 50 Twitter’s most-followed celebrities.

If there is one actor who has been in step with the times then it has been the indefatigable Amitabh. And now, even at 76, he is one of the busiest stars with such a list of pending and proposed assignments that would put a performer half his age to shame.

2) Have talent will show!

Amitabh Bachchan, even if he has hammed in a lot of his movies or overacted in several others, is unarguably a hugely talented artist. His screen presence is inimitable and such that most his contemporaries and those who followed could only aspire to it, even to this day.

He was one of the first film stars to take Bollywood (a term he detests) shows abroad. As far back as the early 80s he was grooving live on stage in London and Toronto; giving a stage makeover to his "Rang Barse" rendition or singing "Mere Angne Mein" in Calypso.

Apparently it was Helen who taught him how to dance and he was a good student. From being two left feet on the dance floor he went on to create his own dance moves that got copied like crazy by us and by his colleagues.

When I look at his Wikipedia page, the section on voice over is labeled voice acting and they are not wrong. In Bachchan’s case his voice-overs are so evocative, so moving, so pleasure giving to the listener and so pertinent to whatever is going on, on the screen that he has made it a refined art form almost single handedly.

bigb2_101118022011.jpgHis screen presence is inimitable and such that most his contemporaries and those who followed could only aspire to it, even to this day. (Photo: Indiatoday.in)

Amitabh has never claimed to be a good singer, yet filmmakers have urged him to do playback singing. And he has not disappointed them or us. Almost all his songs have been extremely hummable and are chartbusters. Some of his songs have become anthems across generations for such disparate occasions such as national integration to Holi.

From rap to ragas, Amitabh has tried it all with a lot of panache, even giving his illustrious father's poems a pop revamp, such as in the very catchy "Eer Beer Phatte".

Then, he has used his talent and status to stretch out to some philanthropy work, UNICEF’s Pulse Polio campaign being the most prominent. I strongly believe that all celebrities should have a pronounced conscience and they must give back to the society.

Finally, Bachchan has used his special gifts to spin his own style of dialogue delivery, of non-verbal enactment, of role playing, of theatrics that has become the springboard for new aspirants, for comics, for lookalikes and a horde of others.

3) Taking Diplomacy to a new level

He has traversed from one extreme to another — from being in a cold war with the media to now when he communicates so freely and rampantly with his extended family.

But Amitabh Bachchan has always shown dignity and restraint and has never courted controversy, even when some things he has done have attracted negative publicity.

I have never seen him speak a bad word for anyone, give sensational comments, say things out of context, or be politically incorrect.

He has been criticised for being too diplomatic but I think he prefers to err on the side of caution. Being in showbiz and being one of the biggest stars to shine on the silver screen for more than 40 years, where every move you make, every little thing you do is magnified and has the propensity to be recorded for all times, I think that is a fine strategy to cultivate.

Further, in the times of high drama and frenzied nerves, Amitabh Bachchan has maintained his good manners, composure and calm, employing intelligence and sarcasm to quell the irritants and the line-crossers.

4) It’s all about the family

Bachchan has been the quintessential family man and has embodied fine familial values to the core — whether it was being almost devotee-like to his parents, trying to follow his “Babuji’s” footsteps, or keeping close ties with his brother, to becoming the saner, more stable foil to Jaya Bachchan’s volatile and ill-behaved temperament, to nurturing the Aby Baby for a long, long time.

bigb4_101118022039.jpgBachchan has been the quintessential family man and has embodied fine familial values to the core. (Photo: Indiatoday.in)

Even when the hushed tones in the corridors of Bollywood spoke of liaisons with Rekha or Zeenat or Praveen, he remained non committal about all else and stayed committed to his family; in spite of temptations he may or may not have succumbed to.

5) No, means No!

It has been conveyed that he got into politics at the behest of his friend Rajiv Gandhi. But after getting his fingers burnt and realising that politics was one sphere that could not become his cup of tea, he beat a retreat refusing to be pulled back at any cost.

But for that lone "Raja and Runk" remark, he has maintained a stoic, sturdy stubbornness about not speaking against the Gandhi family or Amar Singh or anybody else despite constant needling, with so much emphatic resolve that the media fails to break the barriers he sets.

I think that tantamount to dignity and being gentlemanly.

6) Rising up from the ashes like the Phoenix

The tottering heights that Amitabh Bachchan reached, the zenith in fame and popularity he has touched, the extreme lows he has faced and how he has scaled back to again get to the very top is stuff that not only makes him a living legend but also such inspiration that keeps getting cited time and again.

The other lesson he imparts with so much brio is that he will do whatever it takes to wrench his life out of the cards fate would wish to deal out.

When he had hit the lowest ebb in his life and career he steeled himself and walked up to the grand, big-hearted Yash Chopra to help him resurrect his flailing career; who in turn tailor-made Mohabbatein for the struggling Amitabh.

When you have been at the very top and you fall, then you really get hit hard. But what he has done and achieved after rising up from the lowest level is how you define verve, motivation and esprit.

7) Once bitten twice shy

From a lavish lifestyle led in sprawling bungalows to being insolvent and bankrupt; from riding the crest to falling into the abyss where everybody spurned him; from cradling an overflowing kitty of work and opportunities to having to close ABCL and Big B Music and whatever else that failed to deliver; Bachchan has surfed the sharp waves but always resurfaced with increased gusto.

And I think because he has fallen on hard times in the middle, he has determined doggedly to secure his own future and that of his family. Even if it has meant helping to sell Navratan Tel to Baby wear to e-commerce sites to jewellery, Bachchan has made sure that his cash register keeps ringing at all times.

Once having tasted near privation, Amitabh Bachchan has, in all his business decisions, endeavoured to become financially super secure with hard work and fine strategy. And that is a great life lesson to emulate.

8) 18 Till I die

When you look at Amitabh Bachchan you do not see a 76-year-old man with weak knees and a weaker brain. You see a man of vigour, with a straight spine, striding ahead with purposeful steps. You see a sharp mind through which no stimulus escapes and such a well-honed ambition that takes Amitabh Bachchan to places of professional adventure that most would not be able to attempt.

Regardless of Myasthenia Gravis, brush with death a couple of times and other health issues, Bachchan has always come across as completely "with-it" and so full of energy and life.

I have a strong feeling that retirement is not a part of his grand plan and that when he does kick the bucket it will be with the grease paint on. What a remarkable life that is to look up to and follow suit.

9) Living in Superlatives

Amitabh Bachchan’s life has been one of superlatives. He is the most famous face of Bollywood, err… sorry the Indian Film Industry. He is the biggest star of the millennium, he is the longest reigning Superstar, he is the most sought after by advertisers of all kind, he is one of the highest paid actors, he has the highest social media following and the list goes on.

bigb3_101118022055.jpgAmitabh Bachchan’s life has been one of superlatives.  (Photo: Indiatoday.in)

The two lessons that Bachchan has relentlessly taught us here are, “Whatever you do and you must do well. And be honest to one’s craft.”

The first time I heard him give an interview; I was in complete awe over his English language proficiency. Then I heard him speak in Hindi and in Urdu and I was completely blown away. There are not many who can match that.

Most of the songs he has sung have been super hits; as have been most of his films leaving aside the dark phase of Ajooba, Lal Badshah, Major Saab and a few other forgettable roles.

With Kaun Banega Crorepati, he has taken TRPs to dizzying levels of stardom.

Striving for excellence at all times and in all that you do is a great virtue.

10) Against all odds

But look at what Amitabh Bachchan started with.

From a beanpole like, awkward looking freight broker in Calcutta, the City of Joy, to the biggest shining superstar with the finest personality and grandest screen presence in the City of Dreams.

From being rejected by All India Radio to becoming the best known voice across at least four generations.

From hamming to histrionics, Bachchan has coursed the entire length, bettering his craft immeasurably and holding his own in front of such thespians and acting greats as Dilip Kumar, Pran, Sanjeev Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Irrfan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nutan, Rani Mukherjee, Vidya Balan, Waheeda Rehman and his own wife Jaya who he has acknowledged somewhere as a better actor.

From being shy and inwardly drawn to fighting with his introversion to becoming one of the finest orators and someone who you can listen to endlessly, such is his mellifluous, modulated voice, his immaculate intonation, his rich recitation and diction that falls like dew drops on petals and caresses your senses. Paeans could be written on the art and science of the Bachchan Bol!

From being gawky and gauche on the floor to becoming the dancing diva with his shoulder shrugs, and hand raises and pelvic thrusts and long leg half steps creating an all new dance form.

From guarded reticence with media, to well-crafted, well-planned rising on the social media; from big screen to small screen, from on-screen to doing remarkable things behind the screen — Amitabh Bachchan has fought all odds and come out triumphant leaving behind lessons in merit, perfection and distinction.

And he has done so, in spite of the trolls and the trailing critics. It does not matter that some of us may have turned from being his true blue fans to by-standing admirers, but he has carried on relentlessly, zealously and with two hoots to what the world would think or say.

In all this Amitabh Bachchan has been both an impressive winner and a wonderful role model!

Also read: Bores of Hindostan: Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are smart. But the trailer of 'Thugs of Hindostan' isn’t

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L Aruna Dhir L Aruna Dhir @arunadhir

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