Durga puja is over… Ma has returned to her abode in Kailash… I’m back in front of the computer wondering what I’m going to write about this week. The air is still filled with the heady fragrance of marigold and khichdi bhog (prasad). And the echo of dhol (drum) beats make me recall a
20-year-old chartbuster from Shakti Samanta’s Hindi-Bengali bi-lingual, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat/Anusandhan. The film was set in a small village in Darjeeling but the song, Kaliram ka phas gaya dhol…, was picturised in Mumbai’s Film City with Amitabh Bachchan taking Utpal Dutt’s case in front of the goddess. “I had an idol sculptured for the community puja I organised every year in Mumbai. It was transported to the studio for the song,” Shaktida had recalled in the course of an interview. A few days ago, as I watched Mr Bachchan in ‘dhoti-kurta’ stride into the DN Nagar Puja Mandal to offer his prayers, it was this song I thought about, a song that had made Anand’s babumoshai (Bengali babu) Bengal’s jamai babu (son-in-law).
It’s amazing how so many states claim Amitabh Bachchan as its own. He is Uttar Pradesh’s worthy son… Allahabad ka beta. Uttaranchal takes credit for his ‘schooling’. Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal vie to be acknowledged as his sasural because wife Jaya is a Bengali from Bhopal. Maharashtra is his ‘karmabhoomi’ (work place) while neighbouring Gujarat has roped him in as its tourism ambassador. The south connection has been forged through daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai while daughter Shweta has brought him closer to the Nandas and the north. Globally, he is the face of India. On Tuesday, he will turn 69 and for some strange reason, I find myself wondering what he’s going to be wearing on his birthday. No, I’m not into fashion. In fact, clothes are usually the last thing on my mind. But Mr Bachchan always dresses correctly and impeccably for the occasion.
A couple of months ago, when I arrived for an interview, I was surprised to find him casually togged out in a tracksuit and sneakers. No, he hadn’t come jogging from the gym. His choice of attire was simply an exercise to get into the Bbuddha Hoga Terra Baap mood since that was the film he was promoting.
A few weeks later, I was back in Jalsa to quiz him on Aarakshan and the contentious reservation issue. This time, he emerged looking every inch the idealistic college principal he was playing, in a dhoti, kurta and a shawl over one shoulder.
He spends as much time debating his ‘costumes’ for a film as he does on learning his lines and perfecting his mannerisms. And perhaps that’s why Amitabh Bachchan has, over the years, emerged as a style icon.
The Deewar ‘knotty’ story is part of Bollywood’s folklore. Reportedly, the shirt that arrived on the sets for the famous dockyard scene was a little too long. Since there was no time for alterations, he casually knotted the flapping shirt tails at the waist, slipped his feet into a pair of ratty Kolhapuri ‘chappals’ and quite by accident, set a fashion trend.
Thirty-six years later, Vijay returned with the Deewar’s punch line, Main aaj bhi pheke hue paise nahin uthata (I still don’t pick up the money that is thrown). But this Vijay was a 60-plus dude in designer jeans, cowboy boots, biker jacket and coloured glares. The evolution has spanned decades… From the too tall, too lanky hero without a voice of Saat Hindustani to the angry cop in khakhi of Zanjeer… From Dewaar dock worker to a sophisticated Don… From Alaap’s desi poet in churidar-kurta to Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna Sexy Sam in red hot Armani… From Bigg Boss’s trendy philosopher to KBC’s bandhgala host… Amitabh Bachchan has redefined fashion for 50 years.
Years ago, I remember him turning up for a photo shoot for the magazine I was working for and scrutinising the clothes a senior collegue had picked up for him. He approved of the jackets but gave the bright Hawaiwan shirts the thumbs down. “You want me to wear these? You’re fired!” he joked, and then gave in to her request to be ‘cool’.
This year, the rainbow-hued shirts were back in Bbuddha Hoga Terra Baap along with the Bachchan classic, “Hum jahan khade ho jaate hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hai. (The line starts from where I stand)” Hmmm, wonder what trend he’s going to flag off this October 11.