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Big B's evergrowing versatality

At an age when actors plan to quit, Amitabh Bachchan continues to call the shots, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 16:52 IST
Saibal Chatterjee
Saibal Chatterjee

So you didn’t like Amitabh Bachchan’s 'Sexy Sam' act in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna? Well, you have every right not to but, make no mistake, it is nothing short of wondrous when a 64-year-old Bollywood actor dares to defy his patriarchal image and play an oversexed widower.

We could debate endlessly on whether Bachchan has got all the nuances of the controversial right – he may not have done so because Karan Johar’s cinema is not about nuances but about superficial brushstrokes. But let us hand it to this man: at an age when most Bollywood actors are constrained to call it a day, Amitabh Bachchan continues to call the shots.

The reason is simple enough. For once in his long and eventful career, Bachchan is fleshing out an array of characters, instead of merely projecting stereotypes. His amazing versatility is what sets him apart from the rest of the crowd.

Bachchan's 'Sexy Sam' act in KANK took everyone by surprise.

It’s a trait that he has been consistently tapping in right earnest only of late as a means to extending his already record-smashing reign. As a result, he has begun to explore his full range as an actor. The last thing his fans should be doing is complaining.

Attending the 31st Toronto International Film Festival last week for the gala screening of KANK, the Big B told the press: “I am lucky that at the age of 64, people in the Mumbai film industry are still giving me work. They want me to play a stern patriarch, an older policeman or Sexy Sam.”

That isn’t entirely true. For Amitabh Bachchan has hit a purple patch as far as his range of characterisations is concerned and his fans now know that the only predictable thing about their favourite actor is that he is going to be unpredictable from here on.

When Bachchan was famously Bollywood’s one-man industry, there was far too much riding on him to allow him the luxury of experimentation. And then when he tried to pull off a comeback in the 1990s after a protracted hiatus, he made the mistake of starring in run-of-the-mill films like Mrityudaata and Lal Badshah, to name just two.

These films did no justice to his age and talent. He realised that quickly enough and bounced back with assignments that allowed him to play well-etched characters and not just wisecracking, invincible larger-than-life heroes.

First Published: Sep 19, 2006 16:52 IST