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Young at 63, icon evergreen

Sixty-three isn?t exactly an ideal age to be a youth icon. More so in showbiz, where pelvic thrusts and skin show scorch the screen every Friday. But Amitabh Bachchan is known to break the rules.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2005 03:19 IST
Vinayak Chakravorty
Vinayak Chakravorty

Sixty-three isn’t exactly an ideal age to be a youth icon. More so in showbiz, where pelvic thrusts and skin show scorch the screen every Friday. But Amitabh Bachchan is known to break the rules.

In his salad days, he donned the mantle of the “angry young man” when romance was the staple fare in Bollywood. The flawed, angry young man of Zanjeer and Deewar took over the holier-than-thou hero.

Today, Bachchan finds that 24 hours is too little time to meet his film, television and commercial commitments. Even when he was recuperating after surgery at Lilavata hospital in Mumbai, fans from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar thronged the hospital with Shirdi Sai Baba’s prasad. In an era when most yesteryear actors have retired, Bachchan still rules people’s hearts.

There is method in the madness. If Brand Bachchan has been worth almost Rs 100 crore in 2005 (in Bollywood alone), he has also marketed himself well. “At 60-plus, you aren’t scared of over-exposure” goes the Big B’s famous line. He invariably rounds this off with his hallmark modesty: “I am lucky that young filmmakers still approach me with roles.”

Just take a look at the figures and you realise that it’s not just about luck. “At any given point of time, Bachchan is the one Bollywood brand with the highest at stake,” says trade analyst Komal Nahta. “One reason could be that the Khans — Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman — work in fewer films and do fewer commercials.”

The Big B’s 2005 report card goes something like this: seven starring roles in 12 months of which four made big money — Bunty Aur Babli (Rs 35 crore worldwide), Waqt — A Race Against Time (Rs 25 crore), Black (Rs 14 crore) and Sarkar (Rs 12 crore). Even duds like Virudh and Ek Ajnabee mattered as they proved that the industry still risks writing roles for the grand old man. That’s an enviable roster even if you discount a cameo in Paheli and voiceover for Parineeta.

But the icing on the cake was definitely television. Rumoured to be earning a whopping Rs 50 lakh per episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati 2, Bachchan’s return in Shantanu-Nikhil designed retro gear saw Star Plus’ TRP soar. It also set a new trend and made rival channels sign filmstars for similar game shows. So, even as you watched Manoj Bajpai conduct Kam Ya Zyaada on Zee, you knew the commercial breaks would invariably feature the Big B endorsing anything from Chyavanprash to suitings.

The year also saw Bachchan have a brief brush with controversy. The actor was hauled up for allegedly grabbing 20 acres of agricultural land near Lonavala in Pune.

Post hospitalisation, the doctors may have advised Bachchan to “rest” but he has too much on his plate. He’ll fulfil his KBC 2 commitment and wrap up his commercial assignments.

Bollywood too has almost Rs 75 crore riding on his forthcoming releases. And what a rich line-up it is with his home production Family, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya, Ram Gopal Varma’s Sholay (where he will be seen in the role of Gabbar Singh this time) and Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.

All these films live up to Bachchan’s smart strategy that has worked all these years. They have younger, saleable heroes with the Big B in pivotal roles. And in terms of release dates, they will be intelligently spaced to humour his fans over the next 12 months.

So, get ready for yet another heady year of Bollywood’s original Old Monk.

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 03:19 IST