Amitabh Bachchan (Hindi: अमिताभ बच्चन, pronounced [əmɪˈtaːbʱ ˈbətːʃən], born Amitabh Harivansh Bachchan on 11 October 1942), is an Indian film actor. He first gained popularity in the early 1970s as the “angry young man” of Bollywood cinema, and has since become one of the most prominent figures in the history of Indian cinema.
Bachchan has won numerous major awards in his career, including three National Film Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards. He holds the record for most number of Best Actor nominations at the Filmfare Awards. In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer and television presenter, and was an elected member of the Indian Parliament from 1984 to 1987.
Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, Amitabh Bachchan hails from a Hindu-Sikh family. His father, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a well-known Hindi poet, while his mother, Teji Bachchan was a Sikh-Punjabi from Faisalabad (now in Pakistan). Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired from the famous phrase Inquilab Zindabad, during the Indian independence struggle, but was re-named Amitabh which means, “the light that would never go off.” Though his surname was Shrivastava, his father had adopted the pen-name Bachchan, under which he published all his works. It is with this last name that Amitabh debuted in films, and, for all public purposes, it has become the surname of all members of his current family.
Amitabh is the eldest of Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s two sons, the second being Ajitabh. His mother had a keen interest in theatre and had been offered a role in a film, but preferred her domestic duties. She had some degree of influence in Bachchan’s choice of career because she always insisted that he should take the centre stage. He attended Allahabad’s Jnana Prabodhini and Boys’ High School (BHS), followed by Nainital’s Sherwood College, where he majored in the art stream. He later went on to study at Kirori Mal College of the University of Delhi and completed a Bachelor of Science degree. In his twenties, Bachchan gave up a job as freight broker for the shipping firm, Bird and Co., based in Calcutta now known as Kolkata, to pursue a career in acting.
See also: Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, and Aishwarya Rai
Bachchan is married to actress Jaya Bhaduri. They have two children, Shweta Nanda and Abhishek Bachchan. Abhishek is also an actor and is married to actress Aishwarya Rai.
Early work: 1969–1972
Bachchan made his film debut in 1969 as one of the seven protagonists in Saat Hindustani, a film directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and featuring Utpal Dutt, Madhu and Jalal Agha. Though the film was not a financial success, Bachchan won his first National Film Award for Best Newcomer.
The critically acclaimed and commercially successful Anand (1971) followed, where he starred alongside Rajesh Khanna. Bachchan’s role as a doctor with a cynical view of life garned him a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. Amitabh then played the role of an infatuated lover in Parwaana (1971) opposite Navin Nischol, Yogeeta Bali and Om Prakash and was a rare instance of him portraying the villain. This was followed by several films which were not particularly successful at the box office including Reshma Aur Shera (1971). During this time, he made a guest appearance in the film Guddi which starred his future wife Jaya Bhaduri opposite Dharmendra. Noted for his deep baritone voice early on in his career, he narrated part of the film Bawarchi. In 1972, he made an appearance in the road action comedy Bombay to Goa, directed by S. Ramanathan. He starred alongside actors such as Aruna Irani, Mehmood, Anwar Ali and Nasir Hussain.
Rise to stardom: 1973–1983
1973 saw significant development in Bachchan’s career when director Prakash Mehra cast him in the leading role for the film Zanjeer (1973) as Inspector Vijay Khanna. The film was a sharp contrast to the romantically themed films that had generally preceded it and established Amitabh in a new persona—the “angry young man” of Bollywood cinema, a reputation he was to acquire in pictures that followed it. It was his first film as the leading protagonist to achieve box office success and earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. 1973 was also the year he married Jaya and around this time they appeared in several films together, not only in Zanjeer but in films such as Abhimaan which followed and was released only a month after their marriage. Later, Bachchan played the role of Vikram in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role opposite Rajesh Khanna and Rekha was praised and won him the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.
In 1974, Bachchan made several guest appearances in films such as Kunwara Baap and Dost, before playing a supporting role in the highest grossing film of that year, Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. The film, directed and written by Manoj Kumar, addressed themes of honesty in the face of oppression and financial and emotional hardship was a critical and commercial success, placing Amitabh opposite Kumar himself, Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman. Bachchan then played the leading role in film Majboor, released on 6 December 1974, which was a remake of the Hollywood film Zigzag starring George Kennedy. The film was only a moderate success at the box office In 1975, he starred in a variety of film genres from the comedy Chupke Chupke, the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. However 1975 was the year when he appeared in two films which are regarded as important in Hindi cinematic history. He starred in the Yash Chopra directed film Deewar, opposite Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, and Neetu Singh, which earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975, ranking in at number 4. Indiatimes Movies ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. Released on 15 August 1975 was Sholay (meaning flames), which became the highest grossing film of all time in India, earning INR 2,36,45,00,000 equivalent to US$ 60 million, after adjusting for inflation. Bachchan played the role of Jaidev opposite a cast which included some of the top names in the industry including Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan. In 1999, BBC India declared it the “Film of the Millennium” and like Deewar, has been cited by Indiatimes movies as amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. In that same year, the judges of the 50th annual Filmfare awards awarded it with the special distinction award called Filmfare Best Film of 50 Years.
After the success of films such as Sholay at the box office, Bachchan had now consolidated his position in the industry and from 1976 through to 1984 would receive an unprecedented number of Filmfare Best Actor Award Awards and nominations. Although films such as Sholay cemented his status as Bollywood’s pre-eminent action hero, Bachchan illustrated that he was flexible in other roles, successfully playing comic timing in comedies such as Chupke Chupke (1975) and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and romantic lead in films such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976). In 1976, he was once again cast by director Yash Chopra in his second film, Kabhi Kabhie, a romantic tale in which Bachchan starred as a young poet named Amit Malhotra who falls deeply in love with a beautiful young girl named Pooja played by actress Rakhee Gulzar. The emotional eclectic of the dialogue and softness of the subject matter proved a direct contrast to some of Amitabh’s earlier grittier action pictures and those he would later go on to play. The film saw him again nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award and was a box office success. In 1977, he won the Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance in Amar Akbar Anthony where he played the third lead opposite Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as Anthony Gonsalves. 1978 was possibly the most accoladed year of his career and he starred in all four of the highest grossing films of India in that year. He once again resumed double roles in films such as Kasme Vaade as Amit and Shankar and Don playing the characters of Don, a leader of an underworld gang and his look alike Vijay. His performance won him the Filmfare Best Actor Award and considerable critical acclaim as with his performances in Trishul and Muqaddar Ka Sikander which both earned him further Filmfare Best Actor nominations. On account of this unprecedented run and success he encountered at this stage in his career, he was billed a “one-man industry” by the French director François Truffaut.
In 1979, for the first time, Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the film Mr. Natwarlal in which he starred alongside Rekha. His performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Best Male Playback Awards. In 1979, he also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar (1979) and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed film Dostana, in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. Dostana proved to be the top grossing film of 1980. In 1981, he starred in Yash Chopra’s melodrama film Silsila, where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and rumoured lover Rekha. Other films of this period include Ram Balram (1980), Shaan (1980), Lawaaris (1981), and Shakti (1982) which pitted him against legendary actor Dilip Kumar.