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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Bbuddah hoga terra baap!

Just watched Amitabh Bachchan’s Bbuddah hoga terra baap.

As one reviewer has put it: “Corny, a little desperate and contrived, but Bbuddah Hoga knows that and doesn’t care… Bachchan playacts here, but with chutzpah and humour and still has the power to make you smile and weep… for fans, it is one big, happy bear cuddle with the man with whom they’ve had their longest love affair.” And by God, it stirs nostalgia with spades.

The director says at the end that it is an unabashed and feisty tribute to the icon so many of us have grown up with (and like whom so many of us are growing old now), and many of us, even very solemn and learned and successful ones among us, have secretly longed to emulate, at least in some ways, at least at some stage of our lives.

What a career it has been, through so many ups and downs, so many disasters, so many write-offs, so many comebacks, so many avatars! Just glancing down a list of all the memorable movies and roles takes one’s breath away. Since the days of Saat Hindusthani and Anand we had Zanzeer, and Namak Haram and Chupke Chupke and Deewar, through all-time landmarks like Sholay, and then Amar Akbar Antony, Muquaddar ka Sikandar, Kaala Patthar, Adaalat, Trishul, Don, Silsila and Shakti, by which time he was probably the most famous Indian alive, through the disaster years that began with the near-fatal accident on the sets of Coolie, disease and family trouble and political mess and financial crisis, and then, when virtually everyone had given up on him as a burnt-out has-been, barring occasional blips like Agneepath and Suryavansham, there came the renaissance that started with Mohabbatein and has not run out of steam yet, and he has already given us as varied fare as Bunty aur Babli, Cheeni Kum, Black, Viruddh, Baghban, Paa, Sarkar, Bhootnath, Nishabd, Dev, Khaki, Rann and The Last Lear.  Along the way he made a huge success of KBC on TV, and has managed to impress all kinds of industry greats including Francois Truffaut and Satyajit Ray, for that unique trademark baritone if nothing else, and has even set his own benchmark as a playback singer (who can say s/he has been unaffected by Mere pas awo mere doston ek kissa suno or Main or meri tanhai or Rang barse…? you should try out this latest number too, if you haven't heard it already).

And he has never really been handsome and smart, either, except insofar as he defined those ideas to fit himself and persuade hundreds of millions of cinegoers, including those who were always a little worried about whether he could even act at all! What can you say about a man like that? What kind of staying power does it call for, what kind of talent and grit? All I could think of after watching Bbuddah was, be as solemn or corny or heartrending or way out as you like, Mr. Bachchan, only live and act some more years, and “do not go gentle into that good night… rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


Navin said...

Dear Sir,

he gave vent to the frustations of the several millions of indians who watched movies to have a semblance of justice so unavailable in this system.

As another great man(rajni) rightly put it " I am only a king, he is an emperor " .


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Don't use the past tense for Amitabh just yet, Navin. Dev-saab has just passed away, but the Big B is still going strong, touch wood!

Nishant Kamath said...

Dear Sir,

I didn't know that you liked Amitabh Bachchan so much (enough to write a review of what seems like a not-too-serious movie, a short sketch of his career, and the last line from the poem, which probably is the biggest tribute of all). Hadn't heard of the movie till I read your post. I mostly like AB's older movies, but I will watch this one if I get a chance, thanks to the review.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Hahaha... I still manage to surprise you now and then, don't I Nishant?

Shubham Ghosh said...

Dear sir,
I read your review. One thing I would like to know after reading this is the exact meaning of the word "chutzpah". It is a yiddish word and I had read an article by Khushwant Singh that there is no word in english or in hindi which can be used as an exact synonym for this word. Is it true?
Shubham Ghosh

Suvro Chatterjee said...

In-your-face self-confidence is roughly what chutzpah means, Shubham. Thanks for asking. And yes, I think Singh is right: he knows both English and Hindi well enough! Did you listen to the song I linked?

Abhirup said...

Dear Sir,

Firstly, thanks a lot for putting up this blogpost. Amitabh Bachchan happens to be one of those people who made me fall in love with cinema in the first place. Though I grew up during an age when the three Khans ruled the film industry, I never developed any particular fondness for them (I started liking Aamir Khan only after 'Lagaan'). Instead, it was Amitabh's laconic, brooding Angry Young Man persona that really captured my imagination. And to this day, my love for the man shows no sign of diminishing.

Secondly, speaking of the Angry Young Man persona, I believe I should quote what film critic Baradwaj Rangan has said about it. "The Bachchan of the 1970s", he wrote, "is often described as the Angry Young Man, but this anger was simply the most identifiable external manifestation of an individual constantly at war, often with the world, more often with himself. Listen closely to the early Bachchan performances and most of the time you will hear very little. He was really the Silent Young Man." This is a remarkable assessment of Amitabh's performances; as Rangan has pointed out, while the characters Amitabh played indeed often nursed a lot of anger within them, that anger was expressed by Amitabh in a manner that was quite restrained. He could--and still can, of course--convey the smouldering feelings with just a glance of those blazing eyes, or a simple gesture of the hands. Even when he delivered a monologue that required him to rage against an individual (as in 'Trishul', where he confronted the tycoon whose illegitimate son he was), the system (as in 'Kaala Patthar', where he condemns the greed and the apathy that leads to terrible accidents in the coal mines) or the Alimghty Himself (as in that famous monologue in 'Deewar', where he enters a temple for the first time in his life to pray for his ill mother's recovery), he managed to avoid the hyperbole that many other actors descend into, uttering the words with a dignity and a humanity that prevented things from going over-the-top. His capacity to emote, I believe, is virtually unmatched in the annals of Indian cinema: there are many other great actors in our country, but none quite like Amitabh, who can make a character at once larger-than-life and deeply human.

Abhirup said...


Thirdly, he could quite easily have developed a parallel career as a singer, and I wonder why he didn't. Whenever he has sung, the song in question has always been well-received. I hope today's directors can persuade him to sing more often.

Fourthly, as you have rightly pointed out, Amitabh is amazingly versatile. While he shall always be best remembered for the Angry Young Man roles, he has also been brilliant at comedy, in romantic roles, in negative roles (he played a cold-blooded criminal in the initial sections of 'Don' and a psychopathic killer in 'Parwana', one of his earliest films), and in voiceover narrations. I wonder, in fact, if there is anything this man cannot do.

Finally, I would like to add two more films to the long list of memorable Amitabh films that you have composed. One is 'Abhimaan', one of the most mature and well-made marital dramas to have ever come out of Bollywood. Amitabh was rivetting in that film as the husband who grows increasingly jealous and insecure as his wife's success as a professional singer exceeds his own. The other one is 'Majboor', a vastly underrated film where he plays a man trying to prove his innocence after being falsely accused of murder. It is a gripping thriller with yet another memorable performance by Amitabh.

I agree entirely with you that he was never handsome or dashing in the traditional sense of the terms. He has neither the baby-faced cuteness of Rajesh Khanna and Rishi Kapoor, nor the brawny he-man looks of Vinod Khanna and Dharmendra. In fact, when he was a struggler, his dark complexion and lanky frame were often scoffed at: the idea was that nobody who looks like him can ever become a successful actor. The irony, though, is that his unconventional looks were what enabled him to create a distinct screen presence for himself, and the image he developed in the process became more enduring than that of any of his contemporaries or successors.

I am sure there is still a lot of acting left in him, and we are going to see a lot of him for many more years. I just hope that the directors offer him substantial, well-written roles, roles that can do justice to the immense talent in Amitabh. I say so because I feel that this talent has not yet been fully tapped. He can do even better than what he has already done. And I want him to get the roles that can prove this.
Thanks, again, for the blogpost.

Yours sincerely,
Abhirup Mascharak.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Abhirup. It's always good to hear from an aficionado! I too wish that Amitabh will be around and doing good work for many more years.

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Oh! what a sweet post Suvro- flashback to our youth, dominated and defined by this living legend.

Whether one had long, thick and flowing hair or thinning but still workable and stretchable hair like yours faithfully (Suvro has/d thick but curly hair), we didn't need a mirror to comb our hair, just a picture of Amitabh was enough for millions of Indian youth those days to style their hair.

His total domination during his peak was unbelievable- 7-8 movies running in top theaters in Mumbai full in most shows, competitors and contemporaries speaking in awe and admiration (Jeetendra said he's number 1 to 10, we come after that), superstar stories like the Hollywood producer trying to get him for a film being told that dates would be a couple of years away (frustrated but in awe also, he said 'he's not a star he's an industry).

thanks for the post again Suvro.

Shilpi said...

Suvro da, your reviews almost never sound nor read like regular reviews, and it’s not "just my imagination".

I didn’t know what to expect with the title last week, and I read through the whole post in one, almost mindless, rush. I paused only when I got to the last line with many different sorts of thoughts swirling around tied at one end. Thanks for those old song links. I hadn’t heard them in ages.

Your review quite in spite of myself and over some very slow and long hours crept up on me and didn’t just "stir nostalgia with spades" but it started digging furiously, and not without some laughs and lop-sided smiles. I’d almost forgotten about Amitabh. It was impossible for our generation to grow up without growing up with Amitabh and without having a lifetime love affair with the man, and of a very quiet and restrained sort. I don’t remember any other Indian actor whom I cared to watch simply because they were in a movie, and I think at the under-the-surface level I had two criteria for making friends – did they read books (God knows why because I myself didn’t read much) and did they like Amitabh. I watched all his movies that they showed on TV or in the near-by club, and it never mattered if there were exams the following day. I don’t think I could have ever tried emulating him but I was absolutely sure that I could be just like him (and that I was a little like him), especially when I was in single digits.

I was wondering about his angry young man portrayal too. He always seemed incredibly polite, proper, and extremely reserved and passionate, given to humour even under dire circumstances, and he displayed a controlled and leashed-in violence even in his very sedate and proper roles. On the other hand, even in his violent roles he was always the old world gentleman-till-the-last, and a romantic to boot. He flirted outrageously with danger in not a few of his movies, made the most of whatever deal he was given, was unapologetic and unashamed for being who he was, stuck to his values and principles and to his guns, and frankly didn’t give a damn for anybody apart from those few whom he loved dearly – whether friends or family or lovers, and he made that profoundly and poignantly clear. I knew though from the first movie I watched that I’d never quite forgive the director for letting Amitabh make an exit. I watched Sholaay so many times as a child that I have some of the dialogue excerpts in my head even now, and yet what I most remember from the movie are maybe three or four scenes, and one of them is of a very calm and self-possessed Amitabh sipping some tea from a saucer…

I watched only a very few of his more recent movies (Black, Kaante, Sarkar, and Cheeni Kum but I didn’t like him any less, and I have shut up people when they’ve tried to tell me that Amitabh cannot act. I must say I was very curious about the “not handsome” bit and all…I don't think there's been any other actor in Hindi cinema who can compete with Amitabh - not even in the "just looks" department (leave alone the voice and all else).

I started and then finished watching that movie on an awful site. I was hoping to find a website where I could enlarge the screen – but that being unavailable I catapulted and watched the whole movie on a small screen. It was a thumping good watch and indeed I was taken in and went along for the ride, and quite a ride it was too (I wished both the sickening young girls had been invisible or not quite as vapid and sickening). Right from the scene that he makes his entry (at an airport) to the first song-and-dance number (that was quite something) to the one liners and the curtains-down…I was worried that he was going to pull off something different and go down blazing but I was immensely glad that he did what he did for this one.

That latest number of his is something else. “…do not go gentle into the good night…” is right. It’s not time as yet. Not as yet. That’s what I find myself saying too.


Anand Tiwari said...

Dear Suvro da,

I finally got the chance to return to your blog after an unintended hiatus. 2011 has been a rough year. It has robbed me of my biggest reel life heroes namely Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor. With Dev Anand's passing, i feel that a portion of my own self is now no more. His was the only autographed poster i have in my library. Though he was getting old, I always took comfort in the fact that he was alive. Alas, i cannot seek refuge in that thought anymore.
Now on to Amitabh. A lot of your readers have not experienced firsthand the era when hindi cinema was defined by Amitabh. Although, today i find myself divorced from Amitabh's current persona and movies, I can safely say that most of the happier memories of my childhood revolve around Amitabh and his movies. I have distinct and clear memories of watching 'Deewaar', thrice in a week at Anuradha (i was 4 years old). I remember how upset i was after watching him die in 'Muqaddar ka Sikandar'. To till this day whenever i feel weak at heart, i repeat a dialogue from 'Trishul': "Zindagi mein kabhi kamzor mat ban-na. Ye duniya kamzoron ko jeene nahin deti". So profound was his influence on me that i started fasting when he was injured and close to death in 1982. He was the God of my generation.

Today, I do not identify with him at all (more on that in a separate comment or conversation). However, i do wish him the very best. K.L. Saigal, Ashok Kumar, Motilal Rajvansh, Uttam Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and my hero Dev Anand are all gone. I pray to God that he let us have Amitabh and Soumitra in our midst for as long as possible.


Rajdeep said...


'Hindi cinema has many faces'

This article is not directly related to yours but is a history of Bollywood cinema and how it evolved. Would like to know your take on this subject.