For anyone else turning 70 would mean retirement. But Amitabh Bachchan is not just ‘anybody’. A pillar of the Indian film industry (he hates the term Bollywood) for over four decades, Amitabh seems to be in no hurry to hang up his boots. He continues to be a force to reckon with both on the small and silver screen. Amitabh made a triumphant return on the small screen with Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 6 last month. The show’s first episode registered a 6.1 television rating, making it the biggest opener this year. The numbers of his endorsements keep rising. In a little over a month, his Facebook page has over 2.8 million likes.
Across all cyber platforms, the one advice he receives most often from his fans is to slow down. Days short of his landmark 70th birthday, he was under the weather. But that didn’t stop him from picking up an award at GQ’s Man of The Year awards, attend the premiere of English Vinglish and the screening of Chittagong. “It’s just a little chest congestion,” he says, adding, “My fans keep telling me that I work too hard. But, I am okay with it. I am happy that they are concerned about me. If I get tired, I take rest. If I have the will and capacity to continue working, I hope to be able to do that. This is the only job I know.”
Compared to previous years, Amitabh has taken away more time off from films this year. Two abdominal surgeries earlier this year has meant that the actor was only seen in an item song in Bol Bachchan. He will next only be seen on the big screen in the summer of 2013. While many are calling Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby that also stars Leonardo DiCarpio and Tobey Maguire his big Hollywood debut, Amitabh insists it’s not even a cameo. “It’s just a meo,” he laughs in his inimitable style, adding, “A few years ago while travelling across Indian on his motorbike, he (Luhrmann) called my office and requested a meeting. A year after that meeting, he called me and said that he was making a film and there was a small role, and was wondering if I could do the film. I did the film as a gesture and haven’t even charged any money for it.”
Despite 189 films over a 40-year period, countless awards and accolades, Amitabh continues to be uncomfortable while talking about success. “I don’t think I have achieved much success. I have never paid any attention to this. When you tell me about my ‘greatness’, I feel embarrassed to hear that. I am very happy being just a normal person and that’s how I think of myself. I want to be treated normally. I don’t like all this fuss around me neither do I want these accolades to come my way. I just feel that they are unnecessary. I feel that I am just doing a job. If some people are happy with it, I am happy.”
The living legend is just as unwilling to discuss his legacy to the world of Indian entertainment. “I am not worthy of leaving a legacy. You can talk about my father leaving a legacy and I will respect that. But to talk about my legacy sounds almost arrogant,” he insists. After much consideration, Amitabh says, “I just hope that I have done things in my life that my children and family are proud of. I would want to have respect for my family and be able to see respect for myself in their eyes. I have not bothered my children to be good at academics or to have successful careers, I just want that people who interact with them should tell me how well-behaved they are or how they conduct themselves. Just the fact that they are good human beings is sufficient for me. I hope that legacy remains.”
From being at the pinnacle to experiencing the lowest of lows and then rising again from the flames like a phoenix, Amitabh’s real life seems to be a stuff movies are made of. “Life has been kind to me and God has been gracious. I am grateful that I was my parents’ son. I am happy to have the family I have. I have had the opportunity to be in this profession and I am happy that people appreciate what I do. Fans have been very sympathetic and loyal to me.”
Bachchan embraces both the highs and the lows that he has been through. “Highs and lows come in everybody’s life and I am no different.” And, he won’t want to change a single thing about his life if he ever gets a do-over. “Even my failures were moments that taught me something. I went into politics on an emotional note and I failed there. So, I withdrew and resigned not because I didn’t want to pursue politics, but because I didn't know the job. So, I accepted that I wasn’t able to do it. There are so many other incidents where I have failed, but there is always an opportunity to learn. I value that moment rather than look upon it as a failure. If I was to live my life again, I’d want to live it the same way. Otherwise I could be deprived of all this learning I have got as a result of all the failure. “