Picture Abhi Baaki Hai

I lost it with Amitabh.

I lost it with Amitabh. Before him, there was the indistinct darkness of a cinema hall, pierced on occasion with figures that moved and shook, and registered on and off. But it was really this man who made me watch, with a concentrated narrowing of focus. When an actor can command all your faculties and make you see, really see, that is a moment. It is an indescribable rush, that suddenly allows you to be aware of yourself as never before. In a blink, in literally the opening and the closing of an iris, the world is different. You are different.

I grew into differentiating good, bad and indifferent. I grew into watching films first as a casual viewer, then an impassioned, driven one, then as one who tracked each release professionally each week, from one Friday to the next. Amitabh Bachchan, meanwhile, had grown into superstardom and fallen out of it: as a reviewer, I caught him on the rebound, on his second coming. This was an older, heavier Bachchan, with facial hair, trying to find a place in an industry he had once ruled, and his first few films were disasters, not only because they were bad movies, but because Amitabh, as reconstructed by those films (Major Saab, Mrityudaata, Lal Baadshah) was not a good fit by then. He had been in stasis, after failed stints in politics and business, and the world had moved on.

His resurrection, and the rise and rise thereon, is so much an urban legend, that his once near-obliteration seems like a myth. Amitabh at 70 is the colossus that bestrides Indian cinema: he is, all at once, beloved star, mega-successful TV show host, much-in-demand seller of products and brand ambassador, omnipresent on movie channels. At any given time, it is entirely possible to find not one, but several Amitabh-starrers running: it is my belief that any TV channel that has a significant number of his films in its library can run forever.

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