Early in November, celebrations broke out to commemorate 50 years of Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi film industry; Saat Hindustani, directed by Khawaja Ahmad Abbas, had released on November 7, 1969. What went unsaid was the fact that the date marked his acting debut, and not his actual debut in the world of cinema. For that had taken place about five months earlier, in May 1969, when Mrinal Sen’s film Bhuvan Shome was released. It was the first time that Bachchan’s name appeared in the opening credits of a film—after a list of acknowledgements, the names of the film, author, screenplay writer and production house—and that too as simply ‘Amitabh’. He was the story’s narrator.
The trajectory and nuances of Bachchan’s career as an actor are the stuff of legend within the country’s entertainment industries. Listing the names and number of awards and accolades that he has received over the past five decades is perhaps superfluous, given the position he has come to occupy not only within the film fraternity, but also in the hearts and minds of many millions of viewers and fans.