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Leave Amitabh Bachchan alone

Last updated on: May 12, 2008 14:47 IST
Surfing for some decent entertainment on the idiot box can be quite a struggle. Like I keep discovering every time I have the remote control all to myself.

The other day, after flipping through dragging soaps, lousy reality shows, multiple 'Breaking News', cute-to-the-point-of-irritating Vodafone ads, not-my-idea-of-fun IPL matches, dedicated reportage to The Great Khalli and abusive Roadies, I shifted my focus to the Hindi films scene. And what a welcome change it turned out to be. Almost every second channel was playing an Amitabh Bachchan movie, preferably from the 1970s.

A severely bandaged Amitabh plays inaudibly sick to gain nurse Hema Malini's hard-to-get affections only to get the hollering of his unkempt life in Satte Pe Satta.

A super cool Amitabh shirking the advances of a red-hot Helen in Don.

An aww-inducing Amitabh's absolute refusal to become a man of the world while cuddling up to his adorable Daddoo in Namak Halal.

An overwhelmed Amitabh is more than happy to accept Rati Agnihotri's help in draining all the water logging mess before breaking into Accident Ho Gaya, Rabba Rabba in Coolie.

The mere memory of these flashes is overpowering enough to bring a nostalgic smile on the 1970s (or 1980s for that matter) smitten viewer.

The best part is, even though television is bursting with new channels every month with nothing substantial to offer, the tradition of airing AB flicks over the weekend remains unaffected. Truth be told, these movie-themed channels practically thrive on Bachchan bonanzas. And why not? The man's an entire library of blockbusters on his own. From Zanjeer to Eklavya, the anger lives on.

No matter how many times I watch these films, they only get better in my eyes. Familiarity doesn't have to necessarily breed contempt. Often they are a comforting reminder of the good old days, of the mall and mobile free moments which reveled in the smell of samosa and AB's roaring baritone.

That's why it strikes me as particularly caustic when someone states/suggests that it's time for the man to hang his boots.

Recently, a glossy carried a story about director Anurag Basu (Gangster, Murder, Life In A... Metro) making statements in similar vein on how the Bhoothnath star should now 'gracefully retire.'

I don't know if Basu was misquoted, but even if I give him the benefit of doubt, whoever wrote it, obviously, feels that way.

The actor published a suitable reply on his blog -- a superb forum of exclusive and unadulterated AB thoughts. His enthusiasm reminds me of the first-effects of blogging, I or you, may have encountered in our initial phase almost half a decade ago. Here's a reproduction of what he wrote in response to Basu: 'I took no one's advice when I wanted to enter the film industry and shall take no one's advice, as to when I should leave it!'

Go AB!

And yet I cannot stop myself from thinking about Basu/or whomsoever's not-so-graceful suggestion. My first angry reaction is 'Who are you to decide that?' It's a valid question, don't you think?

I think of my fast-nearing senior citizenship cook, who shudders at the prospect of idling at home and twiddling her thumbs. Her working sons are well-equipped to take care of all her needs. But she enjoys her job and wants to continue, despite a nagging foot-ache. There are days when she is the best chef in town. On others, the food she makes is blandness personified. Does that mean she should retire?

I think of the 80-plus Dev Anand, who hasn't made a single memorable film in so many years. But that hasn't stopped us from addressing him as a 'Legend'. His movies might fail at the box office but his enthusiasm is to die for. Try reading his autobiography, Romancing With Life, a rollicking account of his adventures and anecdotes. Believe me it's a complete page-turner. 

I think of senior Hollywood actors like Clint Eastwood, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. I doubt anyone ever asked them to step down even if they were guilty of being repetitive or ridiculous (in their selection) in some of their films.

I think of my own mother. At 62, the idea of an assignment excites her more than a trip to Taj Mahal (and it's not because she has already seen it a good 121 times).

We are born with the basic right of living life on our own terms. And no one has any business interfering, unless it produces fatal results. Where to start? When to stop? These are our personal choices. Democracy doesn't lie in demeaning an individual's prerogative, to keep at it, by making unprovoked comments. The beauty of speech is in the virtue of sensible debate and constructive criticism. It's not always possible that you will enjoy every AB film or performance. It's eventual failure at the box-office, is clear enough indication/confirmation of that to him/you. But to ask him to fire himself just because he doesn't fulfill your definition of magic is just lame.

The relationship of an actor and a fan is akin to one-sided marriage, wherein invisible vows are exchanged. Like in sickness and health and for rich or poor, a true admirer will continue to revere and root for his favourite through hits and flops, good days or bad ones.

Amitabh regales in it. Anurag questions it. But Devsaab understands the mentality behind it. In his inimitable style, he writes: 'I have been working ceaselessly for over 60 years now, with all my creative energies at my command, the excitement of creativity sprouting all the time inside me like so many seedlings, just the way they used to when I first launched myself all those years ago.'

People like Amitabh don't retire. Even if they voluntarily withdraw, their body of work is potent enough to withstand the test of future lifetimes.
Sukanya Verma