MOVIES | AMITABH, 60FEEDBACK
'He has paid the price of being Amitabh Bachchan'
Amitabh is my senior in age but my junior in films.
I was at the fag end of my struggle [to establish myself] when he came in [to films] and began his own struggle.
We used to be together with Ali, [actorAnwar Ali] Mehmood's younger brother. Most of the time we were either at Mehmood's house or my flat in Bandstand [in the northwestern Mumbai suburb of Bandra].
We would see films together and go on dates together to discotheques, etc. We were a great team. We also shared the same secretary, Pawan Kumar.
I started becoming known as a villain. Once, I walked out of Bombay To Goa. I didn't want to do it. I was all ready to leave for Mumbai from Chennai. I saw Mehmood and Amitabh at Chennai airport. Amitabh pressured me to do the film.
We were very good friends. I relented. Ultimately, I did the film.
At first, Amitabh's films didn't do too well. Then, luck and tide favoured him. He began to rise and became a star and then a superstar. I was doing well in my own way.
There are certain things that people are not aware of. Amitabh's role in [Ramesh Sippy's] Sholay was first offered to me. But I was emerging as the lead in those days. I didn't want to play such a role.
Even Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar's Deewar was originally written for me. It was lying with my producer for a long time. Then there was some difference between the producer and Salim Khan. He took back the signing amount. The film was then given to Yash Chopra.
Amitabh went ahead [in his career]. We started meeting less and less but we did do a few films together, like Naseeb and Shaan. I must say Amitabh did not want me to do these films.
I think Kaala Patthar was the last nail in the coffin of our friendship. He was very against my doing the film. I was in it much against his wishes.
We were once such good friends, but he and I hardly spoke during the shooting of the film. I won a lot of praise for Kaala Patthar and then for Dostana.
Then Amitabh decided he would not work with me.
Many producers thought we made a dynamite pair but came and asked me to return my signing amounts. Quite a few of them like Prakash Mehra would first sing Amitabh's praises. Then they would talk against him then again sing his praises. They would change like news bulletins.
I knew no subterfuge. I never treat anyone as big or small, only as equals.
I never embarrassed Amitabh by asking him why he did not sign films with me. Then we both entered the political arena. Whenever we met, we were very civil to each other.
I would like to add that when he faced bad times financially, when the media thrashed him, I always raised my voice: one should never ridicule someone when he is low because these things can happen to anybody. What is the difference between those sycophants who praise you when you are in power and kick you when you are down, and you?
So I always supported him in my own way. I never held a grudge against him.
I believe he is a combination of luck, talent and personality in totality. I used to say his time will come and he will beat them hollow and make others look like pygmies in front of him because he is really a towering inferno.
What a voice, what a personality. He has poise, talent and luck, too. He is very well maintained.
Apart from a couple of things like Mere angne mein tumhara kya kaam hai (Laawaris), he has maintained his dignity. Very few stars have the respect Amitabh commands. Filmstars, especially today's filmstars, do not inspire much respect. Though Amitabh is one of us, he is so different from us.
He reminds me of a mantra I have always followed. I have followed it whether in politics or films. Earlier, I used to think, 'How will I face Mumbai? How will i work there?' I was told, 'Prove yourself better than these people. If you cannot do that, prove yourself different from them.'
Amitabh has not only proved himself better than these people, he has also proved himself different from them.
He has suffered too. He has paid the price of being Amitabh Bachchan.
His success is well deserved. I wish him lots of love, good wishes and many many happy returns of the day.
Shatrughan Sinha spoke to Lata Khubchandani
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