Amitabh's special birthday gift

  Jaya on Amitabh

  Ajitabh, Ramola on AB

  Abhishek on AB

  Shweta on AB

  'Doctor, will I act again?'

  Hema Malini
  Neetu Singh
  Puneet Issar
  Nirupa Roy
  Shashi Kapoor
  Shatrughan Sinha

  Prakash Mehra
  Ramesh Sippy
  Rakesh Mehra
  Tinnu Anand
  K Bhagyaraj
  Prahlad Kakkar

  Slide Show
  AB's birthday gift
  The director's actor
  The family man
   A day with AB

  Neerja Shah
  Anwar Ali
  Romesh Sharma
  Khalid Mohamed

  Age is just a number for AB
  AB, rare class act

  Sweet 60! A factfile

  Readers' take
  'AB is the greatest entertainer'
  Happy birthday, Amitabh!

  AB on Rediff
  AB's filmography

  Who was AB's best heroine?

  Zeenat Aman
  Parveen Babi
  Hema Malini
  Neetu Singh


'Everyone wants him to be Amitabh Bachchan'

Shyam Bhatia

Amitabh Bachchan will continue to act until there is breath left in his body, according to his English biographer, because it is a way of life that makes him feel 'real'.

"Acting is the only thing he feels he's good at," says Jessica Hines, who has been commissioned by Bloomsbury to write the authorised biography of India's superstar. "I think it is the only thing that makes him feel real and as long as he has breath in his body, he will act."

In an exclusive interview to timed for Amitabh's 60th birthday October 11, Hines reveals she met Amitabh through luck when she was at London University seven years ago doing a course on cinema and society in India. "I was at university studying religion. I took a course with Rachel Dwyer [filmmaker Yash Chopra's biographer] on cinema and society in India and became completely obsessed," she says.

"I changed my course around. In my second year, I did a dissertation on Amitabh and managed to get word to him. He responded. I was quite amazed," she adds. Hines who has visted Mumbai 22 times since she was commissioned to write the biography, says the real Amitabh is a genuinely good and kind man.

"Lots of Indians ask me if he is a good man and the answer is yes, he is. He tries his best and sometimes gets it wrong, but he always tries to do the right thing. He is also very kind and generous with his time, which is the most precious thing he has got. He bends over backwards to make time for me to interview him."

"He gives money to charities," she continues. "I do not know which ones but I am sure Jaya [Bachchan] handles that aspect. I am also sure that when he was a politician, he had done a lot for [his hometown] Allahabad and some of those things have continued. He is very formal but that is a good way of dealing with people who go ballistic when they meet him."

Hines reveals that both sides of Amitabh's family are highly educated. His father, Dr Harivansh Rai, has a Phd in English literature from Cambridge University. His maternal grandfather was a London-trained lawyer who ended up as a Revenue Minister in pre-Independence Patiala.

"His father has been a strong authoritarian figure and Amitabh does try to emulate him," Hines explains. "He always gets up early in the morning and goes to work on time.

"On the other hand, celebrity status has its down side as well. When Amitabh fell over a table on the sets of Coolie [1982] and was seriously injured, those around him were seemingly paralysed because of who he was. His intestines were punctured and nobody noticed it. All the fecal matter seeped out of his intestines, poisoning him. And no one did anything. He was suffering from celebrity syndrome. No one wanted to take the first step. He was in agony for a few days."

Hines says the celebrity status was also a handicap for Amitabh when he was elected to the Indian Parliament in 1986. "He left the Parliament in 1988 because I don't think either he or [then Prime Minister] Rajiv [Gandhi] realised what focus he would become once he was elected," she adds. "Actually, everyone wanted him to be Amitabh Bachchan while he was in politics --- the film hero rather than the man. And that is why he left."


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