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10 lessons to learn from Amitabh Bachchan

Last updated on: October 11, 2012 19:47 IST
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10 lessons to learn from Amitabh Bachchan

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As the superstar of Indian cinema celebrates his 70th birthday, we bring you lessons from his life and times...

Amitabh Bachchan is one of the few Bollywood superstars whose reputation as a responsible human being precedes his long list of achievements as an actor.

Son of the late renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, here's a man who's braved it all and continues not only to inspire us, but leaves us amazed with his magnificent success. In his 43-year career, he's worked in over 200 odd films, essaying various roles, some of which went on to create and break box office records like Deewar and Sholay.

The recipient of both the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, he's also won three National Awards, the most recent being for his performance in the movie Paa directed by R Balki in 2009.

But the journey to the top wasn't a piece of cake for Mr Bachchan. He has had his share of rejection, failure and low moments too.

As he celebrates his 70th birthday, here's what we can learn from the life of this iconic actor.

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Image: Amitabh Bachchan gestures to fans outside his residence in Mumbai on his 70th birthday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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1. Create a niche

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Amitabh Bachchan entered the Indian film industry when it was dominated by actors like Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Sunil Dutt and Dev Anand.

While most were comfortable playing the romantic hero, he took up the challenge of doing action films, thus creating a niche for himself.

His success in films like Deewar, Zanjeer and Sholay saw him nicknamed the 'angry young man' of Hindi cinema.

And it is worth noting that he worked on 13 box office disasters before finally tasting success.


Image: Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Deewar


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2. Don't take no for an answer

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It seems unbelievable that Mr Bachchan was once rejected by broadcaster All India Radio because they did not like his voice.

Ironically, today the actor's deep baritone and impeccable dialogue delivery have acquired iconic status.

He has, in fact, worked as a playback singer for 29 movies and in 2005, even lent his voice as narrator to Luc Jacquet's Oscar-winning French documentary, March of the Penguins.



Image: A still from the movie Kaala Patthar, for which Mr Bachchan received the Filmfare Best Actor Award


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3. Accept failure, but never give up

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In 1995, three years into semi-retirement from the film industry, Big B founded Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited, an event management and production firm.

Although the company achieved considerable success in its first year thanks to the Miss World Pageant, which it produced in 1996, it was soon mired in controversy.

It subsequently suffered crippling losses, forcing Mr Bachchan to take up acting again in order to cope with massive business debts.

In July 2000, he came back with a bang to host the first instalment of reality series Kaun Banega Crorepati, which went on to become the most watched TV show in the country.



Image: Bachchan Senior has hosted five of the six seasons of Kaun Banega Crorepati


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4. Learn from everyone

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Although Amitabh Bachchan is an experienced professional in his field, he believes that learning is an ongoing process.

He's worked with junior co-stars and directors half his age, but he's never reported to throw tantrums or push his weight around on set or otherwise.

A director's actor, he tells us that one must be eager to learn through life.



Image: A scene from Ek Ajnabee, in which Amitabh Bachchan plays an ex-Army officer

Related News: Amitabh Bachchan

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5. Give everything your 100 per cent

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Be it his insistence to do action movies or his choice of working on projects like Boom and Nishabd, which bombed at the box office, the actor has always given his 100 per cent, never shying away from criticism or bad reviews.

His dedication to his craft is apparent in the movie Paa. To get into character, Bachchan Senior had to spend four to five hours everyday donning prosthetic makeup, post which he could not eat or drink normally -- and it took two hours after each shoot to get rid of it.

Despite his age and seniority, he did not complain once, which is the mark of a true professional. Paa remains one of his best performances to date.

Speaking of professionalism, in one of his interviews the actor famously remarked, "Frankly I've never really subscribed to these adjectives tagging me as an 'icon', 'superstar' etc. I've always thought of myself as an actor doing his job to the best of his ability."


Image: Amitabh Bachchan received the National Award for his performance in Paa -- he played a child with progeria

Related News: Nishabd , Boom

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6. Forgive and forget, and never lose sight of the bigger picture

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In an industry where feuds are rampant and superstars often have 'camps' taking sides, Mr Bachchan comes across as one of the more mature and dignified personalities.

To be sure, he has had his share of fall-outs, which are inevitable -- the Gandhi family, Shah Rukh Khan, Amar Singh, Anurag Kashyap, various media publications -- but there's no denying that the senior actor does not believe in mud-slinging and has graciously moved on from most fall-outs, often extending a warm hand of friendship to former nemeses.

He has never used the media as a tool, as so many celebrities often do, to lash out at his detractors.


Image: They are currently at loggerheads, but Mr Bachchan has often spoken of how Amar Singh helped him in times of crises
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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7. You may be rich and famous, but you're never above anyone

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Amitabh Bachchan is one of the few stars that take their iconic status seriously.

His interactions with his fans and the press are generally warm and gracious, and he makes a visible effort to remain humble and grounded.

Wherever he goes, the paparazzi follow. And despite the constant attention, which can get to the most patient of people, he manages to keep his cool and handles the shutterbug invasion with a smile, posing for them, answering questions and leaving them satisfied.

On one such occasion, the actor even tweeted to his thousands of followers: 'Dearest TV media and vans outside my home, please do not stress and work so hard.'

No matter who you are, he will acknowledge you.


Image: The superstar poses for the shutterbugs at a charity event held in Mumbai
Photographs: Satish Bodas
Related News: Amitabh Bachchan

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8. Give back to society

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From his decision to support the nationwide polio campaign to his association with various charity organisations, Amitabh Bachchan has always found the time to give back to society.

In fact, his reputation as a patron of charities is such that the Silver Star Diabetes Centre, a UK-based clinic, presented him with a mobile diabetes-testing unit on behalf of the city of Mumbai as a 70th birthday present.

The first of its kind, the mobile clinic will be named 'Amitabh' in his honour.


Image: Amitabh Bachchan at the launch of a new polio eradication campaign in Mumbai
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Related News: UK , Mumbai

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9. Respect thy parents

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Attend any event where Amitabh Bachchan is presiding and chances are you will get to hear him quote a few lines of poetry by his father, the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

Big B finds special purpose in revisiting his father's poems -- to him, it's a way of paying tribute to the man who raised him.

In November 2011, on his ninth death anniversary, he tweeted, "In prayer and in thoughts with him ...a great human, great mind, and a great Father!! All that I am is because of him...his guidance, his morals, his culture and his ethics...now just fond memories of his to live with."

He also often cites the late Teji Bachchan, whose love of the stage propelled her son towards a career in entertainment, as a source of love and support.

Two years after her death in 2007, he was admitted to the same hospital room in which she spent her last days.

Once discharged, he recounted to the media the grief he felt for his departed mother as he lay in the same bed, quoting from a letter he wrote her as a little boy in 1948, 'Ma...aap jaldi wapas aa jao. Mujhe aap ki bahut yaad aati hai. Mere pet mein dard ho raha hai! (Mother...come back soon. I'm constantly thinking of you. My stomach hurts!).'


Image: A dated photograph of Amitabh Bachchan with parents Harivansh Rai and Teji Bachchan
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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10. Have respect for other people's time and always be punctual

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They say time is money and that particularly holds true in the movie industry, where an actor's tardiness can cost moviemakers lakhs, if not crores.

B-Town biggies have a notorious reputation for holding up shoots, strolling onto sets five hours late, throwing tantrums that cause setbacks to the schedule and delaying projects by months, sometimes, even years.

Not Amitabh Bachchan. One of very few stars known for their punctuality, he is apologetic even if he's kept you waiting a few short minutes.

In fact, at a charity event held in Mumbai last month, the actor emphasised that if there was one attribute that anyone should borrow from him, it should be his punctuality and value for another's time.


Image: The Bollywood star interacts with orphans from the tsunami-affected Andaman and Nicobar islands in Mumbai
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
Related News: Mumbai

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