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“Dad, Amitabh Bachchan is Timeless!”

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By Kulbhushan Kain

This is a story of Amitabh Bachchan, me and my son. It is a story set in Delhi and spans 37 years.

The hero of the story? Amitabh Bachchan, of course!

The story begins in the year 1974 when I was studying at the Delhi University. Even those days, Amitabh Bachchan was a star – but not the mega super star that he was to become later. That monopoly was held by Rajesh Khanna, who generated claps, whistles and shrieks as soon as he made an appearance on any screen! We were witness to the amazing grip Rajesh Khanna had on the Indian mind – and God – did one ever NOT miss a heart beat when he blinked those romantic eyes? His smile was worth dying for – and a girl actually committed suicide when he married Dimple Kapadia!

Rajesh Khanna could not handle the adulation, fame and money in the aftermath of his surreal success. When I met him in Pahalgam, in the early 1980s, he was clearly on the decline – he had put on extra weight and had a puffed up face. It was morning and he was already reeking of alcohol.

The highly disciplined Bachchan had started giving Rajesh Khanna a run for the top slot. He had given a very intense performance in “Anand”, which heralded the birth of an exceptional star. By 1973, with the release of Zanjeer, a star was born. In 1974, he acted in a hit film called “Roti, Kapda aur Makaan”, and though the girls were not shrieking they were noticing the man with deep eyes and a baritone voice. I had the great privilege of seeing and meeting Amitabh Bachchan when he came for the release of “Roti ,Kapda Aur Makaan” in 1974 in Delhi. I was a young cricket and movie struck undergraduate!

It was a chance meeting.

I was at the Oberoi Intercontinental in Delhi waiting for dinner on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee celebration of the parents of my friend. We were to dine at Café Chinois, the rooftop restaurant. The entire team of the film was also staying at the hotel. As I waited for my friend and his parents in the lobby, there was a sudden flutter. I looked up, saw Shashi Kapoor walk in, take his room keys and move into the elevator. Terrific looks, created and crafted by special Gods. I tried to get close to him, hesitated, and he was gone. (I was to meet him two years later at the Oberoi Maidens – that’s another story!)

Then in walked Amitabh Bachchan.

He walked as he usually does – with brisk, long and confident strides, and arms swinging freely. The first thing I noticed was how long his arms were. They nearly reached his knees. He wore a black Carnaby striped suit, spotless white shirt, and a red tie! He walked with his head down, avoiding eye contact, went to the reception and in his baritone voice said, “Keys please”. For a young college boy, it was an incident that he would never forget. I wanted to say hello, but could not bring myself to it. I was stunned and overawed by him. He looked so magnificent – tall and imposing, intimidating, cultured, sophisticated and so accomplished. He, too, took the elevator.

My friend and his family arrived. We went to Café Chinois. And guess who were sitting and eating there? Yes, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Zeenat Aman and Jaya Bhaduri. It was then that I had my first words with Amitabh Bachchan. I went up to him and told him that I was a great fan of his. He asked me what I was doing and when I told him I was studying at the University, he smiled and said,

“Study hard!”

He stuck out his hand and ecstatically I shook it.

I felt as if I had touched God!

Subsequently, I watched every movie of his and saw his fortunes fluctuate. From a setback in politics to bankruptcy of his company, from some terrific performances – Deewar, Sholay, Shakti, Black, Sarkar – to some magnificent TV shows. He floored all of us with his charm and jackets, when he hosted “Kaun Banega Crorepati”. I heard him sing raunchy numbers like “Kajra re kajra re”, “Mere angnein mein”, “Rang Barse”, saw him advertise for Reid and Taylor and million products.

The magic slipped once in a while – but never deserted him. He could do everything –even defy death!

The years rolled by.

Thirty-seven years after I had first met him, my son phoned me and told me that that he was going to meet Amitabh Bachchan! He had been invited to a studio discussion about the movie “Aarakshan”, where Big B was going to be present!

I asked him whether he was excited.

”How can anyone not be excited about meeting Bachchan Sir?” he queried.

“But he does not belong to your generation. He belongs to mine. As long as 37 years separate him, me, from you,” I said.

There was pregnant silence and then he answered,

Dad, he is timeless!”

It was a wonderful answer and he had hit the nail on the head.

After the show I asked him, “How was he?”

“Awesome, Dad! You can’t imagine how dynamic and imposing he looks,” he replied.

“But he must be looking old now – he is 70 plus years.”

“Dad, being old does not mean you can’t look awesome. Deepika Padukone was with him – she is young, but I promise you everyone was looking at him,” he replied.

“Did you talk to him?” I asked.

“Yes I did. I told him that I was from the same college as his. He looked at me and said, “Are you? What course are you pursuing there?”

“Economics Hons, Sir,” my son replied.

Bachchan stuck out his hand and said, “All the best to you.” And then gave the same advice he gave me 37 years earlier, “Study hard!”

Like me, I am sure my son must have felt that he had touched God!

(Kulbhushan kain is an award winning educationist with more than 4 decades of working in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at kulbhushan.kain@gmail.com)