We can all agree that Amitabh Bachchan has Big Mentor Energy. With his booming voice and stately aspect, the actor is regarded as a benevolent, almost paternalistic figure by many, helped by the many roles he’s done in which he teaches the other characters important life lessons. While Bachchan’s formidable personality and acting is almost always impactful, some roles inevitably play out better than others. Here, we (arbitrarily) rate every mentor that Bachchan has played: the good, the bad and the Brahmastra.
This film by Nagraj Manjule draws from the real story of Vijay Barse, the social worker who founded the non-governmental organisation, Slum Soccer. Bachchan’s Vijay is a sports teacher on the verge of retirement who sees potential in a group of children from a slum when he spots them playing football. Where others only see violence and delinquency, Vijay sees possibilities and goodness. His patient and resolute coaching changes the lives of the children, as well as the attitudes of his sceptics, one of whom refers to the slum kids as “gandgi” (filth). For Vijay, sport is a channel for reform. He teaches the children more than just football, emphasising the importance of qualities like resilience, discipline and teamwork, both within and outside the field. Vijay is not only a fantastic mentor to the kids and the people around him, but also a mentor to himself. In his experience with his students, Vijay ends up finding himself along the way, and he is a better person for it.
In KANK, Amitabh Bachchan is Samarjit aka “Sexy Sam,” Rishi’s carefree (and just a little randy) dad who is always down for a good time. Underneath the frivolity lies a maturity that is undeniably refreshing. Sam is aware of his daughter-in-law Maya’s desire for another man, but does not judge her for it. Even though her actions may hurt his son, he gives her blessings to leave Rishi and pursue her own happiness. Sam is a friend to his own son and every bit the reassuring father to Maya, who does not have any parental figures in her life. At his birthday celebration, Sam makes an impassioned speech about the value of relationships, and not taking your loved ones for granted. “Waqt ka matlab hota hai ab (Now is the time),” he says. “If you want to love, do it now. If you want to ask for forgiveness, do it now. If you want to hold hands, do it now.” Words to live by.
This wholesome film stars Amitabh Bachchan as Kailash Nath, a disgruntled ghost. When his attempts to scare a young Banku — whose family has moved into Kailash’s house — don’t go as planned, he becomes best friends with the kid instead. Taking advantage of the fact that no one else can see him, Kailash visits Banku’s new school and plays tricks on his persnickety teacher in order to make Banku laugh and feel better. When Banku asks Kailash to use magic to help him win a sports event, Kailash gently refuses. He motivates Banku to not give up hope and always do his best: “Zindagi mein koi magic nahi hota hai. Sirf mehnat hoti hai, mehnat (There is no magic in real life, just hard work.)” Lo and behold, Banku wins the race. When a student who terrorises Banku accidentally falls into a pit, Kailash advises Banku to extend a hand of forgiveness (literally; Kailash magically elongates Banku’s hand to reach all the way to the bottom of the pit so his classmate can be rescued). Kailash’s soul achieves salvation at the end of the film, but he returns to spend time with Banku, who believes that Kailash is his “angel.”
(Not that Pink has anything to do with maths, but why give up the chance to include a mathematical pun?) Preachy as it may have been, this film deserves serious props for ingraining the phrase “no means no” into the heads of everyone who watched it. Bachchan plays a retired lawyer who steps in to represent three women in court after they find themselves in a legal battle against the men who sexually assaulted them. Bachchan’s Deepak catches the perpetrators in their lies, cleverly using their own statements to prove their guilt. He impresses upon those in court that consent can be given and taken away at any point, and that drinking and partying cannot be a basis for judging someone’s moral character. Deepak acts almost as a father-figure to Minal (Taapsee Pannu) and her friends, standing up for them and giving them hope when they needed it most. While it smacks a little of the male saviour complex, the film is clearly coming from a good place, and the execution is powerful.
When Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) discovers his connection to the Brahmansh — a clandestine society dedicated to protecting the world from celestial weapons called Astras — he races off in a quest to locate the Astras and the Guru, the leader of the Brahmansh. Once he reaches the elusive Ashram (which turned out to not be so elusive after all, considering they found it on Google Maps), Shiva is told that the fate of the world rests in his hands. The Guru effectively blackmails him into joining the Brahmansh, holding the truth about his parents over Shiva’s head. While he does help Shiva come into his powers as the Agni Astra (basically a firebender from the ATLA-verse), we are not too convinced by the Guru’s ethics as a mentor.
In Black, Bachchan’s character is hired to teach Michelle, a girl who lost her vision and hearing at a young age, and is prone to frustrated outbursts and misbehaviour. After a revolving door of teachers try and fail to get through to Michelle, it is Debraj and his tenacity that finally do the trick. He is adamant that Michelle become independent and able to express herself, but she is initially resistant to his efforts. Debraj’s tactics are eccentric, bordering on aggressive — he starves Michelle and even throws her into a fountain at one point — but in the context of the film, these methods are depicted as the only thing working towards Michelle’s eventual breakthrough. The two of them end up forming a lovely, lifelong connection, and Michelle emerges from the experience a confident, expressive woman. Towards the end of the film, there is a role-reversal of sorts. Debraj is now aged and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. As he struggles to hold on to his memories and articulate himself, it is Michelle who teaches him to communicate again.
“Parampara, pratishtha, anushasan” (Tradition, honour, discipline), proclaims Amitabh Bachchan’s Narayan Shankar to the intimated new students of Gurukul. He rules over the school with an iron first, a rigid disciplinarian and a frankly terrifying authority figure. Narayan is violently allergic to love. When his daughter (Aishwarya Rai) confessed that she is in love with a student at Gurukul, Narayan expelled him without a second thought, ordering his daughter to forget all about her lover. Devastated, she took her own life, leaving Narayan with an even more hardened heart. The very sight of him strikes fear in the hearts of his students, as he stalks through the corridors like the Grim Reaper, killing any joy they might be feeling. When the winds of change, ushered in by Shah Rukh Khan’s Raj Aryan, sweep through Gurukul, Narayan does his best to stand firm on his (outdated) principles. However, he ultimately sees the error of his ways and steps down from his position to make way for Raj, who is pretty much the best mentor and love-guru anyone could ask for.