Discussing the legendary actor’s best movies is no mean task given the range and depth of his career over the last five decades. Still, I would attempt at creating this list of my favourite Amitabh Bachchan movies; keeping in mind his acting performances, the strength of his role, and the quality of the movies.
This might seem like a strange call to many, for Amitabh Bachchan was quite a raw actor at the time, and wasn’t the lead for this film. All the same, this was the movie in which Bachchan the actor was found. It is said that Hrishikesh Mukherjee (who was not to be impressed with Bachchan’s later action-oriented movies), got a whiff of his talent while shooting this movie, and decided to remove him from Guddi, where he didn’t have a prominent role.
While, the best dialogues and sequences were saved for Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan stood out for different reasons. He gave an honest rendition of a person who is suffering from a mental illness. (This is acknowledged in one of the first sequences of the movie, when Bhaskar Banerjee states that his mental condition wasn’t at its best while he was struggling with his practice)
Bhaskar Banerjee is gradually treated of his ailment by Anand, and this transformation was portrayed with aplomb by a young Bachchan. While, 1971 was to be an important year for many young actors like Navin Nischol, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, etc. it was Bachchan who was to prove winner in this race, and establish himself as a superstar for decades to come.
The pathbreaker. Unlike, the artificial superiority of the moral hero of today, Inspector Vijay Khanna, was simply the personification of raw anger. His character begins as someone who sees the world in black-and-white and judges the people in the same fashion. However, when the tables are turned against him, he’s made to realise the ways of the world. Amitabh Bachchan was yet again seen as someone who was seemingly hiding away his emotions from the world (and, with good reasons), yet at the same time trying to do the right thing. The movie featured his iconic dialogue, “Jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaaye sharafat se khade raho.” which made the best use of his domineering voice and stellar personality.
Perhaps his greatest effort as an actor. While, the story in itself is about two brothers forced to take arms against each other, the movie develops around Vijay’s rise from a working-class dock worker to one of the biggest names in the underworld. Amitabh was flawless in portrayal of a man rejected by fate, ready to bend morals and men alike, in his quest for power. However, his chosen path leaves him in turmoil, because while he attains his material goals, he ends up losing his near and dear ones, especially his mother. This bitter inner conflict comes out at its best when he arrives at the temple to beg for his mother’s life. “Aaj khush toh bahut hoge tum…” will remain one of the finest acting performances in Bollywood.
A brave performance in a brave film. While, the Bollywood of 2000s saw a lot of experimentation, which facilitated bold moves by big stars, the kind of role that Bachchan portrayed in Don, might not have found approval in pre-liberalisation India. The kind-hearted, yet street smart and chirpy, small town boy Vijay was to find many imitators, for many years none were able to touch the cold-hearted, criminal mastermind Don. While Bachchan had done negative roles in the past, and would go on to do some darker roles such as in Aankhen, his performance in Don still managed to stand out. The act of an evil mastermind with an aura of invincibility around him would’ve been tough to nail for many fine actors of his day.
A personal favourite in this list of favourites, for even though this wasn’t an ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ film in terms of story or the way the script developed, it was the angriest the angry young man would ever be in cinema.
His backstory was one which reeked of shame and cowardice, forcing him to live his life in anonymity and pain. But it was also about helping the needy and poor, which he sought to do by joining them in the perilous coal mines of central India. The movie saw some of the mightiest dialogues and confrontations Bachchan has ever delivered, helped by a stellar star cast featuring Rakhee, Shashi Kapoor, and not the least, Shatrughan Sinha.
In one of the sequences, Shashi Kapoor, ever the perfect supporting man, was able to bring out the reason why Bachchan, the angry young man, resonated with the India of 70s – “Isse dekhta hoon toh Dhanbad ki woh jalti hui khaan yaad aa jaati hai, jisme barso se laakho tonne koyla jal raha hai. Iss aadmi ke andar bhi laakho tonne koyla, na jaane kab se, na jaane kyun sulag raha hai.”
The aspirations of a Nehruvian India never quite worked out, and India saw a lot of anger, whether through violent revolutions or secessionist movements. Far away from the romantic heroes of the 60s and 70s, Bachchan was a rare entity who was able to reflect this disillusionment and anger on the screen.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.