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Verve People
January 15, 2006

The AB Factor

Text by Subhash K Jha. Photographs by Pradeep Chandra from his book

His fame is a second skin that he wears unconsciously and yet, he never takes anything for granted…least of all success. He is a man who is in denial of his own superstardom, writes long time friend and journalist, Subhash K Jha, who chronicles the Amitabh Bachchan phenomenon through his own experiences with the star

I don’t know where their love for me comes from. All I know is, I’m truly grateful to them and to God for giving me this kind of adulation and recognition. I know I don’t deserve it. But it doesn’t mean I’m not indebted to the thousands who always seem to find the time to show their love for me.”

It was a hot sweltering morning in February. Hindi film director, Ram Gopal Varma, was shooting at a suburban studio in Mumbai for a segment of Darna Zaroori Hai with the one and only, Amitabh Bachchan. As expected, the atmosphere was electric. Everyone from the electrician to the cameraman was alert and hundred per cent on the job. “It’s not something he does. It’s what he is,” whispered Varma to me, as the crackling bustle on the set gathered momentum. The set depicted a wooden cabin at a hill-station. At the centre of it, I perceived the perfect epicentre of superstardom. For there, disconnected from all the hushed hubbub of studio activity, even disconnected from his own self and entirely connected with the character he was playing, sat India’s only iconic movie actor. As I quietly watched him sitting alone on a chair on the stuffy set wearing a thick woollen pullover, looking with monkish ‘meditativeness’ at his lines, I knew why Amitabh Bachchan was who he was. I realised then that he doesn’t try to be anything; he doesn’t have to. His aura, like the aura of legendary playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar, is a second skin that he wears unconsciously.

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