IndianSpice

Podcast: Big B’s Journey From Sherwood to ‘Shahenshah’

I know I’m not alone when I say that as a kid, I would only watch a film if it had Amitabh Bachchan in it. If he died in the film, I would be inconsolable till I was given further proof of his immortality in another song or a movie.

His mortality is the only problem I had, and still have with Sholay.

What follows is a series of narratives from Amitabh Bachchan’s blog about his life, before he became the phenomena that he is. These are his stories from school, his reflections about life, which just about offer us a tiny peep into the parallel universe of Amitabh Bachchan.

The first one is from his school days at Sherwood College, Nainital.

Amitabh Bachchan is fourth from right in the second row. (Photo Credit: Amitabh Bachchan/Twitter)

Every Sunday evening, our sister-school came to Sherwood to attend chapel. That used to be a great moment for us! All of us would rush to occupy the rows just behind the girls, for it became easier to pass on the ‘love notes! That’s not all. All of us would be on our best behaviour, perform extremely well in athletics, in boxing, and on stage when the sister school was watching. We took great relish in rushing to meet our favourite at the school boundary wall, if only to tell her what we did in the Geography class that morning. Such innocent joys, yet so fulfilling, that even today, one cannot recreate such happiness.

One incident, very precious to me, is of the time I was in my second year at Sherwood. It was the month of June, and the school was celebrating its Founder’s Week, when all the students put up all kinds of parades, PT exercises, and drama and music recitals. Parents of the children came from all over to join the festivity. My parents were coming too. They had been informed that I was taking part in the school play. The previous year, I had won the Kendal Cup (donated by Geoffrey Kendal, Jennifer Kapoor’s father) for the best actor’s award. I was hoping to win the same award this year.

In fact, everyone was quite sure that I would most certainly do. It had never happened, though, in the history of Sherwood. No one student had ever won this award for two consecutive years. But I was hoping to. The play, an Agatha Christie, was titled And Then There Were None. It was a murder mystery, and I played the role of a judge.

Amitabh Bachchan perfoming on stage at Sherwood College, Nainital.
(Photo: Tumblr)

In the afternoon, after our dress rehearsal, I suddenly started feeling dizzy. The doctor examining me said I had measles, and confined me to a separate room. I was heart-broken! Here, I had worked all these months, and now, I couldn’t do the play. I felt miserable. I didn’t know what to tell my parents who were coming all the way from Delhi, especially to see me perform, and now it was all so futile. Not only that, I would have to sit in this lonely room, all by myself, and suffer it since nobody was allowed near me.

It was late evening, an hour before the play, I think. The school hospital, where I was, was perched on top of the hill, making it possible for one to see the main building and also the auditorium… I sat by the hospital window, watched the man pull up the curtains, switch on the lights, and my heart sank… just then the door opened… It was my father. I don’t know how he managed it, but he had sought special permission from the Principal to be with me during these hours. Somehow he knew.

Amitabh Bachchan with his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan (Photo Courtesy: Amitabh Bachchan/Facebook)

I can’t really remember all that he said to me in those two hours, but he sat on the bed besides me and talked, to keep my attention diverted, so that I would not hear the sound of the applause downstairs. It wasn’t easy for me. It disturbed me hearing another actor speak my lines, wear my costume, and steal the show, which was rightfully mine. But that day, my father gave me the greatest lesson of my life.

Something I have always cherished and which has stood by me in crisis. He said “Jeevan mein, apne man ka ho to achcha hai, apne man ka na ho to zyada achha”.

If what is happening is something you like, fine. If not, you must not worry for it is not in your control… It is in the control of the Almighty, and the Almighty will never do anything that is said to be wrong for you.

He backed up what he said with various incidents and examples, and though at the time I was too depressed, too full of my pain to understand it completely, when the sorrow subsided later, I saw the wisdom of his words, the enormity of his message. For when you are 20, you don’t see logic, but when you are 30, you do. And when you are 40, you mellow, and at 50, of course, you accept.

Sometimes when I look back, I think of the various accusations hurled at me – Fairfax, Bofors, on the various political victimisations, I wonder where I got the strength to fight it all. But now I do. I must have drawn my strength from all that I picked up from my parents, my school. Values inculcated in my childhood. And that’s what I want to pass on to my children. They are, after all, the new generation and the optimism must continue.