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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 09:47 GMT
Amitabh Bachchan: The comeback man
Amitabh Bachchan
Mr Bachchan is an Indian icon
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, who is recovering from intestinal surgery, has been a superstar for more than 30 years.

The hero of more than 100 films who was once dubbed the "most famous actor of the millennium" by the BBC News website's readers, remains the most sought after actor in Bollywood.

The indefatigable 63-year-old Indian actor confesses to working 18-hour-long workdays on films, advertisements, and a popular television show.

The grey-bearded, black-haired star who became a grandfather in 1998, had once asked his fans to remain loyal after age stole his looks.

The fact that he had 11 film releases so far in 2005 and another two in December - more than he has had during any of his 40 years in cinema - proves that his fans have not given up on him.

Angry young man

He has also become India's biggest television star endorsing a number of popular brands and presenting a popular hour-long show modelled on the hugely popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

The son of a famous Hindi poet, Amitabh Bachchan quit his job as a freight broker in Calcutta and set off for Bombay in pursuit of a career in the movies.

I said if I don't become an actor, I will drive a cab
"I came to Bombay with a driving license, and that's about it. I said if I don't become an actor, I will drive a cab. I didn't have a place to stay," he told an interviewer.

His acting career began in the 1970s when he made his name as an action hero, a swashbuckling star of Hindi films.

He got his first big break in an action film, Zanjeer (The Chain), where his portrayal of a rebel police inspector out to avenge the death of his parents catapulted him to superstardom and earned him the screen image of an angry young man.

Amitabh Bachchan
Mr Bachchan has made ageing cool in Bollywood (Courtesy: Yashraj Films)

An entire generation of Indians grew up during the time idolising Bachchan, trying to copy his hairstyle, his walk and even the rich baritone of his voice.

When the actor was seriously hurt in 1982 filming an action scene, thousands of fans stood vigil and prayed for days outside the Mumbai hospital in which he was admitted.

Millions of others fasted for his speedy recovery - "It was a very frightening time," he said later.

Brush with politics

He returned to work after a year in a string of indifferent films.

Bachchan had a patchy tryst with politics when the former prime minister and Congress party leader Rajiv Gandhi persuaded him to run for parliament in 1985.

He won resoundingly on his star power but stepped down as MP midway through his term, after a report of alleged involvement in financial irregularities of which he was completely cleared later.

"I know I should have never got into politics. And I've learnt my lesson. No more politics," he told Stardust magazine in an interview later.

Bachchan was almost eclipsed in 1990s after a series of lacklustre films.

Mr Bachchan hits the floor with Aishwarya Rai and son, Abhishek Bachchan (r) in a recent hit
It was around this time he floated a eponymous film production and event management company which went into red after a series of flops and landed the actor in debt.

But since then he has reinvented himself and has made a stunning comeback as a star.

He began playing his age as a gravely voiced, stern patriarch at the movies, and also endorsed a wide range of products commercially.

The actor has also made ageing cool in Bollywood - doing popular music videos and, in a recent film starring his rising star son Abhishek, rapping with a bevy of dancing girls.

Zanjeer (The Chain), 1973
Deewar (Wall), 1975
Sholay (Embers) 1975
Amar Akbar Anthony, 1977
Don, 1978
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, 1978
Laawaris, 1981
Silisila (The Affair), 1981
Namak Halaal, 1982
Black, 2005

He also made his debut on television as a chatty, charismatic quizmaster of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Bachchan's 'second coming' has been a success - he's Bollywood busiest actor today.

He has even revived his production house on a smaller scale. Earlier this year, New York's Lincoln Centre hosted a 13-film retrospective of the actor's work in a nod to his lasting fame.

He says he is ready to act in a Hollywood film after years of turning down offers.

Bachchan was voted "star of the millennium" in a poll on the BBC News site in 1999.

But the actor said the results must be due to a "computer error," and that his own vote would have gone to Marlon Brando.


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