Happy Birthday Mr. Bachchan Happy Birthday Mr. God?
Reflections - Happy Birthday Mr. Bachchan. Happy Birthday Mr. God? By Joginder Tuteja, October 11, 2010 - 11:27 IST
Today, the most iconic figure ever on Indian screen turns another year older. The day is expected to be celebrated world over with as much fervour and grace as ever. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan's birthday is an event. In fact any festivity at his household is an event that makes for national news. He is a legend, a national heritage, a treasure, a topic of discussion for millions.
He is a human being.
And one tends to believe that this is how he would love to be known and seen as well. A human being who rose on to become one in a billion. Someone, who by the right choices made in his professional career (and some intelligent decisions taken in his later years) elevated himself to such an envious position that it turned out to be the fight back of the decade.
He was a human being who made it all possible. And this is what he would love to saviour most, right? After all for God, it would have been way too simple to shoo away all the negativity, disappointments, low points and detraction, isn't it?
But still, some (in fact many) choose to call him as God. Just as they do for Rajinikanth and many other major screen idols. Is this really the kind of attention that the legendary actors too love? In this week's 'Reflections', let's look at whether it is actually stretching things a way too much by bringing religion, albeit of a different kind, in the lives of common man who is merely getting entertained by the antics put on display on the big screen?
Who likes it this way after all?
In last half a century, ever since films started gaining more visibility and more and more superstars started getting iconic status, there have been over dozen odd personalities that have been elevated to being a God in their own right. The phenomenon has been more prominent down South but Hindi cinema hasn't been left untouched either. For simplicity sake, let's pick up two veteran actors who are still around, kicking and alive and have been equated to God by many a fan.
They are Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth.
However, the million dollar question is, whether these legends themselves like it all this way? Just a few days back, Rajinikanth in particular made his displeasure pretty clear by refusing to be termed as a God. Deterred by constant references being made to his 'divine status', he too perhaps thought that enough was enough. There have been hundreds of jokes - all pretty positive and in good humour - being made about the way he possesses heavenly powers. He has smiled at them as well and let them go. But then perhaps the time had come for him to put a full stop on it. He declared once for and all that henceforth, all comparisons with God won't quite be appreciated, regardless of the tone that they come in.
Amitabh Bachchan too has always, in his characteristic demeanour, refrained from being elevated to the highest pedestal. Of course modesty drives the fact that no actor (or any other sane living celebrity for that matter) would publicly acknowledge comparisons with God. Still, the way Amitabh Bachchan has time and again handled such flattering remarks and requested with folded hands not to have them repeated ever again has not quite made the similar headlines.
It is clear that the screen icons who have actually turned out to be some of the biggest VVIPs of the country have publicly stayed on to be the most humble of all. Rajinikanth merrily walks in his kurta-pajamas in the biggest of events and doesn't even try to stand out in a crowd. Amitabh Bachchan's personality means that even if he wants; he can't be missed in the crowd. Still, he never aims at bringing on any forced flamboyance, something that even today's two-hit wonder kids revel in doing so on a constant note.
Is God leading way for the King?
While the second half of the last millennium saw superstars being compared with Gods, a new phenomenon has emerged in the first decade of the new millennium. Call it the fast pace lives of millions of cine-goers, modernisation taking over and religion taking a backseat to some extent but royalty is what seems to be ruling from the front. It's time of the King, the Ace, the Queen or perhaps even the Joker. With younger generation not quite expected to walk into temples to saviour their screen Gods and instead log into Facebook/Twitter and catch stars live in action, it is time for them to be addressed as Mr. Khan - the King Khan.
It all started when Shah Rukh found a new name for himself - King Khan. Who really coined this? No one knows. Whether it was done by a fan, a journalist, a PR person - no one knows about the origin of this term. However, the fact remains that with the numero uno status that Shah Rukh was enjoying for quite a while now, the elevation was to the level of King itself. The man who ruled the world.
However, it was always expected that if at there would be a fall; the King would have to step down. No one thought though what would actually happen when Shah Rukh Khan won't fall but someone else would march up? This turned out to be the most peculiar case for Shah Rukh Khan. He continued to deliver hits but then a certain Aamir Khan struck by delivering even bigger hits.
The name coined for him? Ace Khan!
Come on now, isn't it taking things a really too far?
But then in the time when there are thousands of hyperactive journalists, film enthusiasts, bloggers and other folks active on social networking sites, it is hard to stop an interesting sounding coinage coming into play. After God, it was time for royalty to come into play. One only fears who would be the joker now? Any superstar would be dreading this term though. Three-four straight flops and the tag may not quite be a distant away.
Do we really need that?
Ok, it's not about taking references from the West because they are huge but then the fact remains that for Bollywood folks, it is industry out there in the West which is the most visible of all. No wonder, one tends to think about the legends out there. Hence the question - How would James Cameron have reacted if Americans (and film enthusiasts across the globe) would have suddenly started calling him God? How would James - the creator - Cameron would have sounded, especially so after the release of Avatar where he actually managed to create a virtual world of it's own kind. In fact if there was some logic that really had to be thrown around to equate someone to God, James Cameron wouldn't have been a bad example at all, right?
This is the reason why one tends to believe that who is the King or an Ace when Leonardo Di Caprio and Martin Scorsese make films like Inception or The Shutter Island? Isn't it all about suspension of disbelief there? Should Tom Cruise get a middle name of 'khiladi' due to a dozen odd action films that he has done? And in that case what happens to Sylvester Stallone who is still active on the scene? A distribution of 'King' and 'Ace' badges here?
The trouble that may entail
The core issue, as is always a risk, lies in the fact that when superstars get the tag of a God, King, Ace or references alike, it becomes all the more tougher to keep it all intact. Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth realised it first hand after the debacle of Mrituydaataand Baba respectively. They were not knocked off from the pedestal but the fan base was shaken for sure. Rajinikanth still managed to survive it all due to some huge hits that came before Baba and his immediate act of compensating the distributors for the losses, hence winning his fans' hearts all over again.
However, for Amitabh Bachchan there was no such luck as the 'worship' definitely went down by a few notches. It took many years of recovery and while all is forgotten today, he comfortable finds himself in a position again where his status akin to that of being a God all over again. Meanwhile Rajinikanth has reached a different constellation altogether by playing a non-human in Robot and still enjoying a continued heavenly treatment for himself. After the living world, he has managed to conquer a sci-fi world as well, something that has only resulted in exponentiation of his God-like status.
Which only leads to the question raised at the very beginning...