Magic moments from Amitabh Bachchan’s amazing movie career
Being the greatest Bollywood star of all time has given Amitabh Bachchan many landmark moments throughout his distinguished career.
Although he has had many achievements apart from acting including national honours, helping to eradicate polio in India, hosting a popular TV quiz show, recording a hit album, becoming the first living south Asian to get a Madame Tussaud’s waxwork, and smashing open doors globally for Indian talent, the Big B has been at his very best in films.
This has resulted in an incredible body of work. From his acting debut in Saat Hindustani in 1969 to headlining five films in 2022, the unstoppable superstar has entertained cross-generational audiences globally and continues to inspire all those following in his giant footsteps.
He follows up superhero adventure Brahmastra last month with this week’s big Hindi cinema release Goodbye and Uunchai on November 11.
He also celebrates his landmark 80th birthday on Tuesday (11).
Eastern Eye decided to mark the occasion by selecting 80 magic moments from his cinema journey in chronological order. From his landmark movies, records and special scenes, to hidden gems, awards and ground-breaking roles, the list has it all. So, strap in and get ready for a Big B movie ride.
1. In 1969, Amitabh Bachchan makes his film debut as a narrator in the National Award-winning drama Bhuvan Shome, marking the beginning of a superb cinema journey.
2. He makes a winning acting debut with National Award winner Saat Hindustani (1969). The movie would become a cult classic thanks to his later superstardom.
3. Bachchan stars opposite reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna in Anand (1971) and wins a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award for his performance. That would be the first of many honours throughout his incredible career.
4. Bachchan plays his first negative role as the infatuated lover-turned-murderer in Parwana (1971), and shows early on that he will dare to be different in his film choices.
5. A first lead role in Bombay To Goa (1972) enables the actor to show that he is leading man material. The film includes the high-energy song Dekha Na Haye Re.
6. The success of Zanjeer (1973) turns Bachchan into the hottest property in Hindi cinema and helps to craft his angry young man image. Incendiary scenes in the film and his explosive dialogues ignite his unstoppable rise.
7. Namak Haraam (1973) will turn out to be Bachchan’s second and last film with Rajesh Khanna, before dethroning him to become the king of Bollywood. His powerful performance shows that he is here to stay.
8. The actor delivers his last raw performance before superstardom kicks in with an intense turn in Abhimaan (1973), which has many great song-driven moments.
9. Bachchan plays the first of many double roles of his career in Bandhe Hath (1973). The story of a criminal stealing a lookalike poet’s identity was an early indicator of his acting range.
10. He perfectly illustrates the pain and hope of the year’s highest grossing film Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (1974) with his transformation from a job seeker with a casual attitude to a disciplined officer who loses an arm during his army tenure.
11. Bachchan delivers a magnificent performance as a terminally ill man who takes responsibility for a murder he didn’t commit and then must prove his innocence in hit film Majboor (1974).
12. The actor has had many dramatic moments in his career, but few can match the emotion of his character entering a temple for the first time and dying in his mother’s arms in Deewaar (1975).
13. Curry western Sholay (1975), which becomes the highest grossing Bollywood film in history, features Bachchan in many memorable moments, ranging from the Yeh Dosti song to an unfulfilled romance, comic one-liners and sacrificing his life with a double-headed coin.
14. Classic comedy Chupke Chupke (1975) shows off the actor’s versatility and comic timing, despite him establishing himself as an action hero.
15. Bachchan’s portrayal of a doting father separated from his family in Do Anjaane (1976) is under-rated and one of many hidden gems in his impressive body of work.
16. Bachchan does the unexpected by starring in romantic movie Kabhi Kabhie (1976) during an action-dominated era, and convincingly plays a much older character in the second half.
17. Hera Pheri (1976) is filled with comedy, action, drama, suspense, and emotion. It has it all and Bachchan performs every aspect flawlessly.
18. Bachchan’s first double role in Adalat (1976) after becoming a superstar sees him brilliantly bring contrasting personalities to life – those of a father and son on a collision course.
19. Amar Akbar Anthony becomes the highest grossing Bollywood film of 1977. His magnificent performance in the movie includes an improvised mirror scene while drunk, and emerging from a giant Easter egg in the My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves song.
20. His tough hero named Tiger memorably wrestles a real big cat to impress the fiery heroine (Rekha) in Khoon Pasina (1977).
21. Bachchan is the narrator in all-time Satyajit Ray classic Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977). He would later narrate many films, including the Oscar nominated Lagaan (2001), Parineeta (2005), Jodhaa Akbar (2008) and Krrish 3 (2013).
22. Action entertainer Parvarish (1977) sees Bachchan memorably perform the song Hum Premee Prem Karna Jaane with Shammi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna, which is about love, but cleverly highlights the conflict of brothers on opposite sides of the law.
23. Bachchan plays an honest teacher who is murdered early on in Kasme Vaade (1978), but then makes a memorable reappearance portraying his lookalike, a wanted criminal (on a transformative journey).
24. The actor has always been known for his grand entry sequences. In blockbuster hit Trishul (1978), he lights a stick of dynamite and calmy walks away from it, which sets the tone for an explosive storyline.
25. His iconic movie Don (1978) has several magic moments, such as his unforgettable Khaike Paan Banaraswala song performance and famous dialogue, Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hain. (It isn’t just difficult to catch Don, but impossible).
26. The megastar makes a scene-stealing entry on a motorcycle in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, while performing the title track. It becomes the highest grossing movie of 1978.
27. Bachchan follows up the three biggest movies of 1978 by headlining three out of the five most successful Bollywood films of 1979.
28. The Great Gambler (1979) is shot at international locations and features him in the first Bollywood song (Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani) in a gondola in Venice.
29. Bachchan perhaps had the best romantic chemistry with Rekha. Together they delivered many magical onscreen moments, including smash hit song Pardesia in Mr Natwarlal (1979), shot in a beautiful mountainous setting.
30. The incredible Kaala Patthar (1979) poster featuring Bachchan’s screaming face becomes all kinds of iconic, and is backed up by a compelling performance as an anguished coal miner.
31. The year’s biggest Bollywood hit Suhaag (1979), sees the actor deliver everything from deep angst in the song Aaj Imtihan Hai to comedy and action in many memorable scenes.
32. The versatile actor shows his comic timing in Do Aur Do Paanch (1980), with hilarious scenes that include one where he breaks the fourth wall and directly speaks to the audience.
33. Dostana (1980) opens with Bachchan and his co-star Shatrughan Sinha performing the fantastic title track, which will go on to become a timeless friendship anthem.
34. Bachchan reuniting with Dharmendra for the first time since their record-breaking film Sholay in Ram Balram (1980) was special, and so is the song Ek Rasta Do Rahi that they performed together.
35. Whether it is wooing his lady love on a bus, carrying out a heist in a tuxedo, or entering the villian’s lair in the climax, he oozes style and class in Shaan (1980).
36. The Big B wearing that flashing suit covered in lights in Yaarana (1981) remains unforgettable and iconic. Every Bollywood fan wanted one!
37. John Jani Janardan in Naseeb (1981) smashes the record for the most stars in a song, and the centre of attention is the greatest of them all – Bachchan as a singing waiter.
38. The actor puts aside his tough guy image to dress up in drag for the iconic Mere Angne Mein song in Laawaris (1981). What adds to the magic is that he sang it himself.
39. Silsila (1981) has many special moments, but the most unique is the song Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum, which combined the beautiful voice of playback singer Lata Mangeshkar with Bachchan’s baritone reciting romantic poetry.
40. His transformation from a simpleton to a suave thief in Kaalia (1981) is cool, but outwitting a rival on the dancefloor during the Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar Hain song and stealing a necklace turns out to be even cooler.
41. The struggling Punjabi film industry gets a much-needed boost with a cameo appearance from Bachchan in Vilayati Babu (1981). His song performance draws attention to the movie and Punjabi cinema.
42. Satte Pe Satta (1982) features phenomenal comedy from Bachchan, including a hilarious moment where he tries to woo Hema Malini with a giant watermelon.
43. The actor perfectly performs the patriotic anthem Mere Desh Premiyon in Desh Premee (1982), which asks for love, understanding and unity between individuals from different faiths fighting one another, something that is more relevant than ever today.
44. Classic comedy Namak Halaal (1982) sees Bachchan perform one of Bollywood’s longest songs Pag Ghunghroo Baandh, but he also recites unforgettable lines in the film, including, “I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English because English is a very funny language” and “Daddu tum”.
45. The catchy Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain song in Khud-Daar (1982) sees Bachchan sing ‘I love you’ in multiple languages and had everyone singing along.
46. He stars opposite fellow film giant Dilip Kumar for the only time in all-time classic Shakti (1982). That perfect casting in movie history becomes legendary.
47. It is thrice as nice in Mahaan (1983) as Bachchan takes on a triple role for the first time, playing contrasting characters in the film.
48. Coolie (1983) is remembered for the accident that almost ends Bachchan’s life. His character is supposed to die at the end, but that is changed to people of all faiths praying for his recovery and him surviving, just like he does in real life.
49. A teetotal Bachchan performs drunk scenes in Sharaabi (1984) better than anyone has ever done. He also hides a burn mark on his hand by keeping it in his pocket throughout the film and turns it into a style statement!
50. From his unique look and performance to advance bookings for the film breaking records, Shahenshah (1988) has many majestic moments and dynamite dialogues like, “rishtey mein to hum tumhare baap hote hai, naam hai Shahenshah” (In terms of a relationship, I am your father, my name is Shahenshah).
51. Main Azaad Hoon (1989), a great remake of Hollywood classic Meet John Doe (1941), has a rousing beyond-the-grave speech from Bachchan.
52. A great performance as a gangster in Agneepath (1990) wins Bachchan his first National Award as Best Actor. It features explosive dialogues that have become part of folklore, like “Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, poora naam” (Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, my full name).
53. He may have won a Filmfare Best Actor award for Hum (1991), but the movie is best remembered for his cheeky song Jumma Chumma De De, which became a rage globally.
54. Bachchan sports a beard throughout a film for the first time as an Afghan chief in Khuda Gawah (1992). That strong beard game would define the latter part of his career.
55. His high-energy Na Na Na Na Na Re performance with Daler Mehndi in Mrityudaata (1997) ignites the Indian pop music scene.
56. Playing a disciplinarian principal in Mohabbatein (2000) wins Bachchan multiple acting honours, and is the true start of his stunning second innings in Bollywood, playing mature author-backed roles.
57. Out-of-the-box thriller Aks (2001) gave him a Filmfare Best Actor (critics) award, and a cool new look he has largely kept since.
58. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) smashes box-office records. A highlight is the ensemble Shava Shava song led by the eye-catching moves of the actor. Also notable is the face-off he has with Shah Rukh Khan in the film.
59. Bachchan plays a begrudged character who trains three blind men to successfully rob a bank in hit heist thriller Aankhen (2002). The legend absolutely bosses the multi-starrer with his grey-shaded role.
60. Despite Baghban (2003) essentially portraying the pain of the parent protagonists let down by their children, Bachchan manages to add fun, positivity, and romance to his role. He also sings multiple songs in the movie.
61. Police thriller Khakee (2004) was loaded with young stars, but the actor owns the action-drama with his brilliant portrayal of an aging cop.
62. Bachchan wins every acting honour for Black (2005), including a National Award. He magnificently plays the teacher of a deaf and mute girl. But just when audiences think that the lead performances can’t get any better, there is a teacher-student role reversal, when his character develops Alzheimer’s.
63. What most people remember about hit film Bunty Aur Babli (2005) is the stunning Kajra Re song, which is performed by Bachchan, his son Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai.
64. Bachchan breathes fire into every scene with an intense performance as Subhash Nagre in Sarkar (2005). He adopts a memorable look for the brilliant Bollywood adaptation of Hollywood classic The Godfather (1972).
65. The coolest character in mega-budget multi-starrer Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) is Bachchan’s ‘Sexy Sam’, who shines in dynamic dance number Rock ’N’ Roll Soniye, where he overshadows everyone, including Abhishek Bachchan and Preity Zinta.
66. The actor conveys an inspiring message in emotional drama Baabul (2006), with his portrayal of a devoted father-in-law seeking happiness for his widowed daughter-in-law by getting her remarried.
67. Another rule-breaking performance sees him play a 64-year-old chef in Cheeni Kum (2007), who has his first romance with a woman 30 years younger than him.
68. The most memorable moment of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007) is a winning cameo appearance from Bachchan as a seriously cool busker performing the catchy title track at the very beginning of the film.
69. The actor steps out of his comfort zone for his first fully English language film The Last Lear (2007), which wins a National Award for Best Feature Film in English.
70. Bhootnath (2008) becomes one of the very few children’s films to become a hit in Bollywood, thanks to Bachchan’s portrayal of the ghostly title character. It would spawn a spooky sequel.
71. The 67-year-old stars goes through the most remarkable transformation in Bollywood history to play a 12-year-old with rare genetic disorder progeria in Paa (2009) and wins every major accolade, including a National Award.
72. Bachchan finally makes his Hollywood debut with a cameo in The Great Gatsby (2013). The five-minute appearance opposite Leonardo DiCaprio gains global attention.
73. The character of a cranky father with constipation in a commercial Hindi movie should not have worked, but Bachchan injects his role in Piku (2015) with magic and wins multiple honours, including a National Award.
74. Bachchan made the 90-year leap from playing a child who is 12 in Paa (2009) to a 102-year-old in 102 Not Out (2018). Just brilliant!
75. Critically acclaimed film Pink (2016) concludes with a rousing dialogue from Bachchan playing a lawyer defending a sexual assault victim, where he emphasises that “no means no” when a woman says it in the context of consent. Those lines supporting women put across an important message that resonated around the world.
76. The superstar wins the Dadasaheb Phalke Award – Indian cinema’s highest honour – in 2018 for his contribution to the film industry.
77. His performance in mystery film Badla (2019) is full of energy and deceptively brilliant.
78. The actor is once again unrecognisable in his award-winning portrayal of a grouchy landlord in Gulabo Sitabo (2020), which becomes the first Covid-era Bollywood film to have a straight-to-streaming site premiere.
79. His character delivers a rousing 13-minute monologue about violence against women and the need to protect them in Chehre (2021).
80. Bachchan has six film releases in 2022, including sports drama Jhund, airline thriller Runway 34 and superhero film Brahmastra. He also makes his Gujarati film debut with a cameo in Fakt Mahilao Maate. Goodbye as well as Uunchai will add to the action-packed year. With more movies on the way, the 80- year-old is not showing any signs of slowing down, and we salute him.