In his 200th column, Cineswami writes that the legendary Amitabh Bachchan should stop refusing Hollywood films
This is the 200th Cineswami column and what better way to celebrate this milestone, or millstone if you will, than to pay tribute to the magic of Amitabh Bachchan. 71 years young, the great man has conquered every frontier that India has to offer but the world awaits. Hollywood, and the rest of the world, got a glimpse of the man’s immense talent in the otherwise execrable The Great Gatsby. Even though his role was tiny, it was important and Bachchan, both physically and in thespian measure dwarfed Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire effortlessly with that screen presence.
The glimpse was enough to make the great and the good sit up and take notice. Reviewing The Great Gatsby for Hollywood film trade bible Variety, a sister publication of BollywoodLife, eminent critic Scott Foundas said, “By far the liveliest work in the film comes from two actors with only a few minutes of screen time between them: the lithe, long-limbed newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as gabby golf pro Jordan Baker, and, in a single scene that marks his belated Hollywood debut, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as the flamboyant Jewish ‘gambler’, Meyer Wolfsheim.”
Bachchan has far too long hidden his light from international audiences. Just like his eminent predecessor and Shakti co-star Dilip Kumar turned down the role of Sherif Ali in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, to Omar Sharif’s gain, Bachchan turned down the important role of Saladin in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud landed the part instead.
Bachchan and his advisors might argue that it is better to be a superstar at home and amongst Bollywood audiences than a bit player internationally. But at 71, having no more milestones to achieve (the Bharat Ratna will come soon), he should look for fresh challenges to wrap his acting chops around.
Yes, on the occasion of turning 71, Bhushan Kumar has announced 102 Not Out, starring Bachchan alongside Paresh Rawal, to be directed by Umesh Shukla of OMG: Oh My God! fame. That is fine and dandy and we wish them the best of luck with it, but how about a career trajectory that from now mirrors say that of Krishna Bhanji, better known to you as Sir Ben Kingsley, who, after Gandhi, has essayed a remarkable array of roles. He is a year younger than Bachchan.
Bachchan’s international career might have taken off if Mira Nair’s Shantaram, in which he was signed up for a meaty role, had commenced production. But that project got scuppered for a number of reasons, sadly. However, there are a number of projects out there that would gladly welcome the Bachchan’s towering presence and immaculate English language diction. So, sir, get out of your comfort zone, take a leaf out of your friend Rajinikanth’s book and lose the wig, and make the world your oyster.