By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | October 11, 2023
Bombay Times was celebrating its fourth year in existence. The year was 1998. Malavika Sangghvi was the Editor and the who’s who of Mumbai were at the Ballroom of the Taj Hotel, Colaba, Mumbai. That was also the year Achala Sachdev made her mark, making her grand entry with her conch shells. Everyone at the party wondered how they would stay in place. She was also dancing the night away. So the concern was that much more.
The reference to Achala Sachdev is incidental. I have a habit of stepping back and observing the goings-on before I ‘go’ into any event. Standing on the sidelines, eight people down the line to my left was Amitabh Bachchan, in an all-white outfit. With hands folded across his chest, he was watching a man on stilts strut his stuff. Probably, he was wondering how this guy was maintaining his balance. Probably, he was just keeping to himself and immersing himself in the act as the ‘who’s who’ of Bollywood was strutting in.
Bombay Times, Band, Baaja, Bollywood…
Amitabh Bachchan kept his ‘hands folded to his chest’ stance and remained in that position for what seemed to be an eternity, at least to him. Very few were going towards him to acknowledge his presence. I’ll go as far as saying that those who acknowledged his presence could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
That was the time when everything had gone South for the actor. The ‘Angry Young Man’ was now a ‘Worried Old Man’. Not old in that sense. He was in his mid-fifties then. But you know what worry can do to a person. It can bog you down and tear the spirit from within you. But being down and out is no disease. It is a part of life we all have to go through in this journey called life. And we need family and friends to rally around us. This is also the time we realize who our friends really are.
But how many in Bollywood understand this phenomenon? And how many reach out to those in need? Amitabh Bachchan, we must remember, ruled the roost. He was Bollywood. Naturally, there would be bad vibes from those who cannot digest someone else’s success. At this juncture in time, his company had gone kaput and he was, figuratively speaking, staring at the end of a gun barrel. Only the trigger had to be pulled.
Bollywood in its True Colours
It was upsetting as well as saddening for me to see the industry walk past him. As though he did not exist. After spending some time in the Ballroom, he excused himself and walked away. But for me, that look on his face, has forever been etched in my mind.
Bollywood, so to speak, had let him down. It was showing its true colours, at least to me; as to what success really means and the value of relationship. But we all know that Anil Ambani and the late Amar Singh were the ones who stood by him. From there, he moved up North, gradually, like the Legend of the Phoenix.
He humbled himself to approach the late Yash Chopra for work. The ‘Mohabattein‘ started flowing back with the success. He has never looked back since then and rebuilt his brand, and even at the age of 81, he works every day putting a 23-year-old to shame! His energy comes from his ability to get up and show up. There’s always a spring in his stride. He does not believe in resting on his past achievements. For him, every day is a new day and he is grateful to God and honors Him with his work and work ethic.
He has set the benchmark high for punctuality, quality, and the ability to never give up. Distressed as he was with his empire crumbling down, he knew that God had put in him something that no one could take away.
Amitabh Bachchan: Legend of the Phoenix
He had come back from the ‘dead’, so to speak, on August 02, 1982, when he was discharged from Breach Candy hospital after his accident on the sets of Coolie. Sixteen years later, when the rug was pulled from under his feet, he knew he could do it again. He knew he had come too far to give up who he was. He understood there’s never an ending; there’s always a new beginning. He knew about Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage… “Grace under pressure.”
He also knew that Courage is more than that. He realized that Courage is the ability to rise above the pain and fear. He understood, standing alone in that Ballroom, that Courage is the ability to tap into divine wellsprings in situations where our human nature trembles.
He also knew that God would send him his Angels to lift him up.
No matter what our profession is, we must never forget that people are more important than business processes or bottom lines. Anil Ambani, the late Amar Singh, and the late Yash Chopra were God’s Angels sent to rescue Amitabh Bachchan in his time of need.
May we all have friends who draw a circle of love and take us in, no matter what!
Happy Birthday, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. You are a lesson in life to all those who are down and out.
[Moody Marty: Sometimes funny, sometimes informative, always downright forthright!]
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