(Updated: October 11, 2020) Rivalled by none – his contemporaries or successors, Amitabh Bachchan is indubitably, one of the greatest Indian actors. Words fail you when you try to put his accomplishments to paper, when you attempt to describe perfection. His repertoire of work, over 5 long decades, speaks for itself. Bachchan’s filmography itself is a testament to his versatility as a performer. Even at this age, he gives the biggest Bollywood actors a run for their money.
As a tribute on his 78th birth anniversary and 50 years in cinema, here’s celebrating the finest works of the living legend:
16. Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Director: Prakash Mehra
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar stood apart from his other contemporary films of the time. Many may differ from my opinion. But I noticed after a couple of views that there existed subtle and sometimes obvious differences between this role and his role in many other movies. The major difference is that in this movie he is a tragic hero. And he plays his part extremely well. No part of his personality comes out as offensive and from the start of the movie he is able to cultivate viewer’s sympathy. And so when he finally kicks the bucket, emotions reach an all-time high and catharsis follows. We are left with the ringing lines:
“Rote hue aate hai sab; Hasta hua jo jayega, Wo muqaddar ka sikandar; Janeman kehlayega”.
15. Silsila (1981)
Director: Yash Chopra
Silsila is yet another testament to the versatility of Amitabh Bachchan. The movie is purely a romantic drama. Nothing more and nothing less. The film was a commercial failure at the box office. Why that was the case will perhaps remain one of the enduring mysteries of Bollywood. The film featured Bachchan along with Rekha and Jaya and attempted to portray their real-life love triangle, which should have influenced numbers quite a bit. Bollywood gossip, after all, is forever a rage. The ‘hero’ committing adultery, possibly was a bit much for the audiences of that time. Nevertheless, the movie has garnered a lot of praise and critical acclaim over time and has secured a place among the classics of Bollywood.
Watch Silsila on Amazon Prime
14. Namak Halaal (1982)
Director: Prakash Mehra
You have seen the serious Amitabh, you have seen the angry Amitabh and you have seen the romantic Amitabh. In this one, you will witness the extremely funny and stupidly hilarious Amitabh Bachchan. And trust me, the film is actually good. The on-screen chemistry between Bachchan and Sashi Kapoor has never ceased to impress me and it did not fail here. The comic timing of the two is on point. The acting by Bachchan including the accent is quite adorable. It is so funny and the dialogue delivery is quite perfect. The movie has some of the best scenes that were shared by the two actors. Namak Halaal has taken its place among the best of Bollywood and there is a very good reason behind it. The songs are iconic as well, especially Bachchan’s portrayal of the song ‘Ke Pag Ghungroo‘ which will always remain etched within my mind.
13. Agneepath (1990)
Director: Mukul S. Anand
Bachchan initially received a lot of criticism for his portrayal of the lead character in the movie. No one could actually complain about the acting, which was, as always, impeccable. The problem that the audiences had with the portrayal was actually the way Bachchan was speaking. It was quite foreign to them and with good cause. Actually, he had cotton balls shoved into his mouth in order to imitate the style that Brando used to sound more like a gangster. Brando did the same thing during his audition for The Godfather. Despite this, the movie was quite a success and has garnered critical acclaim over the years.
12. Badla (2019)
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Badla is a crime mystery thriller starring Amitabh Bachchan as an attorney yet again. The film is great at keeping and handling secrets and Bachchan plays the role given to him amazingly well. His versatility shines in the movie as we see him giving a powerful and pressurising performance with extreme tenacity and dedication towards finding the truth. Any information I give regarding the movie is a potential spoiler that might ruin the your experience. So, all I’m going to say is go watch it. It is a brilliant masterpiece.
Where to Watch: Netflix
11. Wazir (2016)
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Wazir is a brilliant crime thriller starring Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. He is seen in an almost new avatar in this film. The connotations that the movie shares with chess and the way Bachchan incorporates the nuances of the game into his very being is incredible, to say the least. The unending mourning that he displays on-screen is subverted by his magnanimous personality. The intentional display of flaw in a character is quite becoming of an actor like Amitabh Bachchan. Without a doubt, this was one of his experimental yet successful roles in Bollywood.
Watch Wazir on Amazon Prime
10. Cheeni Kum (2007)
Director: R. Balki
Cheeni Kum is one of his more recent performances and I must say, that with every subsequent film he outdoes himself. We get to see a rather charmingly funny and not overly comical side of him in the film. The movie was actually a rom-com which is not exactly up his alley. Nonetheless, he turns in a brilliant performance.
Where to Watch: Zee5
9. Zanjeer (1973)
Director: Prakash Mehra
Zanjeer is a quintessential Amitabh Bachchan film, one that ushered in a new hero, the anti hero. The ‘angry young man’. This time he dons the role of a police officer. His portrayal is flawless. Alongside Pran, Bachchan shines as they are able to bring out each others’ true potential. The film is a compelling watch for its performances as much the script, courtesy, Salim-Javed. Zanjeer turned Bachchan’s fortunes and brought about a shift in narrative of Hindi cinema.
Through the years, the revered actor has maintained his position in the unforgiving and cruel industry that has swallowed great talents overnight. Many have come and many have gone. Many will come and many will go. But he stands as an immovable pillar as the undying symbol of Hindi cinema.
Watch Zanjeer on Amazon
8. Sarkar (2005)
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Sarkar saw Amitabh Bachchan more menacing than ever. The movie is clearly inspired by The Godfather and Bachchan does an excellent job at portraying the Marlon Brando-esque character. The way he exuberated power and pressure in that role was phenomenal. One would think that he was a true crime family boss if one didn’t know otherwise. His presence and body language brilliant convey political shrewdness coupled with cruel ruthlessness. The performance truly feels like a rendition from the heart and the voice modulation he does throughout the film between the high profile and low profile scenes is absolutely marvellous.
Watch Sarkar on Amazon Prime
7. Deewar (1975)
Director: Yash Chopra
Deewar was an amazing box office and critical success for Bachchan. The movie falls into the category of the previously discussed angry young man genre. And Bachchan is absolutely stunning in this role. It feels as if the role was made just for him. But it must also be remembered that these type of movies were not just mindless action flicks. They also had a central social or emotional message associated with them. But the best thing about the movie is not the action, not the message but the acting. The swag which Bachchan carries with him is out of the world. (The feminists might judge his behaviour as toxic masculinity and ultra-aggressive. But we’ll leave that discussion for another day).
Back to Bachchan, an interesting fact is that the iconic frontal shirt tuck which inspired the fashion of those days was actually a result of the coolie shirt being too big to fit him. So, he randomly tucked it in his pants.
Where to Watch: Zee5
6. Sholay (1975)
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Ah! The timeless classic. The eternal masterpiece. Sholay. At this point in time, I can’t even call it a movie. It is more of a symbol for a bygone era that has left behind all its wisdom and folly for us to marvel at and learn from. Rather than questioning what Sholay is, one should question what it is not. It is a Western, a romance, has action, drama, tragedy, revenge, crime, comedy and is one of the best-remembered thrillers of all time. And Bachchan shines in the role of Jai as he completely embodies the carefree criminal who actually cares a lot for others.
He is able to turn his dark past into something glorious and you will never see the audiences complain. That is because despite having a dark past, he is able to showcase true grit and a lot of heart. His sympathy and love for others shine as well. His chemistry with Dharmendra as Veeru is the epitome of friendship. The unfruitful romantic will they-won’t they relationship with the widow is also a star highlight of his performance. He never overdoes it and keeps it very balanced and controlled.
Watch Sholay on Amazon Prime
5. Anand (1971)
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Anand is an eternal film, one that refuses to age. It is a story about the celebration of life and friendship. It was one of the initial films of his career. The movie was one of the main reasons for his enduring stardom. Starring alongside the legend, Rajesh Khanna is both a boon and a curse. But Amitabh Bachchan turned the whole thing into a blessing for himself. He was able to successfully siphon fame from the renown of Rajesh Khanna while holding his own as his equal. The simplicity that Bachchan displays on the screen will seem almost unbecoming of him to those who are familiar to his ‘angry young man’ image, which he himself popularised in films.
The emotional restraint with which he performed the role was commendable because even his rigidity was subtly flexible. The very slight change in personality throughout the journey of the movie coupled with the final explosion of emotion for his dying friend truly elaborate on the acting genius of Amitabh Bachchan.
Watch Anand on Amazon Prime
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4. Piku (2015)
Director: Shoojit Sircar
In Piku Amitabh Bachchan takes a back seat and plays a supporting role. He is clearly acting as the McGuffin for the plot but even in that role, he shines as he embodies the whiney sick old man and plays the role to perfection. Even his physical appearance is altered quite a bit and at that age, it is no easy task. But he manages to pull through with flying colours as he portrays the little joys and sorrows of old age. The pathetic existence that still holds some meaning is brought forth and becomes a defining role in his career.
Where to Watch: SonyLiv
3. Pink (2016)
Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
One of the more recent entries in the list, Pink sees Bachchan in the role of a justice-dispensing and truth-seeking lawyer. The conviction with which he plays this role is epic. His anger against the social prejudices and injustices seems very real. The lawyer’s garb rather suits him well as he handles the entire courtroom with great intensity and magnetism. He showcases his acting prowess and great dialogue delivery skills throughout the film. Every word, every expression lands with extreme precision. The utter power with which he proclaims ‘No means No’ is compelling and moving. He truly believes in his role and in the film and strives to bring about a social transformation through his art form.
Watch Pink on Amazon Prime
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2. Paa (2009)
Director: R. Balki
I can bet a million dollars no matter how big a fan you are of Amitabh Bachchan, you wouldn’t have been able to recognise him in Paa even if he were to closely walk past you. He is unrecognisable. And he blends into the character not only physically but psychologically and emotionally as well. The veteran actor completely lets himself loose. He is not acting like a child. He is a child. This little difference is what separates Amitabh Bachchan from the rest.
Where to Watch: YouTube
1. Black (2005)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Personally, I consider Black to be one of Amitabh Bachchan’s best performances. It also featured one of the best roles he ever portrayed or rather embodied on-screen. Bachchan is at his best when he deftly portrays a strict and stern teacher with a heart of gold. His chemistry with Rani Mukherjee is remarkable. The student-teacher relationship develops into something more divine as the teacher strives endlessly to bring light into the world of a student who can’t see, hear or talk. The extreme zenith of emotional realism is achieved by Bachchan in this movie as his acting is a complete tour de force. Yet he never seems to overshadow his co-star as he brilliantly supports her through every scene in which they appear together. His troubles with Alzheimer’s is also shown in a completely new and sensitive light, which is also another dimension to the character played by Bachchan.
Where to Watch: YouTube
What about you? Tell us about your favourite Amitabh Bachchan movies. Let’s talk in the comments below.
By Deepjyoti Roy
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