|Bachchan is articulate, bright, educated — all qualities that should be important for a person who heads the nation
I recently read that President Pratibha Patil’s term is about to end. And many names are being suggested to replace Patil — her rather lackluster, uninspiring tenure marked only by criticism related to her frequent official trips to foreign countries.
Among the list of politicians of all shades is the name of Sam Pitroda. That is an impressive name for his role in guiding India through the telecommunication revolution. But over the years, the former NRI, now an advisor to the prime minister, has become a part of the inner political circle in Delhi. There is nothing wrong with that, but how many Indians know the name of Pitroda? In fact, I wonder how many Indians know that Patil is the country’s current head of the state.
I am thinking about a radical idea, that perhaps India needs a president whose name and work is familiar to practically every Indian, even those in the Diaspora. Someone who has made a major contribution to the well-being of the nation — having entertained generations since the late 1960s in many popular films.
How about Amitabh Bachchan for the President of India? This October, Bachchan will turn 70. He started his career 43 years ago — first as a voiceover artist in Bhuvan Shome and soon after in the role of an anti-Portuguese freedom fighter in Goa in K A Abbas’s Saat Hindustani. He has been acting since then, reaching the peak of his career and then at times of set backs, re-inventing himself — more than once. One list on the Internet says that Bachchan has acted in nearly 190 films.
Bachchan to me represents the kind of aspirational individual that many should relate to in the changing India. Although he came from an educated, established and a well-recognised family, his early years in the Hindi film industry were marked with struggle. But persistence coupled with his natural talent, and a few angels in the form of filmmakers and scriptwriters helped him overcome his dark days.
Not many actors or other film personalities can have a decade defined by their work. There were a lot of different forms of Hindi cinema in the 1970s, but that decade along with at least a part of the 1980s, is first and foremost remembered as the time of the angry young man. And Bachchan defined that era, using his voice, eyes, physical presence and speaking words written by a few gifted writers, to define the character.
There is no doubt that Bachchan is one of the most recognised names in India — still immensely popular and appealing to different generations. There is even a temple dedicated to him in Kolkata. I suppose something will have to be done about that if he does become the president.
And something will also have to be done about the cold war that exists
(or at least used to exist) between him and the Gandhi family. There have been controversies surrounding Bachchan, but that is a sign that he is a human being, at times flawed. These mistakes should only make him a better individual.
Bachchan is articulate, bright, educated, all of the qualities that should be important for a person who heads the nation — even though the Indian president is more of a symbol. I can see him with foreign dignitaries, reviewing armed forces at airports abroad and during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi. It will be so much more impressive than watching yet another drab career politician pretending to speak on behalf of all Indians.
In the lives of Indians, especially those who love Hindi language films, there are many images of Amitabh Bachchan. I will always remember the early Bachchan — the quiet, sensitive doctor in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand or the brooding, tragic loner in the same director’s Mili. I also remember the cocky and angry Bachchan of Yash Chopra’s Deewar, who is reduced to nothing, when he hears the classic dialogue — ‘Mere Paas Maa Hai’, spoken by the honest cop brother played by Shashi Kapoor. I would like to add to that the image of a president — a man who would do India proud.
• Government is over-reacting
I agree with the writer when he says that too much ado has been made about Shah Rukh Khan’s detention at an American airport.
The politicians, looking for political mileage, are crying hoarse that we should give tit-for-tat treatment to Americans when they come to India. SRK is not the only Muslim to be detained, there are likely to be several others.
It’s a paranoid country at work. Why does the Indian government not do anything about that? Has the government suddenly woken up to this because SRK is a celebrity? Is this the only job that the external affairs ministry has got on its hands?
- Anil Purandare
• SRK is very down-to-earth
I think SRK is one of the most down-to-earth actors I have seen. He never made a big deal of his detention. It was the media and the politicians who went into a tizzy
to exploit the situation to their own ends. Even after the incident, he very coolly discharged his duties and did not dwell on it. I think this matter should be taken with a pinch of salt and not given much importance. Much respect to SRK for this.
- Gaurav Pethe