Where Big B stands, ‘line wahi se shuru ho jaati hai’
“…Hum jahan khade ho jate hai, line wahi se shuru ho jaati hai… (… the line starts from where I stand…)” is a famous line of dialogue from the 1981 Hindi movie Kaalia. The actor, who delivered this line for his character Kaalia in that movie, has literally made a beginning in some areas for many others to follow him.
Born on October 11, 1942, Amitabh Bachchan is one brand that is in demand even after 50 years in the entertainment industry. Like many other film stars, he also faced rejection in the initial years. ‘Big B’, as he is commonly known now, was initially rejected both in movies and in the then powerful radio medium of the late 60s.
While sharing a picture taken in 1968 in one of the Instagram posts on March 20, 2018, he said: “… no wonder I was rejected.”
Now, Amitabh Bachchan has emerged as a prominent brand icon of the country across sectors. However, it was the neighbourhood petty shop owner who first spotted the brand connect of this actor with the masses in the 70s, at a time when there was no electronic or social media.
Remember the iconic pose of ‘Big B’ clad in a blue shirt sitting on a chair with his legs on a table and smoking a beedi in the 1975 movie Deewar? A creative shop owner in a small town of coastal Karnataka used that image to market beedis. Though Bollywood stars are now the preferred choice of those in marketing and advertising fields, this neighbourhood shop owner leveraged the potential of this brand decades ago and painted the walls of his shop with the image of Bachchan smoking a beedi.
Voice that matters
The brand Amitabh Bachchan has emerged as a formidable one over the years and diversified into different segments.
Take his compelling baritone, for instance, and its appeal when you hear him as a narrator in a movie or on some other platform. You listen to what he cautions about Covid when you dial somebody.
Bachchan has done narration for many Bollywood movies, including the Satyajit Ray-directed Shatranj ke Khiladi, the Aamir Khan-starrer Lagaan, and the Hindi version of the Rajinikanth-starrer Kochadaiiyaan.
Apart from movies, he has donned the role of narrator in the sound-and-light show at the Golconda Fort in Hyderabad.
Not just movies or ringtones, he is also the favourite of modern day technological developments such as Amazaon’s Alexa. The company recently announced the availability of India’s first celebrity voice feature on Alexa, with Bachchan.
Reality shows and game shows are now a vital part of Indian television industry. In the 90s they were mainly limited to shows such as Antakshari by Annu Kapoor and Javed Jaffrey’s Boogie Woogie. Till 2000, no major movie star had taken the plunge into the reality/game show segment of television industry.
In 2000, Amitabh Bachchan’s entry into quiz-based game show ‘Kaun Benega Crorepati’ (a franchise of the British show ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire’) changed the scene. Following the popularity of ‘Kaun Benega Crorepati’ (KBC), many other movie stars also started hosting reality/game shows on television. The journey of game shows is still continuing in different formats from then, from actor Govinda hosting ‘Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke’ in 2001 to Ranveer Singh’s ‘Big Picture’ in 2021.
In 21 years, 12 KBCs have been aired, and the 13th edition is on now. Barring the third edition of the show, all others were hosted by Amitabh Bachchan. Recently quiz master Siddarth Basu, the brain behind KBC in India, stated that more than ₹100 crore have been won by contestants in the last 12 editions.
Apart from this, movie stars from regional languages have also been hosting shows based on ‘Kaun Benega Crorepati’ format in their respective languages in recent years.
Movie releases on the OTT platform have become a common phenomenon now.
Bachchan, who started his career in the movie industry when analogue technology was the only platform for production, is among the first top stars to make a direct-to-OTT (over-the-top) release of a movie.
The theatrical exhibition of movies came to a standstill when the country witnessed the first wave of Covid in 2020. One of the movies of Amitabh Bachchan — Gulabo Sitabo —was all set for theatrical release in April that year. Considering the grim situation for a theatrical release then, the makers of Gulabo Sitabo released it on an OTT platform in June 2020. This set the trend for others to take the direct OTT release route.
Till then, movie producers were not in favour of releasing movies directly on OTT platforms, though some experiments were made in this regard.
Recently Amitabh Bachchan signed up to roll out his NFT (non-fungible token) collection on www.BeyondLife.club marking his entry into NFT space, which is yet to gain momentum in the country. NFTs, which are transaction records captured on the blockchain, allow people to trade the ownership of digital entities such as memes, media, tweets, arts, articles in ‘token’ form. An NFT is essentially a certificate of authenticity or a digital autograph that can be attached to digital property. According to the website, personally signed posters highlighting biggest milestones of Amitabh Bachchan’s career, or an audio-visual clip of Bachchan will be available in NFT form.
Apart from this, CoinDCX (a cryptocurrency exchange) also announced Amitabh Bachchan as its first-ever brand ambassador. A statement by CoinDCX said that Bachchan’s knowledge will prove valuable in building trust and credibility amongst new users of cryptocurrency.
A few days after this, CoinSwitch Kuber, another crypto platform, announced Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh as its brand ambassador.
How has Amitabh Bachchan been able to ‘start the line from where he stands’ (to go back to his famous dialogue “hum jahan khade ho jate hai, line wahi se shuru ho jaati hai”) as he enters his 80th year?
A decade ago, a speaker at a panel discussion of bankers, explained this to fellow bankers. The speaker stated that ‘Big B’ remained relevant to the current generation in various fields — be it in acting, or making use of his voice. He understood the needs of the current generation and catered to their requirement. A few examples are his extensive use of social media platforms and good old blog, and his eagerness to embrace the emerging technologies and trends.
He continues to use his talent, skills, and the ability to use technology, to remain relevant, reminding us that he is really making the line start from where he stands!