How do you introduce today’s kids to the greatness that is Amitabh?
I’ve been thinking for a while now that I need to introduce my son to the greatness that is Bollywood’s #1 superstar, Amitabh Bachchan. He’s seen a bunch of Shah Rukh Khan movies, knows Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan from the Dhoom movies and even vaguely knows Salman Khan thanks to songs like Dhinka Chika and Character Dheela.
But an Amitabh-fan like me needs him to know the greatness that is the Big B. I grew up in the 80s, and despite being raised in the United States, I regularly caught Amitabh’s classic films on VHS copies procured from our local “Bombay Video” store (a nearby Aunty’s living room). I could hum the Vicco Turmeric ad jingle, knew that Zandu balm was the cure for my headache and of course, knew the magic of seeing Amitabh Bachchan run in slow motion.
So I set out to introduce my 6-year-old to Amitabh and quickly went through my mental inventory of films to think of what might be appropriate for him (though he handled the extremely violent ending of Chennai Express quite well, I still get nervous about him watching extreme filmi violence or item numbers). What I want him to experience at this age is what I remember the most about Amitabh from my early years of watching his films – his comedic brilliance.
Several years ago, I wrote a blog post of my favorite Amitabh comedy scenes, which highlighted the fact that there is so much more to the Big B than being “The Angry Young Man”. Funny scenes from Laawaris, Shaan and Mahaan are among my first memories of Hindi cinema. Keeping in mind the scarier and more serious moments of these movies, I came up with a Top 5 list of Amitabh movies to watch with my son:
1. Amar Akbar Anthony: The madcap craziness of Amar Akbar Anthony definitely makes for a question-riddled couple of hours of film-watching. The long intro of the movie that details how the boys get separated certainly held my 6-year-old’s interest, and he did enjoy the comedic scenes (Amitabh talking to the mirror and the My Name is Anthony Gonsalves song). He was also quite indignant when
Dr. Salma’s father didn’t want her to marry Akbar. The long-winded villain scenes were where I lost him a bit, but the action/fight scenes and the costumes in the climax of the film brought him back. Still this sort of classic story of brothers separated and then brought back together to serve justice is fun to share and discuss with kids.
2. Parvarish: Many folks refer to both Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish as prime examples of 70s masala. These films have it all – emotion/melodrama, comedy, action, romance, family sentiment, revenge, the hero’s folly, etc. Parvarish hits on so many of these elements and also gives us strong female characters that have their own agenda. Gold!
The relationship between the brothers (Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna) and the idea of loyalty and betrayal was a fun one to discuss with my little guy. Also there’s a submarine chase scene and a villain’s lair with traps and dangers that reminded him of the dungeons in Mario and Zelda games. Though more serious than some of the other films on this list, the light-hearted moments mostly centered on the romantic relationships in the film.
3. Do Aur Do Panch: I thought this one would be a sure win with its funky cartoon credit sequence and the slapstick rivalry between Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh. It’s a tough call because if their Hindi isn’t strong, they miss a lot of the jokes and dialogue. But it still has its fun moments, including the hilarious Shashi Kapoor version of “Tune Abhi Dekha Nahin” and the running “Suresh” joke between Parveen Babi and Amitabh. I think Namak Halal would have actually been a bigger hit than this one.
4. Yaarana: Though Yaarana has its funny moments (The Elevator Scene, for example), the main reason this film was a great watch with my son was because of the moral lesson of being loyal and dedicated to your friends, sticking with them through thick and thin, helping each other out, etc. It’s such a feel-good film and the bromance takes centre stage throughout, so it sparked some great discussion about being a good friend and a good person.
5. Satte Pe Satta: This is a film I am incredibly biased about, as it is my all-time favorite Hindi movie, but it was the perfect movie to watch together with my son. The large cast of characters made everything animated and fun, and the shock value of the wild, uncivilized brothers in the beginning of the film drew him right in. The funny scenes were slapstick enough for his age and the dark, scary moments weren’t too over the top for him. The ambiguous bad guy of Amitabh’s double role made for some interesting questions and answers about ‘coming back from the dark side’. All in all, a fun film and good response!
There are so many fabulous Amitabh films out there that it was really difficult to narrow it down to these, and I still look forward to watching Shaan and Namak Halal with him as we work our way toward the ultimate – Sholay, of course.
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