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Amitabh Bachchan completes 50 years in Bollywood! Kolkata’s role in shaping Big B’s career 

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Amitabh Bachchan, who started his career as an executive of a British managing agency in Kolkata, has often introduced himself as the 'son-in-law' of Bengal because of his marriage to Jaya Bhaduri. The Bollywood superstar has indeed a deep connection with Kolkata. His first brush with the silver screen happened here, when Mrinal Sen, taking note of his baritone after an audition, selected him for a voice over as the narrator in Bhuvan Shome (1969). You don’t see him on screen, but the picture from his debut film Saat Hindustaani — which also released in 1969 — shows how he looked back then. Since 1962, Bachchan had been staying in Kolkata, switching jobs, doing theatre and in the process, making the city his own. 

Next, Bachchan came to Kolkata in 1975 to shoot for the song, Luk chhip luk chhip, all hell broke loose at the Shibpur Botanic Garden. By then he was a superstar. An excited crowd thronged the jetty as he took a steamer to the shooting spot. As the boat pushed out, hundreds dived into the river to catch a glimpse of his. He captured the euphoria on his 8mm camera. In the story shared by him on his blog, Bachchan says how a fan swam across the Hooghly to get his autograph. While swimming back, his paper got lost in the waters, but it was the moment that counted.

Even at the pinnacle of popularity, it’s heard that Big B wanted to work with Satyajit Ray. There was a family connection anyway: Ray introduced Jaya as a teenager in Mahanagar (1963). Later, he was offered the narrator’s job in Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi. His lordly voice went well with the decadent picture of wealth that the director painted so finely. Next he shot Anusandhan/Barsaat Ki Ek Raat in 1981 in Darjeeling. Later in life Amitabh Bachchan also starred in critically acclaimed director Rituporno Ghosh’s The Last Lear. The actor shared how the entire unit of The Last Lear would speak in Bengali, which helped him pick up the language. At the end of the day, the director would call up Jaya Bachchan to update her on which words Big B was having a problem pronouncing! 

In 2014, traffic came to a halt at the Shyambazar crossing, when a pot-bellied Bachchan in a pink kurta, half sweater and hat cycled past the bronze statue of Netaji on horseback. Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku, was Bachchan’s first film that was shot entirely in Kolkata and he was seen having a great time in the city where he spent a lot of time in his early days.