Few actors have seen the kind of upheaval that actor Amitabh Bachchan has had to see in long and illustrious career. Be it the Bofors case, his brush with death after the Coolie incident, his career slump or the debacle of his company ABCL, Amitabh has had to see unfathomable depths of despair. But, Phoenix-like, the actor has risen again and emerged stronger.
It is this fighting spirit that made his survive Covid-19 at the age of 77. It is this life of glittering success followed by seemingly insurmountable odds that makes his life so interesting. It is his indomitable will to survive and excel which inspires millions of his followers.
On Amitabh Bachchan’s 78th birthday today, a glance at the major challenges he faced and emerged stronger.
How Amitabh dealt with the Bofors case
Amitabh began his cinematic career in 1969. He reportedly gave as many as 12 flops before Zanjeer happened. And yet, he rose to staggering heights of stardom, delivering one hit after another. By 1980s, he was a megastar like none other. Nobody could touch him.
It was then that he decided to take a plunge into politics. The year was 1984 – Indira Gandhi had been assassinated, riots had erupted in its wake. It was then that Amitabh’s good friend, Rajiv Gandhi, asked him to contest elections . It was decided that Amitabh should contest from Allahabad. Given his massive popularity, Amitabh won easily, beating the political heavyweight HN Bahuguna.
Sadly, the euphoria would soon end. In time, reports started to appear in newspapers of the day that suggested that Amitabh was anything but honest. Matters came to a head when his name appeared in the Swedish newspaper, accusing him of involvement in the Bofors case. Amitabh resigned from Lok Sabha. After that, Amitabh fought a court battle in London to clear his name and subsequently won.
In 2012, a Swedish whistle-blower in the Bofors case said that Amitabh had been falsely implicated in the case. Post that, Amitabh wrote in his blog, “No one shall be able to understand or even remotely fathom, the hours and days and months and years of the anguish of petulant blame that I had to go through.”
How Amitabh was declared ‘clinically dead’
But before the Bofors tsunami hit Amitabh, the Bollywood star had weathered another storm – a battle of life and death. In July of 1982, while shooting a film sequence with actor Puneet Issar at Bangalore University Campus, Amitabh misjudged a step, landed on a table abruptly and grievously injured himself. In acute pain, he was rushed to Mumbai and underwent multiple surgeries. He remained in hospital for a long time. Then, in August, he moved his first muscle and thereafter, began his process of recovery. The actor had once written on his blog about how he was declared clinically dead for a few minutes before being put on the ventilator.
While he recovered, his stint at the hospital gave him other ailments. During his hospitalisation, he contracted the Hepatitis B virus, which would manifest itself many years later. While in a critical condition and having lost a lot of blood, he was administered 60 bottles of blood, donated by 200 people. During one such a blood infusion, Hepatitis B virus entered his system and stayed dormant. He knew nothing of it, till a routine health check-up in 2000, revealed that 75% of his liver had damaged – he had developed cirrhosis of liver, despite being a teetotaller.
He had said , “Hepatitis B came to me accidentally. After my accident on the sets of Coolie, I was infused with the blood of about 200 donors and 60 bottles of blood were injected into my system. The Australian antigen Hepatitis B had only been detected three months ago and it was very new for being detected also among various tests needed to be carried out before giving blood to another patient. One of my blood donors was carrying Hepatitis B virus which went into my system. I continued to function normally till year 2000. Almost 18 years after the accident, during a very normal medical checkup, I was told that my liver was infected and I had lost 75% of my liver. So, if I am standing here today, you are looking at a person who is surviving with 25%of liver. That is the bad part. The good part is you can survive even with 12%. But no one wants to get to that stage.”
This wasn’t his only post accident fallout. Shortly after the Coolie incident, he was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease — Myasthenia Gravis. This disorder makes it impossible to do even the simplest of daily routine like brushing one’s teeth, lifting one’s arms or even walking. With treatment and medicines, he did recover but this is a condition that can trigger any time.
Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd
A bad stint in politics and near brush with death is enough to dither any man. But Amitabh was not done yet. His next major hurdle came by way of a production company, Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, Ltd. The venture was meant to be an umbrella entertainment company, operating in production, distribution and event management.
The company saw modest success with their first production – Tere Mere Sapne. But the 1996 Miss World pageant in Bangalore was an unmitigated disaster. The company was also plagued with just too many high salaried employees. By 1997, matters had turned so bad that it had to close shop. In fact, Amitabh owed so much money that there was once a moment when he was on the verge of giving up his Juhu home Pratiksha and two flats to creditors to clear his dues.
In July this year, came the news that Amitabh along with his son Abhishek had tested positive to Covid-19. An entire nation was suddenly on tenterhooks. At 77, Amitabh was a high risk patient. He was admitted to Mumbai’s Nanavati hospital and had a battery of doctors attending to him.
Amitabh’s attitude in dealing with the disease was appreciated by one and all, particularly the manner in which he took to Twitter to make the announcement himself. In doing so, he was hailed for doing his bit in removing the stigma associated with Covid-19. Not only did Amitabh beat the disease, he returned to the sets of Kaun Banega Crorepati 12, in the 20th year of his association with the programme, and resumed shooting for the game show.
Amitabh’s life is a story of staggering heights and unnerving situations. The actor epitomises humility in success and pugnacity in struggle.