Like any other guy from my generation, I was a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan. A big big fan. So much so that during my hostel life I was actually in forefront of forming a Bachchan fan club (It never really materialized, but the will was there)
When we got a VCR at home in India, I would get only Amitabh movies from the video cassette library. Trishul, Satte pe Satta, Sharabi, Deewar, AAA .... I would be deeply influenced and affected by Bachchan's persona. I even watched a Mard and a Coolie for crying out loud. So much for my being a loyal fan.
He was truly a great entertainer of his time. And his reign was probably the longest ever as the numero uno of Bollywood. India-Today once carried him on the cover page of their fortnightly with the title - 'One Man Industry'. Nothing defined him better. He *was* an industry onto himself, without a doubt.
So why do I keep saying "was"? Am I not his fan anymore? Is he not a brand, an Industry onto himself even today?
Let me put it this way. When you put someone on a pedestal and hero-worship him, you unfairly raise the bar "for him" in your sub conscious. You expect him to be more than just a normal man. You expect him to be in some ways "super" human. And I know that is unfair. But what can I do? I am normal routine human guy, so stop bombarding me with those looks of yours.
I think somewhere around late 90s my Bachchan-mania started receding. It started dwindling. Not because he was getting old or anything. Also not because his ABCL mis-adventure had destroyed him financially. It was something else.
It was because Amitabh Bachchan was not being Amitabh Bachchan. He was trying to be "too" humble, "too" down to earth, showing "too much" vulnerability. At times his 'trying too hard' came out as phony. Somewhere it did not connect. He did not need to be so low and show it. My hero was playing second fiddle to the Govindas and the SRKs of the day. And the fan in me probably could not take it.
Dilip Kumar at the age of 60+ played the protagonist in the movie Shakti right when Amitabh's career was at its peak. He even won the Best Actor's award for Shakti. (Note : not best supporting actor. But best actor). He maintained his dignified superiority even when it was not *his* era. I am no big fan of that oldie goldie Kumar. But I have to grant this. He was able to keep that aura alive. He did not let his fan down. You expect your hero to live and die like one.
Even if Bachchan had turned a pauper, it was OK with all his fans. He should have maintained that upper crest, even if it came out as arrogance. Sometimes arrogance is not all that bad. He became financially insecure alright. But again, did he have to show it? By signing movies and ads left, right and center? By being so insecure about his "visibility" in main stream mind space that he would become a regular on TV like J.V Raman was during the Doordarshan days.
When your hero shows vulnerability and insecurity, he seizes to be a hero. He is not your guy. It is strange, how the fan in you refuses to see that vulnerability and insecurity as normal human conditions. And I know it sounds weird and unfair. But who said life was fair?
I think the final nail in coffin for me as a fan came when I saw Mr. Bachchan constantly in company of a sickos like Amar Singh. That was pretty much *it* for me. Again, ideally I should decouple his personal life from his on-screen one. But I cannot and could not in his case. Again the fan in me, was being unfair and prejudiced to a certain extent. I was letting Bachchan's personal life over lap in my mind with Bachchan the professional, who at some point respected.
It is strange how what we perceive of a person from his personal life, adds or subtracts so many dimensions from our overall view of his or her professional life. No wonder actors and actresses around the world discovered philanthropy as a very effective means to add to their saleability and brand. (The orphans in Africa never had so good.) The more the actor is seen as "doing good to the society", the more s/he comes out as a 'bigger' star. In case of Bachchan I was not expecting that, as I have argued before.
Slowly but surely his moves, his actions both on and off screen started repelling me. I could not relate to his movie selection, his characters, his going over the top at times, not to mention his constant public appearances and his trying too hard to be 'visible' all the time. In a sense, I lost that respect. The intense Vijay of Deewar and Jay of Sholay, the funny-extraordinaire Arjun Singh of Namak Halal, the understated Azad of Main Azad Hu ... lost me somewhere.
I am sure, he still has a whole lot of fans. Probably more now than he ever did. The Bachchan family brand is alive and kicking. I'd say good for him /them. But as far as I am concerned, my hero has fallen.