Bachchan Sr and Bachchan Jr checked into a suburban super-speciality hospital a few days ago after testing positive for Covid-19. As of now, father and son are in isolation wards, while the rest of the Bachchan parivaar is in self-isolation at their four luxurious bungalows in Juhu, a mere five minutes from the hospital. The family is being lauded for ‘destigmatising’ Covid-19, which is a pretty big thing, given the public’s phobia surrounding the deadly virus.
Both the Bachchan men had gone back to work a few weeks prior to the hospitalisation, and urgent contact tracing is on. One school of thought believes that it is important for actors to support the film industry by showing confidence in the changed world of movie-making. Too true. It sends out a powerful signal to the industry, which is still figuring out a way to deal with the ‘new normal’.
But this column is about the sweetest Bachchan—Abhishek. I have known him since he was a teenager. Having Amitabh and Jaya as parents was both a huge plus for him as an actor and a cross he had to bear. His father was not just numero uno, he was already a larger-than-life legend. His mother, Jaya, is an accomplished star in her own right. When Abhishek decided to get married, it was to actor Aishwarya Rai, often referred to as the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’. Where was Abhishek in such a crowded celebrity field? I like to believe he was where he has always been—in a confident and loving zone of his own creation. He is one of the most well-mannered young men in showbiz, which says a lot about his upbringing. And what he projects, at least publicly, is a picture of an even-tempered, good-natured young man, who is not trying to prove anything to anybody. That is tough, given his circumstances and the non-stop comparisons with his father.
I have observed him closely during family functions at the Bachchan home and been struck by his unaffected and non-starry conduct with every single person around him. He comes across as a caring husband, doting father and a loving son. These are the qualities that have shielded him emotionally from the barrage of critical comments, mocking his ‘failure’. What failure? Abhishek is an award-winning, bona fide talent—watch him in Yuva and Guru. He has a terrific flair for comedy (Dostana), and even in person, it is his gentle sense of humour that stands out. Compared to his egotistical and narcissistic contemporaries, Abhishek is a study in contrast. I have seen him at social events, when he walks in with his beautiful wife and graciously steps aside to allow photographers to shoot her solo pictures. Such an endearing absence of ego makes him a very special person. I have also seen him at gatherings where some of his more successful colleagues are mobbed and the crowd chases them, while he waits with a patient smile to move forward.
Today, the 44-year-old can be thought of as a middle-aged actor, even if actors in their mid-fifties are still chasing heroines half their age and playing romantic leads. There is a certain dignity about Abhishek that is absent in those others. I see them strutting around at events, surrounded by lackeys and bodyguards, and laugh at their self-importance. I see their carefully structured airport pictures and wonder who advises them. Abhishek demonstrates one admirable trait that is generally missing in the movie business—modesty. This makes him a far more attractive hero than those beefed up, haggard fellows hanging on desperately to their thrones.
Do watch Abhishek as he gamely goes along with his high-profile family members, emanating grace and goodness. Amitabh and Jaya have many glorious triumphs, awards and trophies to look back on, but the most precious gift is their son, Abhishek. As for Aishwarya, marrying Abhishek may just be the best decision she ever made!