Caper Extraordinaire: The Story of Mr. Shrivastava, a.k.a. Bachchan

The typical Indian penchant for unadulterated adulation of anyone who has achieved a degree of fame, even notoriety, in any profession is something fairly unique. Invariably, the person's 'star status' envelops his real-life persona & character, bestowing him a varnished 'Superman' or ' Wonderwoman' status as the case may be. Unlike the Occidentals, we never get down to rationally, objectively & critically analyzing the person, his strengths & foibles, the good and the bad that he may have wreaked on his fellow human beings or on this long suffering mother earth through his various words & deeds. The average Indian just refuses to accept that a person who has made a name for himself could well have feet of clay.

Lets illustrate this with an example. In contemporary times, I can't find a better example than Mr. Amitabh Srivastava, popularly and famously known as Amitabh Bachchan.

This individual started off in life capitalizing on his schooling in an elitist institution and a host of networks and 'right connections' he could call on, courtesy of his well-networked parents and his 'old boy' network from his school days. While he laboured for a while in a nondescript job in the eastern city of Kolkata, his driving ambition and his Mum decided that he was destined for better things. The right 'strings' were pulled, the 'right names' dropped and 'Bubba' was launched in the larger-than-life, glittering world of Hindi movies right in that bastion of ersatz Hollywood, euphemistically referred to as Bollywood.

He struggled initially, his gangling frame, large stuck-out ears, none-too-perfect facial features & literally dark visage in a country obsessed with fair skin, standing in the way of his success as a leading man of Hindi films. Then the worm turned.

Fate, oodles of luck and a popularity phenomena which can't quite be understood rationally, placed Mr. Srivastava, who took on his Dad's nom-de-guerre Bachchan when he entered the shady world of Bollywood, on the fast-track to superstardom during the seventies & part of the eighties. Soon he was being referred to as ' The Phenomenon'.

He starred in a series of films made by a small handpicked lot of producers & directors which projected him as a modern-day Batman with an 'angry' visage & disposition & gave us a series of performances where acting prowess was neither called for nor displayed. The movie-going masses lapped it all up.

He started capitalizing to the hilt on his new-found fame & unheard-of wealth, getting into everything from shady land deals to dubious arms deals, entering politics to consolidate his hold on wealth & power and then betraying royally the old friend who had made his entry into the world of politics possible in the first place. Yes, I am indeed referring to our dear departed Rajiv Gandhi who was still in the process of discovering that school buddies often tried to further their own ambitions & agendas rather than stick to the path he had charted out for them.

Mr. Srivastava (a.k.a Bachchan) tried to diversify, starting off a clutch of organizations and getting his younger brother, who was still struggling to discover the 'right' profession for himself, to nominally run these for him while he busied himself with furthering his superstar status. One of these companies was a pharmaceutical manufacturing organization and I had the occasion to meet his designated Managing Director. The guy was an unadulterated goon who prided himself on growing up in 'chawls' (the equivalent of ghettos) in one of the tougher neighbourhoods of Mumbai. Without a doubt, the M.D. worshipped the very ground Amitabh walked on.

Some years later when one of the companies he had set up (named, in keeping with his oversized hubris, after him) stumbled owing to straying into unsound ventures, he milked public sympathy by dropping hints that he soon may be forced to 'auction off' his house to pay his mounting dues. The man-in-the-street of course, is not supposed to know that the very purpose of setting up a 'private limited' company is to definitively limit your liabilities and prevent such unpleasant things from happening. The less charitable whisper that what he had done, guided by his 'advisors', was to strip & siphon the company systematically and then throw away the financially unsound, debt-ridden shell. No independent corroboration is available however.

In case you are getting the feeling that it was all work & no play for ' The Angry Bubba', let me hasten to point out that he had his ample share of fun as well, having serious flings with some of the prominent actresses of his times. He was so infatuated with one of them that he even made a pompous film starring this actress and his wife which culminated in the wife winning over his 'affections' after a long & arduous struggle. Imagine how downright humiliating this must have been for the wife! Soon afterwards, passion satiated, he dumped this lady love.

When the sun of superstardom started setting for him in the late eighties, he capitalized on the Indian penchant for unquestioning adulation of personalities who may have been very famous once upon a time, by appearing as a compere on a quiz show aired on one of the popular TV channels. The public, thrilled by this superstar of yesteryears coming right into their living rooms and bedrooms three a times a week regularly, lapped it up.

He also continued his dalliance with ' politics' by befriending Amar Singh, one of the most nefarious politicians of contemporary times who is nominally attached to that most unscrupulous of regional political parties, the SJP. His wife was installed as an MP in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) on the basis of a nomination by this party and has remained one for several terms. Amar Singh, in the meanwhile, became his alter-ego and 'brother' and among other things carried out tasks like soundly slapping certain lesser personalities who may have incurred the Big B's (as the media, with a not-so-gentle prompting from his network of powerful friends had taken to calling him lately) displeasure.

Since this piece is not quite meant to be an unauthorized biography of Mr. Srivastava, let me round off this example by stating that his various shenanigans over the years have always shown him to be an unscrupulous, conniving, manipulative and dishonest character.

So what does this superstar of yesteryears finally turn to? If you don't know this one, you don't have a ghost of a chance in guessing it right, so let me tell you. He has started a blog of his own.

What goes around, does come around more often than not. His blog is beginning to reveal his true persona and character to the objective, discerning reader.

All I can say is: Amen!!

Mr. Shrivastava, in his advanced years continues to be in the limelight, hence this little footnote. The man sure knows how to milk the maximum amount of media coverage, publicity & sympathy. Here are a few out of numerous examples:
  1. Swinging through North America & Europe recently on a typical Bollywood musical tour with his family members largely. His son & daughter-in-law, Aishwarya, swung a leg or two with co-stars who latched on to this circus for multiple reasons of their own. Shrivastava Sr., also came on stage at some stage, made some speeches in his baritone monotone & languorously swung a leg for a brief while as well. Then he had his wife Jaya come onstage, harangue the crowd briefly in keeping with her invented persona as a politician, then climb up on to a podium so that she could be at eye-level with her 6' 3" husband after which they embraced each other in a public show of conjugal bliss while in your sixties. Son, daughter-in-law and the rest of the cast looked on 'adoringly' & 'admiringly'.
  2. He grabbed prime land in U.P. using his political contacts & the good offices of his adopted 'brother' the notorious politician, Amar Singh while his party was in power there. When there was an uproar in the media about his newly declared 'farmer' status & when the next Chief Minister, Mayawati came after him in a big way, he skipped out after announcing that he was giving up the land he had acquired 'voluntarily'.
  3. He & his son got caught for coming through the customs' 'green channel' carrying goodies worth hundreds of thousands of dollars which were clearly dutiable. He is trying to extricate himself from this using his formidable network & political connections.
  4. Owing to a bowel dysfunction recently, for which most ordinary mortals would visit their G.P. or a specialist, he made a much publicized trip in an ambulance to two different hospitals in his neighbourhood and then had himself admitted in one of them. Since he did this on the morning of his birthday and while his entire family & adopted 'brother' Amar Singh the politician were present together with many members of the media, the resultant media coverage & publicity was tremendous. There were enough strategic 'pictures' splashed all over stimulating a generous amount of public sympathy. One of them, reminiscent of a poignant scene from one of his recent movies can be seen above.
The man doesn't quite give up ever! Watch this space periodically.

Name :Amitabh Bachchan
Birth Name :Amit Shrivastava
Profession :Actor
Date of Birth :11 October 1942
Place of Birth :Allahabad, India
Height :6' 3''
Nicknames :Aby Baby, Big A, BIG B, Munna, One Man Industry,
Angry Young Man, Bollywood's Shahenshah, Amith

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