Bachchan gets lifetime nod at AFAs

Actor recognized for a career that has opened doors

NEW DELHI -- It's probably safe to say that there is hardly any comparison to the iconic status of Amitabh Bachchan in any film culture in the world considering how his gigantic persona has towered over the world's biggest film industry for more than four decades. And it's also understandable why one-sixth of humanity follows every move of the 68-year-old legend whose name in Hindi means "limitless luster."

Bachchan received a lifetime achievement Aaward at Monday night's Asian Film Awards.

From his 1969 debut in "Saat Hindustani" (Seven Indians) for which he won the National Film Award for best newcomer, Bachchan's 180-plus strong film career has been showered with numerous awards while reflecting the essence of Hindi cinema in the decades that followed.

He exploded in the '70s as the "angry young man," his legendary baritone giving voice to the frustrated youth battling against the corrupt establishment in epics like 1973's "Zanjeer" (Chain). He displayed his range as a romantic star in some of filmdoms' biggest hits such as 1976's "Kabhi Kabhie" (Love is Life) and 1981's "Silsila" (The Affair) which also introduced him as a singer. As his career hurtled on, Bachchan invented the very nature of what constitutes a superstar: action, drama, comedy, dance, romance and just about any acting genre were all rolled into his six foot plus frame.

Beyond just his creative impact, Bachchan single-handedly controlled the fate of the boxoffice thanks to his string of runaway hits which led him to be hailed as the "one man industry." Notoriously media-shy, Bachchan hardly granted any interview for many years.

When Bachchan was injured while shooting a fight sequence for 1983's "Coolie" and rushed to hospital where he had a near-death experience, India was almost at a standstill with hordes of his fans praying for his recovery.

As the '80s ended, Bachchan's career seemed to be waning off which was compounded by financial troubles in the '90s when his plans to establish a multimedia conglomerate, Amitabh Bachchan Corp. Ltd., turned into a financial and managerial mess.

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With looming debts and possible bankruptcy, Bachchan ended up like his many on-screen avatars, battling against all odds. But he fought hard and evolved into his newfound role as the mature statesman of Hindi cinema. However, his biggest success came courtesy the burgeoning world of satellite television. News Corp.-owned Star network's Hindi channel Star Plus was desperate for a breakthrough hit and took the gamble of approaching Bachchan -- who had never done television before -- to host the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in 1999. Bachchan's enigmatic turn as the show's host was an instant hit and changed the fortunes of not just Star but Bachchan himself as he was back in demand, both in films and as a lucrative brand ambassador for various products that he endorsed.

Over the last decade, Bachchan has stretched his film and TV commitments which included a stint as the "pop psychologist" on the Indian "Big Brother."

Working with a new breed of filmmakers, Bachchan has defied expectation, portraying roles such as an old man obsessed with a teenage girl in 2007's controversial "Nishabd," or sharing the screen in his latest, "Teen Patti," with Ben Kingsley.

"We are slowly and surely moving away from that formatted escapist commercial fare to make films that are more exciting, technically, in content and presentation," Bachchan told THR in an interview in 2007 when he was conferred one of France's highest civilian honors. "The fact that you sit here to interview me for a magazine from the West, the fact that the West is interested in us, bodes well for our cinema. We look forward to this huge profile expansion that is taking place and I hope this continues because this can only bring a lot of benefit to the industry."
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