Article Hindi

Amitabh Bachchan turns 75: Jaya Bachchan recalls first meeting with 'distinguished-looking' young man

The actress remembers seeing Bachchan during the shooting of Saat Hindustani and knowing instantly that he would become a star.

Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan in the first film together, Bansi Birju (1972)

Suparna Thombare

Jaya Bachchan (nee Bhaduri), who studied acting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) from 1968-70 (with Navin Nischol as her classmate) has vivid memories of the first time she saw Amitabh Bachchan, later to become her husband, on the institute campus.

Speaking at the FTII's Smarnanjali for Hrishikesh Mukherjee on the occasion of the filmmaker's 95th birth anniversary late last month, Jaya fondly reminisced about their meeting.

Amitabh Bachchan turns 75: And the star shines on...

Jaya was then in her first year at the film institute after having worked with Satyajit Ray in Mahanagar (1963) at a very young age. Amitabh, on the other hand, was there to shoot scenes for his debut film Saat Hindustani (1969), directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. “He had come with Abbas. And he [Abbas] said this is Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s son,” remembered Jaya. “He was wearing a kurta,” she added. 

Jaya’s friends at the FTII were instantly interested in Amitabh after knowing that he was the son of the noted Hindi poet, but they weren’t sure if he was star material.

“He looks very distinguished [I said]. My friends said ‘are you mad? See how he looks, dubla patla sa hai [he is skinny], inko khana vana dete hain ki nahin [do they even feed him]? Actor ban-ne aya hai, kaise banega [how will he become an actor],” Jaya recollected the conversation with her peers.

And while it also took a long time for the film industry to acknowledge Amitabh’s talent, the actress was sure from the moment she set eyes on him as a 20-year-old that he would go on to become a star. 

“But this is the fight I had with most filmmakers at that time," she said. "And I told everyone. I said you all are going to eat your words. He will be a huge star. And the same people who criticized him later came to me and said you were right.”

Amitabh Bachchan turns 75: The stars speak about the phenomenon

Little did Jaya know that she would also play a pivotal part in turning Amitabh’s career around a few years down the line. Already an established star, Jaya went on to work with Amitabh (who was still struggling to land a hit as lead actor) for the first time in 1972 with two romantic films, Bansi Birju and Ek Nazar, both of which failed to make a mark.

The two teamed up yet again in 1973’s Zanjeer, and Amitabh, who was desperately in need of a hit, registered the first one of his career. The film, directed by Prakash Mehra, also changed the trend in Hindi cinema from romantic films to action, and kindled Bachchan's career as the Angry Young Man.

Just a couple of months later, Amitabh and Jaya (who had together approached Hrishikesh Mukherjee to make a film starring them) again made a mark as a couple in a toubled marriage with Abhimaan (1973).

Jaya and Amitabh tied the knot in June the same year, soon after Zanjeer's success in May and right before the release of Abhimaan in July.