Last Friday, I saw what some people are calling Bhoothnath Returns: The Election Special! Whatever you call it, this Bhoothnath has grossed an unbelievable Rs.18 crore in the first three days at the box office! Unbelievable, because it was a small budget film with no heroine or young hero; and to top it all, the film was good, but not really a masala entertainer! Well, that’s the power of the stellar Big B at 72! What a man nonpareil! Having made a film with him – The Last Lear, which went on to win the National Award – many beautiful memories of sublime moments spent with and around the matchless personality during the shoot and the promotions zipped past my mind... And similar to the film Boothnath Returns, which ended with the reel Big B – Bhoothnath – winning the elections, I believe that if he wanted to, the peerless Big B was also a man who could have been our Prime Minister, and perhaps been a good one at that. I will give you five reasons.
The first reason stems from my memories of how the inimitable legend (then about 65) would be there on the film sets without a fuss early in the morning, before time, and would mostly wait patiently for other lesser ranked stars to arrive, who mostly used to arrive a couple of hours late! Not just that. While everyone else would be wasting time frivolously between shots, the superlative Mr Bachchan would be sitting in one corner actually practising his lines, and therefore, most often would give shots in one take while all others would waste valuable film rolls with retakes aplenty. Be it this, or getting up early morning and finishing his gym session before we all could even reach the gym (I remember how, after getting down at the Toronto airport, he was the one walking fastest on the long route to the exit – and to imagine we were all almost half his age), it showed why he reached such heights of success – non negotiable discipline and sustained sincerity! Qualities we need in our leaders!
The second reason is his kind heart. I remember when we were having this press conference in Kolkata, I saw a man entering and showing his gratitude to Mr Bachchan for saving his daughter Mita Mondol’s life. The poor tea stall owner’s daughter had been detected with a rare heart disease and it was the preeminent Big B’s generous gift of Rs. 2.5 lakh rupees that made a complicated operation possible and helped save her life. That showed that Mr Bachchan’s heart was that of an altruistically benevolent man, something that people across India have felt time and again from his bounteously loving, fatherly/grandfatherly handling of his participants in Kaun Banega Crorepati – a reason why every time that I see him speak on the show, I feel like touching his feet! You know that it’s a nice and beneficent human being out there. How often have we felt the same way about any of our politicians?
The third reason is his unique combination of education (I often spend time reading his blogs, only to get enlightened on the art of cultured writing in exquisite English!), impeccable culture and family values! I write here two of the most memorable moments I remember with this erudite legend. One, when he was showing us some snaps of Abhishek, the bountiful love and tenderhearted fondness that was there in his tone when he was speaking about Abhishek. And second, when his daughter Shweta had come to meet him, the same astounding, emotionally caring, fatherly, soft and cultured tone with which he was speaking to her about his own mother. I consider these very memorable because these two enduring incidents showed the magnanimously affectionate exemplar as a most loving father and a doting son, and also showcased the pristine upbringing and paramount education he must have received. I remember Karuna Dhawan getting her son Varun Dhawan to me in 2004 for career advice. A young and already confident and handsome school boy then, Varun wanted to be in films. I admitted that with his looks, he could easily make it in films, but I insisted that whatever he went ahead to do, he should first complete his education, because that’s what would give him an edge even in films (and I am happy that he did go on to complete his business studies before entering films). I also explained to him why I didn’t think that it was a coincidence that the most educated Bollywood star with a double Master’s degree also happened to be the biggest of them all – Mr Bachchan (and the most educated of the current lot, SRK, is the next biggest)!
Then of course is Mr. Bachchan’s towering personality and amazing communication skills. One needs to watch the last episode of ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ to see how he carried two episodes on his shoulders single-handedly. From jumping like a kid and running back to his seat after playing a prank on someone, to dancing and singing tirelessly to giving the viewers the pleasure of listening to some of his most famous dialogues in his trademark baritone, one saw what a perfect personality was all about! Of course, thanks to this new genius spreading smiles throughout India, Kapil, for showcasing this 360 degree personality to all Indians like no other interviewer has ever been able to do before!
Lastly, of course, it’s because of his principles, the mark of a great leader. He was the closest friend of Rajiv Gandhi – from much before his Bollywood days – and the biggest superstar the country had ever seen, who had shown his popularity and political mettle by winning the much important Allahabad seat by defeating not any xyz, but the then ex-CM of Uttar Pradesh, H.N.Bahuguna by one of the highest margins in the history of Indian politics – getting almost 70% of the votes. When Rajiv died, it was Mr Bachchan who carried the news to Rahul. Had he not taken a conscientious decision in principle to stay away from politics, he could have been India’s PM that day. The very virtuous reason he did not continue with politics, is the reason why he could have been a great political leader – due to his principles.
He could have been the Prime Minister; however, he chose not to be. And today, he is about to be instrumental in a way in giving the country its next PM, Namo, a man who was popular in Gujarat, but came into the radar of common Indians across the nation to a large extent also thanks to Gujarat's rise to national fame suddenly from nowhere, only due to Mr Bachchan's endorsement of the state's tourism. Of course, things soured between Mr. Bachchan and the Gandhis, and he called the Gandhis the Rajas (Kings) and himself the Runk (Pauper)... Or as one would now say, the Runk who has helped us discover a new Raja! So what if he didn't become the PM, maybe the new Raja could in turn help come true a wish of many Indians – that of seeing this distinguished Runk as the next President of India..