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Amitabh and the Goa Connect

Amitabh and the Goa Connect

The International Film Festival of India 2014 will be inaugurated in the state on November 20 at the hands of iconic silver screen personality Amitabh Bachchan, whose debut film was shot in Goa. That was in 1969. Subsequently Bachchan returned to Goa again, and again, and yet again…to shoot for more films, to attend the first edition of the IFFI held in Goa as brand ambassador of the campaign for HIV/AIDS, to spend holidays with his children and grandchildren, and even to release a book. This article presents a glimpse of the intermediate 45 years during which the original ‘Angry Young Man’ developed a close and warm relationship with this state
BY RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
Amitabh Bachchan, megastar of the Indian film Industry, ‘Star of the Millennium’, was born in Allahabad, studied in Nainital and Delhi, and worked in Calcutta, before subsequently settling down in Bombay and playing out his illustrious career. It is, however, interesting to note that in spite of shooting all over the world for his films he maintains a special place for Goa in his heart. One may not know the exact reason for the same, but one can predict that the deep emotional state of nostalgia associated with the shooting of his first film – Saat Hindustani – here exactly four-and-a-half decades ago could be responsible for this connect.
Six years ago, when Amitabh came to Goa on an extremely short visit to release the book titled ‘Goa: Aparanta – Land Beyond the End’, he spoke from his heart, recalling the days when he was just a struggler and was cast in ‘Saat Hindustani’ by director Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, a purist and a socialist in his thinking.
“Goa was extremely beautiful, peaceful and far less crowded during the late 1960s,” Amitabh remembered while describing the times as ‘those wonderful days’.
The film portrayed the heroic story of seven Indians who attempt to liberate Goa from the Portuguese colonial rule. Amitabh enacted the role of a Muslim poet, Anwar Ali, hailing from Bihar. Besides the film had five other men, all belonging to different religions and hailing from different parts of India, brought together by the seventh freedom fighter, a woman.
Further sharing his memories, Amitabh had stated that the film crew, including actors, had travelled to Goa by train, carrying their bed and baggage, taking the exact route of the seven Indians in the film, who struggled to liberate Goa. “We camped in forests, stayed in circuit houses, slept on the floor in one big room, and had to use lanterns for light…but it was such a wonderful experience”, he recalled, pointing out that after shooting in the jungles of Goa and staying in guest houses and circuit houses for a month, when the unit members finally arrived in Panaji, they were happy to be in civility, and among hospitable people.
“I have very fond memories of Goa as I shot my first film here and the script was also about Goans”, Amitabh had said, adding that after ‘Saat Hindustani’ he shot for many of his films here. “So I have a great affection for Goans”, he maintained, observing that some of his oldest fans are in Goa; so steadfast and committed in their loyalty.
Ironically, the second film of Amitabh shot in Goa, a comedy, was named ‘Bombay to Goa’. Much of this film was shot along the route between Bombay and Goa. A couple of minutes of the climax had shots of the bus entering Panaji city, first over the old Mandovi bridge and then passing behind the building of the then Secretariat.
By the time ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, Amitabh’s third film shot in Goa, was released he had already become a big star in the Hindi film industry. “We had already shot most of the film in Delhi and Kashmir and wanted to shoot the climax in Goa”, the ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ director, Yash Chopra had told ‘The Navhind Times’ when he attended IFFI 2010. “There were a couple of scenes shot at the iron ore mine besides the fire sequence near the Children’s Park, here”, he had recalled. Shashi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, and Neetu Singh had also participated along with Amitabh in the fire sequence directed by fight master Shetty.
The next two films of Amitabh shot here in the 1970s were Shakti Samanta’s ‘The Great Gambler’, which again had its climax shot in Goa, with Amitabh arriving in the state along with the heroine Zeenat Aman and the villain, Prem Chopra in the now defunct steamer Konkan Sevak, and Vijay Anand’s ‘Ram Balram’ that had a number of scenes shot all over the state, including Panaji and Sinquerim.
Incidentally, Amitabh has some bitter memories of this place too. “Not all of my memories in Goa are fond memories, especially the one wherein I had to admit late Amjad Khan to the Goa Medical College at Panaji after he met with a car accident while coming for the shooting of ‘The Great Gambler’ from Bombay”, the megastar had said.
The films of the megastar continued to be shot in Goa in the 1980s. ‘Pukar’, a film by Ramesh Behl, just as ‘Saat Hindustani’ was, was based on the freedom struggle of Goans against the Portuguese colonial rule. Entirely shot in Goa, people still remember the song from this lavishly mounted film shot at the Keri beach near Tiracol Fort, and another one at the city Church Square.
‘Jalwa’, a 1987 film starring Naseeruddin Shah, though mostly shot in Goa, had Amitabh in just a guest appearance. Two years later, Amitabh returned to Goa to shoot for ‘Main Azaad Hoon’, an adaptation of the 1941 Frank Capra film, ‘Meet John Doe’.
During the new millennium, the star of the millennium shot a song for Ravi Chopra’s ‘Bhoothnath’ at the Kala Academy jetty, in 2008. And then, earlier this year, he was back in Goa to shoot for R Balki’s ‘Shamitabh’.
“It is hard to forget the various films that were shot here, in what circumstances they were made, and what they look like now! But each and every one of those incidents etched a mark on my system”, Amitabh posted on his blog srbachchan.tumblr.com, adding, “The statue of a Portuguese celebrity, where during the shoot for ‘Saat Hindustani’, in the centre of the street, we had gathered to perform the raising of the Indian flag, as a protest against a rule that had robbed us of our independence.”
“Then the various locations on the schedule under production, which have remained close and very close to us and to those that spent time with us. Locations such as the climax of ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, the boat and song sequences of ‘The Great Gambler’ and the ride along the river Mandovi, (while) passing by the hospital where Amjad Khan fought for his post-accident treatment. And just so many moments”, he added on the blog.
Amitabh also attended IFFI 2004 in Goa and remained present at the screening of ‘Yesterday’, a South African movie nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 77th Academy Awards. He had attended the particular screening as a brand ambassador of the campaign for HIV/AIDS.
And then, from time to time, the megastar has made personal visits to Goa with his children and grandchildren, to take a break from his hectic schedules. Photographs of Amitabh taking a jet-ski ride with his grandson, Agastya at the Benaulim Beach at the beginning of 2011 are still fresh in the minds of Goans.
The arrival of Amitabh in Goa to inaugurate IFFI 2014, a festival that personifies the domain ruled by him, will finally complete the circle. From a struggler, who started his film career here, to becoming emperor of the silver screen kingdom, who will open the country’s biggest film extravaganza in the city, Amitabh will find Goa an applauding witness to his meteoric rise, wishing him further glory and success.

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