Earlier this evening I had one of those delightful Bollywood encounters you always hope to have in Mumbai. The one where you find yourself in the same room with India’s biggest superstar and can actually stare unabashedly at them to your hearts content! Roli Books launched an amazing amalgamation of essay’s titled “Icons” about the men and women who have (most recently) shaped India, edited by Anil Dharkar. The list is eclectic and intriguing (and I must admit I don’t actually know enough about the icons that my country is so proud of which is why I plan to read the book.)
But there is no denying that the highlight of everyone’s experience was not only seeing Amitabh Bachchan in the flesh but also listening to him deliver an extraordinary speech (which he wrote himself!) In which he touched upon his experiences (stemming from humble disbelief at making the cut since he is for all intents and purposes “just an actor doing his job”), pondered over the intriguing definition of the word “Icon” itself, chastising the media for being unfair on occasion (which they clearly took well considering how they clambered for his attention regardless), eloquently described each of the other 19 on the list and ended up making a poignant comment on how far we’ve come and yet how frivolous all this list-making could seem and perhaps what we should be striving for is making more icons.
Tempted as I am I know I cannot hope to do justice to his delivery with snatches of what I remember, in fact I even considered taking video but felt perhaps that might have been a little invasive since he had been hesitant to share a copy of the speech at the launch in Delhi as well and requested everyone to take from it what they remembered. I’m hoping at some point he decides to post it on his blog.
You know, Anil Dharkar actually pointed out something obvious and yet somewhat of a revelation to me when he brought to our attention the fact that you could go to any corner of this country with a picture of Amitabh Bachchan and ask anyone who he was and everyone would know. Imagine the sheer magnitude of that?
I’ve come home today with a curious mixture of feelings. Perhaps if I share those that’ll be enough:
I feel Pride. For my country and “how far we’ve come” and that these are living icons and that means there will be more.
I feel Fear. For how my people will react on the day Amitabh Bachchan dies. (Morbid I know, but my mind wanders.)
I feel Anxiety. For how soon the next generation who never shared his lifetime will forget what he means to us. (Kind of like Raj Kapoor for my mother’s generation I suppose?)
I feel Confused. At how he said so many things so humbly and yet I don’t find it easy to attribute humility to him (perhaps just because of who he is.)
I feel Curious. For what his life is like outside the limelight and if he’s happy when he’s home.
But most of all I feel Happy that I just spent an evening listening to Amitabh Bhachan share his thoughts!
P.S. It was also a little wierd walking through the Trident lobby to the rooftop. I haven’t been inside (or outside) since 26/11 when on that fateful day I decided not to meet my friend in the lobby as planned and smoked a cigarette across the street instead. Isn’t it Ironic? Don’t you think?