From Madhu and Ranjini to the Akkinenis, Big B’s southern connections

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BY ARUN LAKSHMAN

Chennai– As Amitabh Bachchan celebrates his 80th birthday, it may be worth recalling his tryst with the South Indian film industry is interesting. Bachchan has acted in the Mohanlal-starrer Malayalam movie, ‘Kandahar’ (2010), directed by Major Ravi, and he has also been associated with several South Indian film personalities, starting with Madhu in his debut film ‘Saat Hindustani’.

The Malayalam movie industry’s veteran actor Madhu alias Madhavan Nair, a Padma Shri awardee who has starred in ‘Chemmeen’, which won the President’s Medal for the best feature film in 1965, recalled his association with Bachchan in a media interaction at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Being a former college teacher, I was always fascinated by Harivanshrai Bachchan and when I came to know that the young actor debuting in K.A. Abbas’s movie was his son, I was thrilled,” the 89-year-old actor said.

“When Abbas told me that a new actor is coming, I never expected it would be the great poet’s son. When I met him, I told him about Harivanshrai Bachchan and Amitabh said to me that his mother, Teji Bachchan, was on the jury that gave the National Award to ‘Chemmeen’,” Madhu added.

The veteran actor also said that Bachchan used to recite the poems of his father after the shoot, whenever the unit had some free time, and he would recall how reciting the poem helped him modulate his voice.

Bachchan shared screen space with the Malayalam superstar, Mohanlal in the 2010 movie ‘Kandahar’ directed by Major Ravi. The film, however, did not do well at the box office.

Shreekumar Menon, who has directed the Mohanlal movie ‘Odiyan’ and made some ad films with Bachchan, spoke for a number of people in the industry when he said: “Amitabh Bachchan is an actor who is always vibrant and he never says no to tough takes. Working with the great actor is a learning experience and he has always been a director’s actor.”

The superstar has done the narration for the Hindi version of the Tamil ‘Kochadaiiyan’ (2014), which was directed by Soundariya Rajinikanth, daughter of the South Indian superstar Rajinikanth. Bachchan and Rajinikanth had shared screen space in ‘Andha Kaanoon’ (1983) and ‘Geraftaar’ (1985). The latter also had the other South Indian superstar, Kamal Haasan, on its star-studded cast.

Kamal Haasan’s daughter Akshara has also acted with Bachchan in R. Balki’s satirical film ‘Shamitabh’. Telugu superstar Akkineni Nagarjuna, most recently seen with Bachchan in ‘Brahmastra’, and the Tamil actor Dhanush also acted in the movie. Balki also directed Bachchan in ‘Cheeni Kum’, ‘Paa’ and now ‘Chup: Revenge of the Artiste’.

The Bollywood superstar made his debut in Telugu cinema with ‘Manam’ (2014), which saw three generations of the Akkineni dynasty in action, from Akkineni Nageswara Rao to his son, Nagarjuna, and grandson, Naga Chaithanya.

Other South Indian film personalities who worked with Bachchan included S. Ramanathan, who directed him for the movie ‘Mahaan’, a Hindi remake of the Kannada ‘Shankar Guru’, where Bachchan played a triple role opposite Waheed Rehman, Praveen Babi and Zeenat Aman. And it was S.S. Balan who directed Bachchan in ‘Sanjog’ (1971) for Gemini Studios. It was a remake of K. Balachander’s Tamil movie, ‘Iru Kodugai’. (IANS)

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