« Jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaye, sharafat se khade raho. Yeh Poste de police hai, tumhare baap ka ghar nahi.
Unlike many stars before him like Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Vijay d’Amitabh was not the romantic star, but what he stood for had a wider connection to the audience of the time. Vijay had a certain angst which struck a chord with the masses and thus the “angry young man” became a phenomenon.
Over the years, the “angry young man” has been analyzed by researchers around the world. The idea for the character came from an ordinary man whose ideal image of a morally upright life was starting to change because he realized that the system was against him. To finally take control of his life, he had to ignore law and order and take a non-traditional path. His illusion of a happy and just society was starting to crumble and anger was reflected in early 1970s cinema. Amitabh has portrayed different shades of this character in films like Deewar, Trishul, Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Kaala Patthar, Laawaris, Shakti, among a few others.
In a conversation with Syed Firdaus Ashraf in 1998, director Prakash Mehra shared that when he picked Amitabh for Zanjeer, the actor struggled with one flop after another. Mehra was the first director to feature an ‘angry young man’ onscreen, but the director revealed that this particular term for the character’s description was not given by the Salim-Javed writers, it was was a name that came from the press. “The name ‘angry young man’ has been given by the press,” he said. Unlike the character’s later reflection, Vijay de Zanjeer is in a cop uniform, but his frustration with the system gives him sleepless nights. Since Mehra was the first person to bring this character to life, without any reference, he explained the character’s anger. “If you see the film, you will find that it is the inner conflict of a person who suffocates and wants to fight the system. And he cannot do it alone, ”he told Ashraf.
Most films from Amitabh’s “angry young man” era were written by writer duo Salim-Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar). And although much has been written about Vijay’s socio-economic makeup, writers have often said that back then they did not consciously incorporate these characteristics into their work, but it certainly affected their mental makeup. During a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2017, Javed spoke about the unstable political era of the 1970s and how it affected the psyche of the common man. “It was a politically unstable time, unconstitutional forces were emerging. The verdicts of the high courts were quashed. And that was the pre-emergency period where perhaps for the first time we realized that the socialist model of life (which we thought) will bring happiness, joy, prosperity (which) is on the next page of the calendar… nothing happened. So those dreams were shattered and somewhere an average Indian lost faith in law and order and the establishment. So it’s no surprise that an angry young man came along who was so blunt, so blunt, ”he shared.
And Amitabh was the actor who became the face of this emotion of the masses. Javed added that Birju from Mother India (played by Sunil Dutt) and Gunga Jumna’s Gunga (played by Dilip Kumar) were probably the earlier versions of the character that may not have been as relevant on a large scale, but by the time the 1970s rolled around, the feeling of anger was starting to spread.
The anguish of the common man has been translated differently in each of these representations by Amitabh. While the man from Deewar was angry because his father left the family and abandoned him with a tattoo that said « Mera Baap Chor Hai, » Kaala Patthar’s man was still overcoming the trauma of the ship he had left behind. His anger at Trishul arose from the fact that his father left his pregnant mother for a rich woman, and they had to fight for pieces. And his Vijay in Don has been the victim of circumstances after his life has been threatened, while he has to take care of two young children.
Vijay’s effect was such that a man who could have been considered a villain in previous decades was now the hero figure. Many of these films were multi-starred, and Vijay was often opposed to a traditional hero, which made him even more desirable to audiences.
Salim-Javed introduced the angry young man with Zanjeer, but as their journey and that of Amitabh unfolded, it became a symbiotic relationship. Together with Deewar, Sholay, Don, Kaala Patthar, they continued to create many other masterpieces together. In fact, Amitabh wasn’t even the first choice for Deewar, it is Rajesh Khanna, who lost the role because Salim-Javed convinced director Yash Chopra that no one but Amitabh would do. In an interview with Lata Khubchandani in 2000, Salim Khan said: “Amitabh is one of the best actors in the Hindi film scene. His personality inspired the kind of movies we wrote for him. We have kept in mind his personality, his talent and his acting talent and have written films around these criteria. These roles were not interchangeable. They were meant for him, written for him. To his credit, Amitabh has often said that Salim-Javed’s writing was such that any actor who landed in Vijay’s place, would have become a star but looking back it can be said that Amitabh was destined to do these roles.
Amitabh’s ride with the angry young man became the ‘computer factor’ of the day, and soon other filmmakers and writers also brought out the nuances of this character in films like – Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Suhaag, Laawaris among others. The late actor-writer Kader Khan wrote dialogue for many of these Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra films. In a conversation with Lata Khubchandani for Rediff, Khan shared that Amitabh’s charisma had a lot to do with his voice and the writers made sure to use him while writing for him. “Amitabh has this innate talent for speaking, but he’s also trained himself. He is an actor who has put effort into all aspects of acting. The potential existed in him and he refined it. Most people get complacent, but not Amitabh. He works hard and is sincere in his profession, ”he said.
Bachchan himself explained the popularity and immediate connection of his roles: “In the minds and hearts of the young people of India, there was a kind of suppressed anger, something that they wanted and did not want. was not said and did not come out. And maybe in those roles, the way they were written and maybe the way they were performed, they found a hidden release to say it. There was a huge identification by people, by young people, with the characters that I was doing. And because of this identification, they have become very popular.
During the 1980s the era of the angry young man began to wane and soon it came to an end. As Javed Akhtar said at Lit Fest, “People can’t stay angry for long”. The character of “angry young man” hasn’t faded from cinema for a while and we still see splashes of it in mainstream movies, but the imagery of this character has always been associated with Amitabh Bachchan and will continue to do so. be part of his heritage.