PAA – When brand Bachchan did not exist.

There are moments in life, which are extraordinary, and a particular time in an era, which is ground breaking. In 1969 the first step that was taken remains a giant step, until today. No, I am not only talking about the ambitious Apollo program of JFK’s that fructified in 1969 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, I speak of the first step that Mr Bachchan took in the world of cinema. After 40 years, this remains a giant step and a giant’s step. Indian cinema has been dwarfed under him and more so after 4th December 2009.

PAA – A movie that plays at the heartstrings, portrays relationships realistically, and provides wit, repertoire and one-liners that is as classy as the dialogue between Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. This movie can make even the hardest eyes well up with the alkaline and make the most poker of faces break into a smile. A movie that brings love, insecurity, confidence, belief, wit all together in one big boiling pot and stirs us up from the inside. Every character in the movie has been clearly defined and the Director wastes no time in doing so in the first 20 minutes.

Lets start with Vidya, the confident woman portrayed marvellously by Balan. An apt choice by Balki. Very few could have carried this off, the role required a classic Indian beauty with a very mature screen presence and maternal instincts that are not seen in many in our industry. Only two others that I can think of – Tabu and Kajol, but Vidya fits into the role like a glove. Her cotton block print saris with matching blouses, her long tresses and those doe eyes brighten the screen as much as her adoration which is remarkably visible when she looks at Auro. She has the eyes like a mother would, her eyes for her son, her only son.

Then we have Amol, the young, dynamic, suave politician. Dressed in white and reminded by Auro that the country is dying as white is symbolic of mourning. Amol remains in white till the very end, ironically he mourns death but gifts life. What can I say about junior B, he is no longer so, he is senior. Senior in performance and senior in charisma. He has outdone Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot. I will give him my vote any day. Abhishek is no longer his father’s son; he is now the father and will remain so. The onscreen chemistry between him and Vidya is brilliant.

Bum, she could just as well be my grandma. Arundathi Nag’s grandmotherly love for Auro, her maternal love for Vidya is as realistic as my own grandmother’s love for me, my amumma. My favourite portion is her conversation with Vidya regarding her choice. The backdrop, the deliberation, the sternness, the hush and then the answer, brilliantly shot by Balki.

Vishnu remains my second favourite character after Auro. Balki where did you find this gem? The conversation between Vishnu and Auro on the phone was the funniest in the movie. The dialogue was sensational, the comparatives, the wit, the intelligence was outstanding. The house was down in this scene. Vishnu was simply brilliant; his friendship with Auro is endearing and simple. He could be my buddy I could crack jokes with, a natural wonder. Not to forget the last scene in which he appears, he left a mark standing behind the young girl with just his actions to Auro. Vishnu an apt character who can comfortably glide into RK Narayan’s Swamy and his friends at the drop of a hat.

The young girl who is after Auro remains young throughout but until the very end where her maturity is revealed like a fine tapestry that has woven intricately throughout the entire story. I wish not to speak much about her, as her character needs to be experienced on-screen.

The grandpa politician played by Paresh Rawal is typical, concerned and selfish about his ambitions and his son’s. Paresh has just about done justice to the role although I wish the Director used him a bit more effectively. He appears a bit cursory and not strong enough to oppose his son’s moves which would be largely unlike a politician with over twenty years of experience.

A word about Illairaja’s sensational music which is soulful and woven into the movie at the right places. The background scores are breathtaking and PC Sriram’s cinematography is sensational especially in the shot of the approach to Rashtrapathi Bhavan and in the first song of the movie.( Mudi, Mudi ) 

Finally Auro – The first time he slipped into the auditorium in his entirety I cried. I cried at the marvel of the man whose eyes is all I could see. Those eyes remain with me. Prosthetics could change his face; they did not touch his eyes – those that spell dignity and wonder. I recall Mr Bachchan’s previous post about dignity lying in the eyes, he forgot to add wonder. Auro makes you laugh throughout, you forget that he suffers from the most talked about genetic disorder. He is intelligent and his one-liners are laced with wisdom and wit. His relationship with all the characters have been carefully articulated by Balki without going over the top. Everything synonymous with the Bachchan brand has been shed to birth Auro. From his voice, to his posture, to his dressing sense, to his gait. The reasons we love Mr Bachchan are not the same reasons to love Auro. Auro had me spellbound. His performance is so extraordinary that all past extraordinary performances known in the word of cinema now look ordinary. It is after you see Auro for the first time on-screen you understand why Amitabh Bachchan is introduced in the movie. Great men don the role of smaller or fragile beings only to become greater. Kamalhaasan shrunk only his size in “apoorva sahodragal” to rise in stature, Mr Bachchan changed his appearance in it’s entirety to redefine himself not just as a marvellous actor who has already achieved the status only he is capable of but as a remarkable human. This is the very reason why I say that 1969 was significant but 4th December 2009 is historic, the time when he used his voting finger to make the world go round.


51 Responses to “PAA – When brand Bachchan did not exist.”

  1. Dearest Sharmila..

    I loved reading every detail of your lovely post… i sincerely wish that our loved and respected lion king keep bringing out his incredibly brilliant creativity..

    Although i won’t be able to see Auro before it is released in DVD .. but it is lovely to see him through your eyes… loved the lovely points about Abhi & Vidya.. and Balki.. they did a great job.

    Our loved lion king is brilliant in his choices.. and no one matches him in his talent… not even close.

    lots of love

  2. Thanks Ree for your wonderful words and great to see you here..:)

  3. And this is called a ‘ review..’!!! Sharmila.. you are really wonderful … i almost felt their .. (Amith ji’s nay.. Auro ‘s ..Vidya’s ,Abhi’s..) presence here in my house..!! love you.. vijji

  4. Thanks , happy you liked it Viji and great to see you here.


    fabulous review.nothing can excel this.very carefully watched.
    loved your post.amazing.every word was spot on.

  6. Thank you Amlan for your wonderful comment.

  7. Superb, perhaps this is the best review i read so far and thanks for speaking my heart through this review. GOD bless you.

  8. Thanks Sourav, touched by your comments.

  9. Hi Sharmila, Greetings from Fiji Islands. Your review is just perfect. There is nothing more for me to say. Love your expression and views. Amit ji is Super Human in every sense. Vidya is so pretty. So natural. And Abhishek, he is growing good.
    God bless you and the love we hold for our Hero.

  10. Thanks Asha, much too kind with your gracious comments and good to see you here.

  11. I think it was unnecessary to bring in kamal hassan’s ‘aboorva sahodarargal/appu raja’ here – remember, kamal did it exactly 20 years ago, besides making creative ventures like ‘pushpa’ etc, around the time when Bachan was busy either into politics or doing one masala movie after another ! with due credit to Amitabh for his superstardom, its unsavory to bring in the name of someone like kamal hassan here – on any day, strictly in terms of artistic sophistication, acting prowess, versatility, kamal hassan has far outdone not just amitabh, every other Indian actor! having said, amitabh has indeed done a splendid job as ‘auro’ in ‘paa’! his stature will not get enhanced by comparing this performance with kamal’s!

  12. MRT – Thank you for your comment. My point on the “stature” was not in the literal sense, I compared it to the challenge of donning roles of the physically challenged or the sick and shed the macho image that leading stars normally like to portray. I took Kamal’s name in this context, and as you rightly point out he did it twenty years ago and had no qualms in transforming his physical appearance. Kamal, Mohanlal,Mamooty, AB are a separate league of their own and yes, each has his own stature.

    • Sharmila – thank you for the clarification! IMHO, Amitabh should have gotten into this mode 20 years ago – many kudos and deeply felt admiration for his stupendously courageous recovery from his ‘coolie’ injury, and the phenomenal coping up with myasthenia gravis – but i think his planning of his career was not exactly very smart! otherwise, he could have done many more meaningful roles than the lame ‘shahenshahs’ and other related run-of-the-mill bollywood masala of so many years – his association with ‘not-so-creative’ ppl in the industry and his choice of films as well as the tangential jump into politics and advt endorsing do not speak well of his professionalism! anyways, better late, than never

  13. MRT – Sometimes commercial dogmas interfere with the creativity of artists and artists are expected to perform to suit a particular genre. Over time some of them learn to shed it and diversify themselves into other genres and do not mind taking “risks”. The timing to take risks as you rightly point out varies from artist to artist. AB has done so a bit later in his career, but his commercial successes that he produced with the angry young man image remains to be surpassed.

    • well – i guess its a classic ‘chicken-egg’ situation here – as far as i am concerned, commercial success need not be a major benchmark to assess an actor’s creative abilities! there are actors like Ed Norton, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins in the west, who might not be commercially as viable as say, a Tom Cruise (who by the way, many critics feel simply cannot act!), but the kind of respect they command in their niches is unmatched, not even by Tom cruise’s riches! in the end, thats what matters – no matter how many days a soap opera like ‘hum aapke hain kaun’ runs, it will never garner the respect a ‘guide’ or an ‘anand’command even now! honestly, for all the adulation that were being heaped on Amitabh, it was embarassing to watch him appear in commercials for soft drinks etc! his wrong/poor choices include associating with someone like Amar Singh (of all people in the world)! had i been close to him, i would have strongly suggested that he collaborate with a Gulzar, or newcomers like Vishal Bharadwaj, or a Sudhir Mishra – while I do understand that an ABCL failure might have prompted him to venture into these areas, his choice of roles still baffle me – its often the choices one makes that count in the long run – speaking of risks, IMHO, getting involved with politicians was the biggest risk he took and at least now he should be all the wiser for that – we have an increasingly vigilant public and no matter what ones past glories are, someone of his stature ought to be more careful about the choices – he is not getting any younger, and making wrong choices now will be disastrous! I only hope “paa” (after ‘black”eklavya’ and the surprise package’khakhi’!) is the right step in the right direction

      • it would not be fair to criticise amitabh’s decision on whether choosing films or befriended amar is pretty natural when you are trouble you need friends or relatives who can stand by you or you die as others actors had…and however bad politician and person amar singh is we could not comment…politics itself is dirt…but he must have stood by his friend…when we are chucked out of job we take whatever comes our way to stand up and move on.Also he is not dancing on somebody’s shaadi’s like shahrukh and others doing…

      • abee – thank you for your comment, Yes, friendships are personal choices. I agree, so long as they do not interfere with the profession. What SRK does again is his personal choice.

  14. MRT – Speaking of commercialization AB speaks about entertainment on his blog today. Here is the link

    An aspect of my response to the profit motive in entertainment –

    To AB,

    Who else can provide a thesis on entertainment other than one of the greatest entertainers of this industry. I have a couple of questions on the intent of entertainment. Does it always have to be for a profit motive and for the sake of commercial success? If profit is the primary motive, the soul of the entertainer has already been sold. When entertainment is provided with the sole purpose of “holding” or rather “captivating” the audience, the material aspects fade into the background. I am not suggesting that entertainment be provided free, but my suggestion is that the intent of entertainment needs to be largely redefined so that we can be “held”.
    A classic example would be the harping of big numbers that go into producing a commercial movie which is termed as a wanna be blockbuster even before it actually hits the multiplexes. By and large people are not sold by the fact that it is a big budget production anymore. We still want substance and content. If PAA was made on a budget of 15 crores or 150 crores, it would not have mattered, what ultimately mattered was the soul of the entertainers and their ability to captivate us. As the makers of PAA, I think the intent was to produce an outstanding product and money matters were secondary.I hope I am not far off the mark here.
    My point with the wrangling is that entertainment would naturally provide the financial recognition if the primary intent is not made secondary. I take blogging as a big part of entertaining myself. The sole intent of this blog would be providing information and entertainment, infotainment , and I am hooked to this space because I am hooked to the soul of the entertainer. But lets say if I had to pay an annual subscription to read this blog, would I do so? I would. The reason being is because the intent of the blogger is not compromised, he is providing information and entertainment and I want to read it and I have been doing so for the last 26 months and I am aware of the intent. If this blog was to be one that had to be subscribed to from day one, I may not have.
    A good entertainment package would naturally reap economic benefits so long as the intent is not compromised.
    Commercial valuation of the entertainers are also largely to be blamed for compromising on the entertainment quotient. Akshay Kumar was valued for his ability to deliver commercial successes. The last few seasons have not been good for him, so do we devalue him as an entertainer? Because of the dogma attached to valuation and Akki falling into the trap he has automatically rendered himself to be a depreciating asset. If he was an “entertainer” in the true sense, he would remain invaluable. Mr Bachchan is one such entertainer, so is Kamalhaasan, Mohan Lal, Mamooty. A string of commercial debacles at the box office do not affect their valuation because these individuals well and truly entertain us with the right intent.

  15. MRT – I hear you out. Ok, I agree that his choice of over endorsing himself in oil ads etc has not been in good taste. Regarding the Amar Singh connect, from the stories that go around he appears to be indebted to Singh and hence attaches so much of importance to the friendship. I think he was instrumental for bailing him out when ABCL went bankrupt. So long as his personal relationships do not interfere with his professional life! Also the other risky relationship with the Gandhis terminated a long time back. I have also not been a vocal supporter of his participation in Big Boss.

  16. MRT – One more thing, @ the age of 67 show me one more actor who is maintaining the stature that AB is.

    • yes! kudos and hats off to him! the stature could have ben far greater if he had done and not done the things i had mentioned earlier!

    • but watch out! one Mr.Aamir Khan if he continues in his current form and choice of films, might so fashion his career so as to outdo Amitabh in terms of sheer quality (not quantity in terms of commercial returns, as i mentioned before those dont mean a thing in the long run!) – from what little I read and hear Aamir spends all his spare time sprucing up/honing his skills ever keen to learn more and invest his time wisely – his career has been the biggest surprise for me in bollywood – initially i thought he wud never let go of his lollypop lover boy looks, but since ‘sarfarosh’ the man has gone miles and leagues ahead of his peers!

      and this one-man obesssion (of Amitabh) in one major way, is what distracted the film industry away from other great talents like Ompuri, Nasiruddin Shah (with due respects to Amitabh, these two wud far outdo him in a decently written script!) or an Amol Palekar and the late gem Sanjeev Kumar!

      a similar thing happened in the south, when the late MG Ramachandran so ruled the industry that script driven stories took a backseat and masala film after film came out with the larger-than-life image of the ‘hero’ – Rajinikanth to some xtent follows the same path – these things IMO were/are unhealthy for the industry, just the same way, post the ‘angry man’ years of Amitabh which killed the script writers resulted in the most unproductive (creative point of view) years in the 1980s – but the rennaissance has begun with the market opening up and ppl gettng to watch movies from across the world more often and hence they have a better sense of what they want and better options to choose from! so film makers simply cant get away with star-driven rubbish and respect has to be earned in the true sense, and not by past glory of even the last film!

      watch out for Vishal Bharadwaj in particular – he is one phenomenal talent, multi-faceted behind the screen – and he is already redefining cinema with brilliant Indianised adaptations of classical english literature – Madhur Bhandarkar is another.

      if Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra shed some of their excesses in melodrama, they would join the ranks of the above too!

      the rotten fruit in this lot is Karan Johar! the more his films fail, the better for Bollywood – that way natural selection would work in favor of good cinema !

  17. MRT – Aamir Khan is a phenomenon, and only time will tell if he is going to sustain the good thing that he has going today. Aamir has the knack of choosing roles that click for him. I do not know how he does it, but his process of elimination is far superior than most artists today.

    re Rajni, can we expect him to do a role like PAA, even if he does can we accept him, will his fans accept him and more importantly I doubt he would even try! He tried something out of the box in Baba and Kuselan and both flopped. He would dare not to experiment like Surya but will stick to the same genre like Vijay. But his movies and ABs in the 80s were meant for the masses who really do not worry about scripts.

    I guess the point is actors want to be remembered more for their hits than their performances hence the obvious choice for masala scripts.

    But yes, we do have an Aamir who works on good scripts and can captivate the masses, hats off to him!

    Re Vishal Bharadwaj a director for the classes, Madhur Bhandarkar for classes and masses , Karan Johar..ha ha, a spoilt guy who can rope in big names and make a big hue and cry.

    • Sharmila – we seem to agree on most points – i think you misinterpreted what i wrote abt Rajini – i wrote abt the negative influence of his films on the industry, while you thought i was comparing him with Amitabh ONLY – but since you broached the topic, i must say that Rajini WAS a fine actor as well when under a genius Mahendran he did 2 outstanding films and did quite a few with his (and Kamal’s) guru K Balachander – see, again the people you work with are important – Amitabh and Hrishikesh resulted in ANAND! I wud like to see Amitabh working with Vishal who will for sure bring out a completeltly different dimension in him!

      diversity and variety are what will take any sphere of activity forward! right now indian cinema is agog with diverse young talent and happy for it!

  18. Ok, got it. Yes Rajni’s and Kamal’s work with KB was superior but will it work today for Rajni? I doubt it. KB kind of movies belong to an era that has been lost forever. But somewhere I hope as the 3 are in their twilight zones, they do a movie together.

    Ab with Vishal sounds promising. But more importantly I wish AB gets out of Big Boss fast. Teen Patti sounds like a good movie for AB and so does Rann.

  19. What a mind-boggling piece Sharmila, i’ll also be sharing this on my blog.

    Btw , when ever you get a chance send me an email to

    Lets see if we work together (would love to have you as a contributor on Master Praz) 🙂



  20. Praz – Thank you for your comment and happy you enjoyed the piece. I will surely send you an email, I just started blogging 3 days back and set this site up and your offer sounds great.

    • masterpraz Says:

      No worries Sharmila. Congrats on starting the blog….it’s a great way to share and communicate your thoughts and also to join the conversation:)

      I work in the Social Media space as a consultant and here’s my other blog (

      but Master Praz is my cinema blog and i’d be honoured to have you on board.

      s mentioned, i’ll be sharing some of your posts on my blog (and NG, Satyamshot, BollyBusiness) for the meantime..and await your email…



  21. Thanks Praz.Shooted you an email

  22. masterpraz Says:

    Cool, just posted this piece on the other blogs, you’ll get notifications on the actual post when I reference your posts….

  23. […] To get a taste of her writing check out: Sharmila’s PAA Review […]

  24. CHENGEZ KHAN Says:

    there are many kings (superstars) in the indian film industry but there is only one emperor (supermegastar) who is undisputed and still rocking at 68…the one and only original don of bollywood…Big B!!

  25. Chengez Khan – Thank you for your comment

  26. Welcome Sharmila in this site with mind blowing topic.We love film PAA.and hope PAA will be blockbuster film.and I think this amitabh will take all awards even may be nominate for Oscar award.amitabh is superb and well made film.still Paa is ruuing very well.I saw twice but I want to watch again.hope u will bring more great topics like this.

  27. CHENGEZ KHAN Says:

    2 shakir..oscars is too much and big b doesnt believe in oscars!

  28. Shakir – Thank you.

  29. amitabh is undisputedly best actor world has ever seen

  30. PAA’s music composer Maestro.Ilaiyaraaja is featured in the prestigious mfiles site!

  31. But I sincerely not able to understand why Rahul Gandhi or Mr.Pilot should be compared with Jr.Bachan ?.

    • Dev – Thank you for the comment. I had heard that prior to the making of PAA, Abhishek had spent time with Sachin Pilot. What I was trying to get at was I thought that Abhishe’s performance as a young political leader with the right motives as shown in the movie was better than what the Gandhis and the Pilots get done in reality.

      • Okey… So it is Jr.Bachan’s character in the movie who outdid Rahul Gandhi. May be, I haven’t seen the movie yet. But when I read your post I felt it was the Charisma of those 3 being compared !.

  32. Muraliraja Says:

    This blog is two years old… 🙂

  33. Wow. thank you, This slipped by completely 🙂

  34. Muraliraja Says:

    3 successful years..😃 Congratulations!! It doesn’t matter whether you write for this blog or TOI, about political or non political issues, as long as you write, here is one loyal fan who is always ready to read 😃 Keep writing!!

    • Thanks a lot Murali.. 3 years! Wow.. I had even forgotten..most honored to have somebody like you read my blog regularly.

  35. Muraliraja Says:

    4 years… 🙂

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