Amitabh Bachchan made his Bollywood debut in 1969 with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas' Saat Hindustani, which fetched him a National Award. And after a rocky start he proved his mettle with a variety of roles.
1969-1979: The Angry Young Man
From brooding Heathcliff types, to funny and extremely dramatic, Big B tried them all. But by the end of this decade, he emerged as Bollywood's Angry Young Man.
Of all the films he did in the first 10 years, his most memorable performances were those in Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Don and Kaala Patthar.
Exceptional Exceptions: He starred in classics like Abhimaan, Anand, MIli and Chupke Chupke during this time. Mostly his characters remained sombre, but in Chupke Chupke he was bang on with the comic timing.
But the popularity of the first lot of films overpowered the second and Amitabh Bachchan set foot in the new decade with the title of Angry Young Man.
1980-1989: Love and Friendship
In this decade, Amitabh Bachchan was a part of an ensemble star cast which included biggies like Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor and others. The storyline mostly remained about love, friendship and sacrifice. Films like Dostana, Yaraana and Naseeb banked on the theme of friendship while Silsila explored romantic relationships of all types.
Kaalia is an exceptional exception here.
1990-1999: Searching My Mojo
In the Nineties, Big B's career took an unanticipated dip. He starred in a string of flops and mediocre performers like Ajooba, Major Saab, Lal Badshah and Hindustan Ki Kasam.
Some of his film in the nineties, like Agneepath, Hum and Sooryavansham attained cult status and enjoyed a successful spell at the box office. Nonetheless, this wasn't a good time for Mr Bachchan in Bollywood.
2000-2009: The Rise of the Phoenix
Mr Bachchan literally rose from the ashes as he bagged plum father/ father figure roles in the new millennium. But he wasn't just one of those regular dads who'd take up a few moments on the screen - he was a dad with purpose. Mr Bachchan played an autocratic father in Aditya Chopra's 2000 film Mohabbatein. In the film he was also a dictatorial Gurukul head, but he had a change of heart eventually.
Ditto in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. A father, who ostracized his son when he married a woman against his wishes; but he melted towards the end and all was well.
In Armaan, Mr Bachchan played dad-cum-friend to Anil Kapoor. He was an aspirational doctor who wanted to make business leaps to ensure the best treatments. He died but lived in his son's actions and deeds.
Baghban, one of Mr Bachchan's iconic films, was a critical take on a parent-child relationship. The angst of a father, whose dreams of living with his children after retirement were shattered, resonated well with movie-goers.
Waqt: The Race Against Time was how a father, upon learning that he has a short life span, makes it his mission to make his son a responsible man, whom he used to coddle earlier.
Viruddh: Family Comes First was the plight of a father who fought against corruption, seeking justice for the murder of his young son, who was killed by a rich brat in brawl. Eventually, he avenged his son after the judiciary failed him.
Baabul touched the theme of widow remarriage. After his son's death, Amitabh Bachchan decided to get his daughter-in-law married to her childhood friend - a decision which was opposed by his wife, who couldn't bear the thought of being separated from her five-year-old grandson and an orthodox elder brother.
Exceptional Exceptions: In this decade Amitabh Bachchan starred in the Sarkar series, Cheeni Kum and Paa which were on a separate tangent. Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar was an adaptation (of sorts) of The Godfather with Big B in the titular role. Mr Bachchan was his usual awesome self as the mai-baap of the commoners. Cheeni Kum, by R Balki, was a refreshing love story, one which was never seen on the big screen.
Paa needs a special mention. At a time when Big B was playing an onscreen father, Balki offered him a role where he played his real-life son Abhishek Bachchan's reel-life son. The film talked about a kid (played by Big B) suffering from progeria.
2010-Present: Redefining Bachchan
A new decade heralded a new sentiment. This time Big B picked roles which have social or political relevance. With Prakash Jha, he made Aarakshan and Satyagraha. The first talked about the reservation system and its repercussion on students. In addition, the film also critiqued the commercialization of the education system.
Satyagraha, which many believed mirrored Anna Hazare's mammoth movement in 2011, was about exposing the government's corrupt ways and an aam aadmi's exasperation and subsequent questioning of the system.
If you think that a film with a social message must be serious, then Big B's collaboration with Nitesh Tiwari proved us wrong with Bhoothnath Returns. In this film Big B starred as an affable ghost Bhoothnath, competing against a local goon MLA in the elections. The film talked about the importance of voting, more so, voting responsibly. Its release coincided with the 2014 General Elections in India.
Mr Bachchan's latest film Pink comes at a time when the dialogue on crimes against women reached its pinnacle. When the newspapers are filled with stories of rape, molestation, acid attack and other crimes again women, comes Big B's Pink. In the film Mr Bachchan features as a lawyer defending three women (Taapsee Pannu, Kriti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang) from an assault charged pressed upon by their molester, played by Angad Bedi. With hard-hitting dialogues and to-the-point messages, the film aimed to dispel regressive thoughts and oblique reasoning which defended the perpetuator rather than the victim.
Amitabh Bachchan also made us smile with a slice-of-life drama Piku, in which he played a hypochondriac father to Deepika Padukone. He was erratic, unreasonable, stubborn and often embarrassing, but eventually he was dear baba. We loved him so much.
Amitabh Bachchan, now 74, has no plans to slow down or stop. One of his upcoming films is Thugs of Hindostan with Aamir Khan. The film is produced by Yash Raj Films. He has also been roped in for an important role in Ayan Mukerji's superhero film, tentatively titled Dragon, which stars Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.