It is interesting to know that Amitabh Bachchan, 75 today, has worked with six generations of heroines as romantic co-stars. His senior-most heroine, Nutan, started out as a leading lady in 1951, a year in which Amitabh was merely 9 years old! His youngest ‘romantic’ star heroine, Rani Mukerji, who shared a kiss with him in Black (in a transient moment of temptation), was born in 1978, when Amitabh was already nine years into films! And after that, the mega-star (as a photographer with a crush on his daughter’s friend) romanced Jiah Khan a decade back in Nishabd, a girl who was less than 20 in reel and real life!
The ‘50s heroines who worked with Amitabh included Mala Sinha in Sanjog, making him the youngest hero to work with that actress, as was the case with Nutan!
And there was also another illustrious name added here for whom, too, he ended up as her youngest leading man—Waheeda Rehman! By leagues Amitabh Bachchan’s most-repeated and loved heroines from the senior lot, she had no compunction about playing his mother again and again, and playing his sweetheart too. In fact, she was both wife and mother to him when Amitabh did more than one role as father and son in both Adalat and Mahaan, besides playing his wife in Kabhi Kabhie and Delhi-6! However, except for in Kabhi Kabhie, they were cast together only in older roles.
That apart, Amitabh Bachchan, even if in his early struggling days, worked with supporting artistes who were heroines in his films, like Aruna Irani in Bombay To Goa (a hit) and Sanjog (a flop) in 1972 and Padma Khanna, known best as a vamp, in Saudagar (1973).
Later, Bindu (Abhimaan in 1973) and Helen (Imaan Dharam in 1977 and Don the following year) were also his romantic interests on screen. Beginning with his debut in 1969, Saat Hindustani , in which his co-star was Jalal Agha’s sister Shahnaz, he also worked with lesser-known actresses like Ranjeeta (Satte Pe Satta), Kumud Chhugani (in a small part of Bandhe Hath) and Bengal’s Sumita Sanyal, who had caught Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s attention in Hindi films, in Amitabh’s first hit Anand.
He almost co-starred with Padmini Kolhapure in a couple of films like Rakesh Kumar’s Charlie and in Professor Ki Padosan (in which he ended up in a cameo).Leena Chandavarkar was also offered Ganga Ki Saugandh in the phase when she had decided to go off films.
And the only total newcomer who made her debut with him besides Jiah was the one-film wonder Nita Khiani in Raaste Kaa Patthar, the 1972 rehash of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.
As a character/mature artiste, Amitabh Bachchan seemed to prefer, first Hema Malini, and then Sharmila Tagore. Both heroines had started out in the 1960s, but worked with him to different extents in the 1970s. Hema was his sister in their first film together, Gehri Chaal, before doing many films including Kasauti, Naseeb, Desh Premee, Satte Pe Satta and Nastik. Sharmila was first cast opposite Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke before working with Amitabh in Faraar, Besharam and Desh Premee. It was Sharmila who did those small roles in Virrudh (an AB Corp film) and Eklavya.
In this phase, Amitabh worked with Hema Malini in his masala caper home production Bbuddha Hogga Tera Baap as well as in the serious Baghban, Baabul and Veer-Zaara. According to the buzz, Amitabh was even offered her own film Tell Me O Kkhuda.
However, in most cases, Amitabh Bachchan had to do with other one-time heroines in character roles like Revathy (Dil Jo Bhi Kahey, Nishabd), Nafisa Ali Sodhi (Major Saab) and Supriya Pathak (the Sarkar franchise). The most anonymous among his reel co-stars was arguably Padmavati Rao in last year’s TE3N.
From the 1960s heroines, Amitabh also had Mumtaz (Bandhe Hath), Saira Banu (Zameer, Hera Pheri) and Tanuja (Pyar Ki Kahani). Of these, Tanuja went on to play his wife in a small role in the 2004 Milan Luthria film, Deewaar—Let’s Bring Our Heroes Home, wherein Amitabh was an Indian soldier trapped in Pakistan.
Popular polls and views may state that Rekha was his best co-star among his peak-time heroines, but it was Raakhee who had a far better success record—so many of their films were blockbusters, beginning with Kabhi Kabhie and moving on to three of the top four hits of 1978—Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Trishul and Kasme Vaade. Also successful were Jurmana and Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, which was Amitabh’s Bengali debut as Anusandhan. Raakhee also co-starred with him as his mother in films like Laawaris and Shakti, his sister-in-law in Shaan and in 2011, was back to be his wife in Ek Rishtaa, a moderate success.
Of course, Amitabh Bachchan’s widest professional associations were in the 1970s, and the list spanned from obvious other favourites like wife Jaya Bachchan, who willingly co-starred with him as a top star from the time he was struggling, to Zeenat Aman (we feel this on-screen jodi looked the best as Zeenat almost matched his height, his complexion and those passionate eyes!) and Parveen Babi. Their hits and super-hits with him are too well-known to need documentation here.
But among the peppiest combinations of Amitabh on screen was his romantic team-up with his Kabhi Kabhie daughter Neetu Singh, who was his frisky and feisty heroine in Parvarish, Adalat, The Great Gambler and Yaarana.
His rarer heroines from this decade were Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Moushumi Chaterjee, Yogeeta Bali and three actresses who made their real mark only in the 1980s—Dimple Kapadia, Sridevi and Jaya Prada. A jinxed combo in a different sense here was his working with Reena Roy twice, but without any romantic interest!
The 1980s saw Amitabh romancing many heroines, and it was Jaya Prada who took the clear lead with quite a few films, from which the successes or hits were Sharaabi, Aakhree Raasta, Indrajeet and Aaj Ka Arjun. Their last romantic union was in Khakee (2004), in which she played his wife in a cameo. However, partly due to her status vis-à-vis the other actresses, it is Amitabh’s combination with Sridevi in the flop Inquilab and the modest Aakhree Raasta and Khuda Gawah that are better recalled.
As for Dimple Kapadia, she falls in the category of his other co-stars Amrita Singh, Meenakshi Seshadri and Madhavi as someone who also worked with him. Here, it is Kimi Katkar who is remembered, more because of the iconic ‘Jumma chumma’ song than anything else in the 1991 hit Hum. But it was Rati Agnihotri who also deserved equal attention—after the 1983 blockbuster that almost took Amitabh’s life—Coolie—she gave prominent performances in her cameo in Kaante and in a mature role as his wife again in Dev.
And so we come to the less than handful of ‘90s heroines who got to serenade Amitabh, a 1969 entrant, in our cinema. Apart from Rani mentioned earlier, there are only three names here—Raveena Tandon (Aks, with a hint of romance from her side in Bbuddah Hoga…) and Manisha Koirala and Shilpa Shetty (Laal Badshah). But we dare say that there was more chemistry in that single passionate scene with Rani Mukerji in Black than in Amitabh’s reel interactions with the entire roster of his youngest heroines!