Brief encounters with Mrs Teji Bachchan

Print this pageSend by EmailSave as PDF
Mohan Siroya at Ankur Seminar with Teji Bachchan

In 1971, I was the president of “Ankur” -- The Bombay Youth Cultural Association. A seminar on the then burning topic “Present New Wave Films and the National Cinema” was planned, for which I was in search of an eminent learned personality capable of being the Chief Guest and moderator. The seminar was to have celebrity participation by the likes of film makers Mani Kaul, Basu Chatterjee, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ramanand Sagar, ex-FTII Principal Jagat Murari, film historian - journalist Firoze Rangoonwalla, “Star & Style” editor Ms. Gulshan Ewing and actor Jairaj.

Arvind Kumar, the then editor of “Madhuri” suggested the name of Mrs. Teji Bachchan, an author and a social activist besides being the wife of poet littérateur Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan and the mother of the most promising actor Amitabh Bachchan (Fresh from “Anand”). She was also the director of the then Film Finance Corporation. As then unknown freelance film journalist and critic, I was a little apprehensive to approach her directly so I sought the help of Arvind Kumar.

He was good enough to fix an appointment with her at her home, the Presidency Society at Juhu. In awe of her celebrity status, charming persona, and sophistication, I was timid and reserved when I first met her. However, to her credit, she put me at ease and discussed all details about the organization and seminar. After hearing me, she was sport enough to accept to be the Chief Guest and moderator. She even denied our help to pick her up from her residence to IMC Hall, Churchgate.

Before leaving her home I asked her about Amitabh Bachchan and expressed desire to meet him if he was there. She readily consented and took me to his room. I saw him sleeping diagonally on the bed. I told her not to wake him up but enquired about the unusual sleeping posture which I found rather intriguing and late hour since it was 11 a.m. Instead of taking umbrage, she patiently explained that he had had a late night shoot. As for the posture, since the length of the bed was less than his height, he had to sleep diagonally.

In the seminar, as the president of “Ankur”, it was my privilege to introduce and welcome. While doing so, I deliberately emphasized on her two popular and celebrity connections while introducing her viz; the wife of award winning celebrity litterateur and poet Prof. Dr Harivanshrai Bachchan and the mother of the then sensational promising actor Amitabh Bachchan. While delivering her address Mrs. Bachchan characteristically chastised me in her own subtle way “So, Ladies and gentlemen, just now you heard that I am known as the wife of some big celebrity and the mother of up-coming sensational actor, my existence is thus limited to these two icons, my own individuality is nil”. The audience enjoyed her satire and I learnt a good lesson. Thereafter, she not only conducted the seminar deliberations with an élan and professional touch sprinkled with intermittent humour, but also assured her willingness to continue to participate in future such endeavors of “Ankur”. Needless to mention that, she made the thumping success of the seminar, details of which were flashed not only in the main daily news papers but in other periodicals as well.

After a few days thereafter, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from her that there is a special screening of FFC financed Girish Vaidya’s new film “Aakrant” at the Famous Studio, Mahalaxmi and the discussion thereafter. When I said yes, she graciously offered me a lift in her car from Mithibai college as it was the middle point between our residences. After the screening, I was amazed to see how deftly and analytically she initiated the discussion on the film. Girish Vaidya had a hard time to reply to the subtle points about film’s scripting or directorial treatment. Then I realized that she herself was one of the finest film critics. I learnt a lot from her pointed observations about appreciation of a film. That broke the ice and our way back, we discussed a lot about many other films, both Indian and foreign that had stepped off the beaten track.

Thereafter, we were not in touch except for a couple of routine calls from my side. One fine morning I was overwhelmed with joy to receive a tinkle from her. She asked “Mohan, are you still active in film journalism?” When I confirmed in the affirmative, she invited me for a cup of tea. I was more than elated but also wondering what was in store. As usual she was calm, amiable and kept me at ease. We discussed many aspects of films, developing good film culture including bringing in cine artistes to the new wave /parallel films. When I casually asked, how is Dr. Bachchan and Amitabh’s career, she was candid. “Dr. saab is fine. Most of the times he is in Delhi going great guns, but I am now worried about Amitabh. Have you not noticed how the media is terming him a failure as an actor after he received all round accolades for his performance in “Anand?” “Yes, I have”. Mrs. Bachchan continued, “No doubt that after “Anand” his other released films like “Lambe Haath”, “Parwana”, “Bansi Aur Birju” “Raaste Ka Paththar” could not make any money at the box office, but then can this be called Amit’s failure as an actor? He is the same talent which was electrifying in “Anand”. Those films were badly made and that was his misfortune. But commercial producers are no longer approaching him”. I suggested, why shouldn't he accept, non-commercial films then? “Well low budget, new wave producers have also not approached him. Perhaps they are afraid that he will demand his commercial rate and or may not like to work. Please let them know thru’ the media that he is ready to accept low budget films on their terms provided the role is good and capable of harnessing his talents. This bad phase has demoralized him and he is depressed. He appears to be losing his confidence. At the moment he is having only one film in his hand “Zanjeer” which is out and out action film. I am indeed worried about his future.” said the anxious mother. We parted on that note.

But the destiny had something different in mind--Amitabh Bachchan was to become a legend, no less. The sole film “Zanjeer” on which his future hinged, proved to be a landmark and super hit, which also earned him the popular media title of “Angry Young Man” and paved way for his super stardom. Rest is history.

The Last Encounter

In the wake of stupendous success of “Zanjeer” and his award winning performance, Amitabh- Jaya( Bhaduri romance was the talk of the town. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee film “Abhimaan” there was a reel marriage sequence for Amitabh and Jaya which had also become the real life marriage for them on “Abhimaan” sets. Both families (Bachchan and Bhaduri) wanted to keep it a secret and a private, family affair. The event was without any publicity, media glare or invitees as they wanted to keep it a secret. Still the news leaked and media splashed it. Being inquisitive about myself, I succeeded in getting Mrs. Bachchan on phone, just to confirm if it was true. She said “Yes. We wanted to keep it a secret and a private affair. That’s why we did not invite anyone except family members. But still the secrecy could not be maintained. When my friend Indira (The late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) phoned, I felt sorry that the secret was out. She consoled me saying “Teji, don’t get upset by this media leak. Yours was a private and personal affair, but here at Government level, even the State secrets get leaked.”

That was the last I heard from Teji Bachchan. A great, noble soul, Teji Bachchan, at my mind will always remain a legendary figure. May God rest her soul in eternal peace.

Written by: 

Mohan Siroya


Add new comment

Email is kept private and will not be shown publicly. Leaving this field blank may lead to disapproval of comment, if you are not a regular commenter.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <ul> <ol> <li>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

Like - Share



Enter your e-mail address below.
Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.