Recipient of the Old Sherwoodians' Millennium
Award for Outstanding Achievement conferred
during the Reunion on 14.10.2000.
was Marsh (a friend) who put the idea of
going to a boarding - school in my head. So
when my father decided to take up a new
assignment in Delhi, Bunty and I went to
Sherwood College, Nainital.
caused a few problems initially. I used to be
very good at studies earlier, till the sixth
standard, when I'd be among the first three.
But at Sherwood, I suddenly found the going
tough. Maybe because the standards were
higher. It was a difficult phase. I tried to
make up by excelling in sports. I was good at
athletics - 100, 200, 400 metres and broad
jump. The first time I went into the boxing
ring, I won a cup. Bunty was very good at
sports, too. We won innumerable cups...
Dad was at Cambridge, we got ourselves
photographed with all our cups and sent our
pictures to him. When I won the boxing
championship, he sent me a book on boxing
with a quote: "Good hard blows are
delights to the mind." He always
encouraged us to excel in what ever we did.
course, the school that influenced me most
was Sherwood College in Nainital. If I had to
talk about Sherwood I would write book on it!
Those three years were by far the happiest
times of my life. Or maybe one feels like
now. The feelings weren't there when I was
there - but now that I look back on it they
were marvellous days. What I am now is
largely because of Sherwood. It taught me to
be independent, fearless, loyal and truthful.
It taught me values and these, I think, have
stayed with me through life.
spirit to face life in whatever circumstances
came, I think, from the boarding discipline
at Sherwood. In fact, it's things we picked
up at boarding school that I am using even
today... And little things contributed to
this. A lot of personality traits, I think,
were formed in those impressionable days.
Boarding - school taught me self-sufficiency,
independence and how to fend for myself. Even
the more refined details like how to dress,
how to conduct oneself, how to treat a lady
were all a part and parcel of public school
grew up with my normal share of girlfriends.
The way we were brought up, it was considered
normal to mix with the opposite sex. We moved
in groups and the girls came home, just as we
went over to their houses. It was only later
in college, that we had undivided
girlfriends. But again, this was more for
reason of fashion than because we had
suddenly developed a physical attraction.
While in school, the boys' school had a
collective curiosity about the girls'
Sunday evening our sister-school came to
Sherwood to attend chapel. That used to be a
great moment for us ! All of us would rush to
occupy the rows just behind the girls, for it
became easier to pass on the 'love notes!'
That's not all. All of us would be on our
best behaviour, perform extremely well in
athletics, in boxing and on stage when the
sister school was watching. We took great
relish in rushing to meet our favourite at
the school boundary wall, if only to tell her
what we did in the Geography class that
morning. Such innocent joys yet even so
fulfilling that even today one cannot
recreate such happiness.
incident, very precious to me is of the time
I was in my second year at Sherwood. It was
the month of June and the school was
celebrating its Founder's Week, when all
the students put up all kinds of parades, P.T.,
exercises and drama and music recitals.
Parents of the children came from all over to
join the festivity. My parents were coming,
too. They had been informed that I was taking
part in the School play. The previous year I
had won the Kendal Cup (donated by Geoffrey
Kendal, Jennifer Kapoor's father) for the
best actor's award. I was hoping to win the
same award this year.
fact, everyone was quite sure that I would
most certainly do. It had never happened,
though, in the history of Sherwood. No one
student had ever won this award for two
consecutive years. But I was hoping to. The
play, an Agatha Christie, was titled
"And Then There Were None". It was
a murder mystery and I played the role of a
judge. In the afternoon, after our dress
rehearsal I suddenly started feeling dizzy.
The doctor examining me said I had measles
and confined me to a separate room. I was
heart-broken ! Here, I had worked all these
months, and now I couldn't do the play. I
felt miserable. I didn't know what to tell my
parents who were coming all the way from
Delhi, especially to see me perform and now
it was all so futile. Not only that, I would
have to sit in this lonely room, all by
myself, and suffer it since nobody was
allowed near me.
was late evening, an hour before the play, I
think. The school hospital, where I was, was
perched on top of the hill, making it
possible for one to see the main building and
also the auditorium... I sat by the hospital
window, watched the man pull up the curtains,
switch on the lights, and my heart sank...
Just then the door opened... It was my father
I don't know how he managed it, but he had
sought special permission from the Principal
to be with me during these hours. Somehow he
knew. I can't really remember all that he
said to me in those two hours, but he sat on
the bed besides me and talked... to keep my
attention diverted... so that I would not
hear the sound of the applause downstairs. It
wasn't easy for me. It disturbed me hearing
another actor speak my lines, wear my costume
and steal the show, which was rightfully
mine. But that day my father gave me the
greatest lessons of my life.
Something I have always cherished and which
has stood by me in crisis. He said
"Jeevan mein, apne man ka ho to achcha
hai, apne man ka na ho to zyada achha".
If what is happening is something you like,
fine. If not you must not worry for it is not
in your control... it is in the control of
the Almighty, and the Almighty, will never do
anything that is said to be wrong for you. He
backed up what he said with various incidents
and examples, and though at that time I was
too depressed, too full of my pain to
understand it completely... later when the
sorrow subsided, I saw the wisdom of his
words, the enormity of his message. For when
you are 20, you don't see logic, but when you
are 30, you do. And when you are 40, you
mellow and at 50, of course, you accept.
Sometimes when I look back I think of the
various accusations hurled at me... Fairfax,
Bofors, on the various political
victimizations, I wonder where I got the
strength to fight it all. But now I do. I
must have drawn my strength from all that I
picked up from my parents, my school...
Values inculcated in my childhood. And that's
what I want to pass on to my children. They
are, after all, the new generation and the
optimism must continue...
multi-million dollar industry did not happen
overnight. It was a long, hard grind to the
top, and it didn't help when everybody told
him that he had made a foolhardy move to give
up the promising and secure would of an
executive for the rough and tumble of
filmdom. He was bound to fail, they
The rejections and humiliations were there,
but Amitabh kept at it. The spirit to endure,
to preserve, admirable qualities that inspire
greater reverence than the reputation, which
he has built.
set trends. In an industry where punctuality
was a word found only in the dictionary,
where every top star underlined his status by
arriving late, he was always on time, often
the first to arrive. He doesn't wear flashy
jewellery and fancy clothes that scream for
attention; he does not arrive with a coterie
of hangers - on in tow; nor does he demand
that the script be changed to suit him.
Amitabh is a complete professional.
of the poor in his constituency, he speaks
with a conviction and sincerity that belies
his critics' accusations that his expression
of sentiment is fake. He talks of hope, the
faith in the eyes of those who have nothing
and their appreciation even when he does not
have anything to offer. "They believe me
so readily, when I say that I can't change
everything". He goes on, "They say,
'Never mind, at least you have come to see
ON HIS ACCIDENT
whole incident has made me aware of two
things: 'Firstly, it has reiterated my faith
in the unknown. We are a religious family; we
have our 'pujas' and our own little temple.
My faith has been strengthened. When you look
at the technical records, there is no other
logical reason for my recovery. Secondly, I
have acquired a tremendous respect for the
HIS PERSONAL HABITS
I do not smoke, drink or eat meat. It is not
anything religious, but simply a matter of
taste. In our family, my father is a
vegetarian while my mother is not. Similarly,
Jaya eats meat and I do not. I used to eat
meat - in fact, I used to drink and smoke as
well, but now I have given them up. In
Calcutta I smoked 200 cigarettes a day - yes,
that's right, 200, but then I gave it up
after coming to Bombay. I used to drink, too
- anything, we'd drink anything we could get
our hands on, but a few years ago I decided
that I really did not need it. My habits do
not cause me any trouble except when I am
shooting abroad. Then it gets difficult to
get vegetarian food abroad. But now, there
are Indian restaurants nearly everywhere,
even in Amsterdam. We were shooting 'The
Great Gambler' and I discovered, to my
surprise, that there were lots of Indians in
filmland, where petty jealousies and
rivalries mark human inter-action, Amitabh
Bachchan stands tall. There is a modesty, a
generosity of spirit, 'and easy mellowness',
as one writer put it, in the expression of
his appreciation of another's acting
will history remember Amitabh Bachchan? Vir
Sanghvi says, "He will be remembered as
a star who broke all the rules; as the
executive who made the inexplicable decision
to pack it all and become an actor. As the
first super-star who was not good-looking and
proved that it did not matter.
Sanghvi described him as 'the only star whose
ego did not carry him away. He remained
careful never to seem starry or overbearing.'
Who came out of nowhere and punched their way
into the big time; as the only actor who was
able to tell the press to go to hell and
still laugh all the way to the bank; and as
the only superstar who lasted so long,
unchallenged at the top'.
I saw in Amit was a lot of strength, which
was lacking in me. Strength, not the sense of
muscle strength. He had dignity in whatever