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Amitabh Bachchan: Much ado about nothing

Soutik Biswas | 14:15 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Amitabh Bachchan

India's biggest superstar Amitabh Bachchan has set off a curious kerfuffle with his recent comments on the upcoming metro railway in Mumbai, where he lives. He has written in his popular blog that the elevated railway line would run close to his house in the upmarket neighbourhood of Juhu where he lives. This, he believes, would mean the end of his privacy.


A number of people appear to have taken umbrage to Mr Bachchan's seemingly innocuous comments. A senior minister said the government had to think in the public interest in matters related to the development of the city. Another politician and a former friend of Mr Bachchan echoed these sentiments. Some respondents have been downright trenchant. "I have a solution for you sir," tweeted a fan. "Throw away your cars and try to travel in local trains."

It all appears to be much ado about nothing. Here is what Mr Bachchan actually wrote in his blog:

There is general happiness from the commuters, for, the misery of crowded locals and the uncertainties of the three wheeler or the yellow black cab shall hopefully be greatly reduced. But here is the killer ..its going to roll over Prateeksha [the actor's house]!! Yesterday the authorities came over to check externally the structural condition of all houses that would get affected by the rail car moving in its proximity and they came into Prateeksha. So bye bye privacy and hello fellow traveller.

Nowhere does he really rant against the railway. And doesn't he have the right to express his concern about his privacy in a movie-mad country where he is revered by millions of fans?

Many would say that Mr Bachchan may have inadvertently raised a key issue: Indians are almost never consulted on the building of infrastructure with a direct bearing on their lives. There is also the impression that the state tries to short-change its citizens - by buying land cheaply from farmers to build expressways and special economic zones or sell it to real estate developers.

At the same time, there is little evidence to show that Indian authorities have bent infrastructure building policy in cities to cater to the whims of celebrities. Many years ago, India's best known singer, Lata Mangeshkar, publicly protested against plans to build a flyover near her Mumbai home. I am told that her objections were overruled, but construction has been delayed due to some design tweaks.

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  • 1. At 2:43pm on 01 Sep 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    Absolutely agree. There is no reason for people to get paranoid and think that Mr Bachchan will come in the way of the Mumbai metro project!!

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  • 2. At 3:04pm on 01 Sep 2010, dick wrote:

    Mr.Bachchan is not only the greatest actor of Bollywood but a perfect Gentleman with required benevolence. We all know James Cloony went to Darfoor,Carters flies all around the world, there is " Not A Problem" this matured celebrity goes out and reaches people for different projects.Well done Mr.Bachchan. I just wonder why this Mr.Bhiswas is full of so much biases.

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  • 3. At 3:15pm on 01 Sep 2010, Pras_n_Srini wrote:

    Typical celebrity arrogance--especially when it comes from an artificially-extended has-been like Bachhan!

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  • 4. At 3:39pm on 01 Sep 2010, chandu wrote:

    It seems to be a great problem with the Internet - this distortion of facts. Many just echo what they can latch on to based on their point of view. Or is it that English is a second language to us Indians, so open to misinterpretation?

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  • 5. At 6:43pm on 01 Sep 2010, Najam wrote:

    Amitabh Bachhan's comments as owner of the house going to be rolled-over are but natural which are expressed in very serene and articulate manners. I do not see any thing offending to any one. The attachment of any dweller with his/her dwelling is netted with deep memories. Whatever feelings he has exhausted in such decent and artisticly composed words should be admired instead of passing sarcastic comments.

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  • 6. At 9:55pm on 01 Sep 2010, Essar wrote:

    Soutik Biswas had two major points in his short article. One is that as a citizen of a democratic country Amitabh Bachchan has a right to express his sentiments and two, the fact that Indian authorities never bother to get feedback of affected citizens before they build (or perhaps dismantle) anything. Why then are those sarcastic comments? As someone noted, is it that English is not understood well enough?

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  • 7. At 00:21am on 02 Sep 2010, kalpesh wrote:

    Mr Biswas...please ask yourself if you would not be worried if a railwayline was to built close to where you live. I would think everyone in their right mind would protest against it been so close to their home. Are you just insecure that you have to attack a man who happens to be a superstar when you yourself would contest such a move.

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  • 8. At 05:33am on 02 Sep 2010, aauckb wrote:

    With all the money he acquired over years Mr. Batchan could easily move to another place if he is dissatisfied.

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  • 9. At 05:34am on 02 Sep 2010, jaytirth wrote:

    India has a huge population and almost every public project ends up forcibly acquiring land from the people. The farmers are losing land for nuclear reactors, the tribal for mining projects. I guess, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is lucky to lose just his privacy.

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  • 10. At 05:59am on 02 Sep 2010, Prakash Kashwan wrote:

    I think jaytirth has hit the nail. Mr. Bachhan and his gentlemanly dissent would have been far more valuable if it was raised when the Mumbai slum dwellers were being rendered homeless in the middle of full monsoons! And, Soutik, too should have raised these important points about "citizens" not being consulted when not one celebrity but millions of adivasis were being displaced for development projects, mining, and what not!!

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  • 11. At 06:52am on 02 Sep 2010, onscreen wrote:

    This is what media has made us or we have made ourselves we cannot read and interpret for ourselves and understand a well written comment.
    Kudos to Mr. Biswas and Mr. Bachchan on commenting and raising issues that affect all of us. Privacy is something we all need to learn and respect along with good clean public transport.

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  • 12. At 09:56am on 02 Sep 2010, strummming wrote:

    @Pras_n_Srini: an artificially-extended has-been like Bachhan!


    What a magnificent show of character. Is that your view of those who came before us and left a mark? Those like your/our parents for example?

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  • 13. At 09:59am on 02 Sep 2010, strummming wrote:

    @kalpesh

    what part of the article did you not get to be able to understand that biswas was not mud-slinging at bachchan?

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  • 14. At 12:59pm on 02 Sep 2010, Ranj wrote:

    what i dont understand is is Mr B was just an ordinery person would we still have issue with him rasing a point which effect his family hom and his family ????

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  • 15. At 2:16pm on 02 Sep 2010, tridiv wrote:

    A non-issue really. Which makes me wonder about Mr. Biswas' choice of subjects for his blogs. After all you he is the south Asia correspondent and all. Apart from the fact that his blogs are painfully far and few between, i would have hoped that he would have a wealth of issues to write about- contemporary development issues, economy etc. It is the wrong place to look for reasonable debate on issues that actually concerns the people. I hate to say it but very poor choice of themes over the last few blogs.

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  • 16. At 5:00pm on 02 Sep 2010, saps_India wrote:

    One, I am not sure why I read this article. Or rather why is it even here under "Expert View"? Is it the only thing Soutik Biswas can blog about India? Surely there are many other more important things happening in India right now!!! Why give coverage to something and make it and issue while it can be a non-issue?

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  • 17. At 10:22pm on 02 Sep 2010, yesraj wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 18. At 10:54pm on 02 Sep 2010, Jagdish wrote:

    With over a billion people nothing will get built if every one is to be consulted. However, some public hearings where Mr. Bachan can vent his frustration might be nice.

    Also, Indian agriculture is a disgrace to humanity mainly because each "farm" is a few square feet in size, with no possibility of increasing output. If the miniscule unproductive farms can be used for public purpose (with adequate compensation) what's wrong with it? There are counties in the US which produce as much rice as many states in India. And rice is a staple of most Indians?

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  • 19. At 07:19am on 03 Sep 2010, Sukhvir Singh wrote:

    This is in response to the comments by Jagdish. Here we are talking just about amitabh bachchan's blog and he has diverted ignorantly to the land
    acquisition part. for the sake of rebutting him, its not the unproductive farms which the goverment wants to acquire. Everywhere we see the lush green fertile farmlands being run after. Let these projects be constructed on barren lands if they are so important that these people cant do without them. Agriculture is not about compensation. Agriculture is someting that he and his ilk wont even understand. And lastly, if rice and wheat are not the staple diet of Indians, then is the staple diet of the Indians the burgers, kentucky fried chicken, pastas, pizzas ?????

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  • 20. At 08:27am on 03 Sep 2010, bbcmani wrote:

    Biwas for god's sake, there are more pressing issues in india to deal with than some metro train that runs pass some low life actor's house. One example is his involement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. As you are working for the BBC, i believe its in everyone's interest to highlight failure in India's justice system as they like kissing up to big actors. For a big star doing a publicity stunt by going to Golden Temple does not pay dividends or compensation in anyway what so ever for his involvement in 1984 riots. why don't you use your journalist skills for a far better cause for people of India than for this type of pointless article? For Amita here is a message - stop bickering and just move house!! there are more people in India who live far worse off than you!

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  • 21. At 10:10am on 03 Sep 2010, Jeet wrote:

    Soutik Biswas, It would be great if you write about "life returned to normal in the Kashmir Valley"

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  • 22. At 12:04pm on 03 Sep 2010, skgala wrote:

    The key question it raises is the way planning is done in India. In all major cities, infrastructure (Road, Train) are built first, houses are built after that. In mumbai, Metro is being built in the areas where houses were built first. The lack of planning or infrastructure has resulted in highest density of 30,000+ population per sq km. This is highest in world !!! India has lot of land, why such large population has to live in small area. When such craziness is done, Privacy will of course that last priority.

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  • 23. At 1:34pm on 03 Sep 2010, Yash wrote:

    this is a response to "bbcmani": it seems that Mr Biswas is trying hard to see India from westerners perspective by thinking that one fine day BBC might sponsor him a work permit to work in UK.

    I started following Mr Biswas blog since last year and found really pathetic. Being away from India for 8 years I feel like i know better than Mr Biswas about the current situations in India and what could be a really good topic to pick on the BBC platform. I know at some places even BBC is biased but then also i feel that they have a better transparency then any media in USA.

    Mr Biswas have you been to Mumbai? Have you travelled by Local train in Mumbai? You dont know but Mumbai local train is divided vertically i.e. Western Line (Virar to Church Gate) and Central line (Mumbai CST to Khopoli and Kasara accordingly). Much later came Harbour line to cross in between for commuters sake. Now they are trying to achieve a line where traveller does not have to travel up to 20 to 50 kilometers by train just to reach the connected line and then travel another 20 to 50 kilometers on second line. Because of only 3 lines, commuting is a nightmare in Mumbai now. Ask mr amitabh if he has ever gone for a shooting in local train. I bet if he goes he will straight away break his house and ask govt to build metro quicker.

    Please do some research before even thinking about the topic.

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  • 24. At 3:10pm on 03 Sep 2010, Vikram Rao wrote:

    I dont see the harm in Mr Bachan airing his concern, it is a good one, specially if you have enjoyed peace and quiet in your home, he isnt against it, he just lamented on the close proximity of his house with the metro, nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time, complaining about something or the other, does not make me arrogant, or spoilt, just makes me human, I do not see how this issue made it so far in the first place.

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  • 25. At 8:30pm on 03 Sep 2010, Loknath Chugh wrote:

    Surprised! Why he doesn't know and no one else knows. If some one is actor or actress, he or she looses his/her privacy, the day become public figure. But it doesn't mean that the actor is always actor and can't be 24 into seven days actor. Some moment of rest is the right of every one. But the word privacy creates here some confusion because actor becomes actor only and after loosing privacy. So it may be 'U' or 'O' turn so don't be panic this type of moment come suddenly by too much breathing out acting by this way or that way. But most important thing is here to every one must respect public interest and never think like a Badshah king or something else. Every one is born actor and born naked and the actor when the acting of other character then this question doesn't come into. The privacy has never been enjoyed by living humane being and it is only enjoyed by the animals.

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  • 26. At 11:07pm on 03 Sep 2010, 04fabulous wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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