Notes on a Star’s Life: Ashok Manwani's Tribute to Amitabh Bachchan
Image and Narrative contributed by Ashok Manwani, New Delhi
To be a fan of someone is to love with admiration from afar. One star and thousands of fans- such relationships are unequally balanced. Likewise, Amitabh Bachchan, the mega star of Bollywood who has reigned over the industry and peoples’ heart for decades also has a huge fan following. One such adoring fan of Amitabh Bachchan is Ashok Manwani who shared his fan story with us at Cinemaazi. The team has tried to put down his story in our words.
Mr Manwani has two interests - collecting rare currency notes and his fascination with Amitabh Bachchan. He started with collecting defective notes. He followed it by collecting special notes with digit ending with the 786 sequence. Day by day his collection continued to grow. One fine day something in the notes caught his eye. He noticed the six digits printed on the notes resemble the date format DD-MM-YY. This gave him an ingenious idea. He started matching all the significant dates of Amitabh Bachchan’s life with the notes with those specific dates on it.
He has collected 241 notes dedicated to Bachchan, out of which he has covered the release dates of 206 of his films, including special appearances, voice narration and some regional films. The rest of the notes depict the birth dates, anniversary dates of him and his family members. Beautifully leather bound with Mr Bachchan’s face etched on the cover, the album holds unforgettable dialogues, lyrics, quotes from his films and life on incredibly rare notes. Mr. Manwani’s collection has been acknowledged by many agencies.
Small challenges like cross checking the dates to match it with the digits on the notes took time. Much time and effort later, he created a makeshift album of notes with the six digits resembling memorable dates for Bachchan, like his parent’s birthdate.
There were many obstacles in this unusual yet endearing relationship with Mr Bachchan, but Mr Manwani pursued it nevertheless. His family took time to understand this quirky interest, as it had financial consequences. There was also the matter of the immense time and effort he had to put in to cross check each date and verify its authenticity. He compiled a makeshift spiral- bound album and went as an audience to KBC, a quiz show hosted by Amitabh Bachchan every season.
After the long shoot of almost four hours, Amitabh Bachchan made his way to take pictures with the audience in a group of 10-15 at a time. Under strict instructions from the stage director, Mr. Manwani had just 10 seconds in hand to charm his idol. He sat with his finger bookmarking the page with Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s birthdate printed along with a poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He waited for his turn. When the moment came, he stood there blank, soaking in the divinity of the man he had hitherto admired from afar. At that moment, the reason for his visit and album left his mind. Mr Bachchan took the album and started flipping through the pages. Realising the urgency of the time, his wife nudged him and Mr Manwani finally started speaking. Mr Bachchan found it hard to believe that he would be able to collect a Re1 note for all the important dates in his life. Mr. Manwani took him by surprise when he confided that the collection of notes was already done. It will take him sometime to compile the images required for the complete album. Mr Bachchan introduced him to his makeup man and asked him to contact him if he needed any help. Later in a coffee shop Mr Manwani realized that in the awestruck moment, he had skipped many talking points with Mr. Bachchan.
Mr. Bachchan was also very impressed and taken by the album. He even spent 2 minutes of his time after a 4 hour tiring shoot, something which does not happen often. Mr. Manwani feels humbled for such attention from the star. Mr. Manwani also bonded with another fan and joined ABEF formally. (Amitabh Bachchan’s Extended Family).
He got the opportunity to meet his idol again, when he completed it and took it to Mr Bachchan. Mr Bachchan kept the album for three days. It’s remarkable the way the star also gives back to his loved ones in ways other than the regular Sunday darshan at 6pm outside his Juhu residence. Mr Manwani has been also at the receiving end of his graciousness. Mr Bachchan advised Mr Manwani himself to not gift the album to him and instead continue displaying it in exhibitions as he has done in the past. Mr. Bachchan also gave him 12 autographs, which could be used in replication of the similar album.
Mr Manwani also shared about the time the ABEF members from all over India met and stayed in a hotel. All the members have contributed to the fandom and paid tribute to the star in their own capacity, some doing shows as his duplicate, some writing poems for Mr Bachchan that was acknowledged by the star on stage, while Mr. Manwani collects these 1 in 10 lakh notes paying tribute to Mr Bachchan’s life.
Such remarkable devotion which is quite personal and yet shared with thousands of people is the story of Mr Manwani. Soon after moving to Delhi from Udaipur, Mr. Bachchan’s Deewar gave him the motivation that has led him to much success in life. His dedication resulted in his heartwarming conversation with his idol, a distant dream for most people. We, at Cinemaazi, are thankful for this fan’s story of meeting Big B.