In his career of over five decades as a Bollywood A lister, Amitabh Bachchan shared screen space with several generations of top actors, scripting some famous friendships and also some legendary rivalries. With Shatrughan Sinha, a warm friendship and years of rivalry.
Three years apart in age, Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha entered the Bombay film industry at about the same time, signing on for days of struggle before each would get stardom. Shatrughan Sinha played the villain and other supporting roles in many films and then became a lead actor. But his track record as solo lead was shaky until the big hit Kalicharan (1976) catapulted him to the list of top heroes.
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Amitabh Bachchan was already there, never looking back after his Zanjeer (1973) became a mega hit. Amitabh Bachchan’s 1975 film Sholay would get cult status. Shatrughan Sinha had turned down the role that Amitabh played.
Multi-starrers were popular in the 1970s and 80s and it was inevitable that the two top stars would work with each other. They did, starring in hits like Kaala Patthar (1979), Dostana (1980), Shaan (1980) and Naseeb (1981).
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It was on the sets of Kaala Pathar that the rivalry reportedly came to the fore. Shatrughan Sinha talked about it in his biography, Anything But Khamosh, accusing Amitabh Bachchan of being unsociable on the sets. “The problem was the applause I was getting for my performances. Amitabh could see the response I was getting. That’s why he didn’t want me in some of his films,” Sinha has said.
In 2007, Sinha took umbrage at Amitabh Bachchan not inviting him to the wedding of his son and actor Abhishek to actress Aishwarya Rai.
The Bachchan family sent a box of sweets to all those celebrities they didn’t invite for the wedding. Shatrughan Sinha returned the sweets saying, “Jab bulaayo nahin phir mithai kis baat ki? Amitabh had said those who had not been invited were not his friends in the first place. I won’t be put in second place and embarrass him by accepting the sweets,” said Sinha.
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At the launch of Sinha’s memoirs in 2016, he said about his relationship with Amitabh Bachchan, “we’re friends so we have the right to fight and differ too. It is democracy.”
Amitabh Bachchan, who was present at the launch said, “Shatrughan is younger to me, and I believe those who are younger have the right to say whatever they want to about the elders. If this relationship of friendship wouldn’t have been there then this would’ve been no give and take which is very necessary between friends…Getting upset, giving abuses, all these keep going on.”