Why was Big B in Kolkata?


Being rejected from everywhere else, his last hope was the city of joy hoping some bit of joy in his pocket too!

Mr. Bachchan’s first travel to Kolkata was by train. Arriving at Howrah, the cab way attracted him a lot for no other Indian Railway has this service even now.

But he was often paused with a question, “After you passed out of a boarding school and a well known College in Delhi University, how come it was difficult for you to get a job”? Amitabh has always candidly answered to the question, “Well, there were a lot of rejections. Everywhere I went, I failed to get a job.     I was either not qualified enough or I was too shy, or I was too tongue-tied during my interviews and they were more qualified people, who got the jobs. Totally frustrated & then finally, I just packed my bags and left for Calcutta.”

“The work places – the office, the learning of executive kind, postings to the Coal mines for training, shipping and freight broking … Bird Heilgers, Blacker and Co, Mackinnon Mackenzie, Shaw Wallace, Andrew Yule and so many others … the executives often being referred to later as ‘box walas’ … I could never figure that one out …” he had once blogged.

According to him, his first work experience mentions the name ‘Bird and Co’ in Kolkata, that  had paper mills and coal mines  and his salary used to be INR 500 per month which came up to INR460 in hand. His Colleagues says that Amitabh used to work at the Bird and Company’s head office in Calcutta at, 4 Netaji Subhas Road, just behind the iconic Writers’ Building.



Even after Kolkata, then Calcutta being under the British Raj rule, the business industry was under the Scottish rule.

‘Shaw Wallace’, a name we are familiar with even today has been one such company. The landmarked building, named ‘Wallace House’, located at 4, Bankshall Street, still exists. The company was founded in the year 1886 in imperial Calcutta, by Robert Gordon Shaw and Charles William Wallace.

Shaw Wallace was the fountainhead of Kolkata’s as well as India’s premium liquor producer. Today it is the headquarters of the Mallya run UB group, in the Eastern region.

It is heard that, Bachchan has been a very friendly person and maintained a large number of friends and never complained or quarreled about anyone or anything.

Amitabh always stayed in sharing accommodations along with his friends. Vijay Singh, one of his close colleague and friend said, Bachchan never gave any hint of his extraordinary talent working days

Amitabh had his sharing accommodation in ‘Clacton Apartments’ on Little Russel Street with several other executives. Though his room had been small but had an attached toilet which was INR350 per month.

He once quoted in his blog: “But there, the meager salary and how we survived with just that, 480 rupees a month! 350 rupees a month gone for bed and lodging, food separate, eating the pani puri or the puchka at Victoria Memorial. 2 rupees would fill the stomach that’s it and done for the entire day … looking forward to the free office lunch the next morning!”

 Do you know who introduced him to the world where he is the icon today?

If you are thinking it to be Satyajit Ray, then you are wrong. It was the other internationally acclaimed Director, Mrinal Sen, who introduced Bachchan into the film world, but not as an actor!

In the year 1968, Mrinal Sen noticed Bachchan’s remarkable voice, during an audition session and selected him for just a two-minute’s voice-over in his film, ‘Bhuvan Shome’. Sen and paid Bachchan a fair sum of Rs 300 , for that voice job!


 Bachchan’s plays were rehearsed & staged in Vidya Mandir, an Auditorium on Moira Street, bordering Chowringhee and Bhowanipur and it turned out to be his favorite haunt.

During the sixties, it was only “The Statesman” that used to publish theater reviews which reviewed acclaimed almost everyone’s performance leaving out Amitah Bachchan’s.

According to Bhimani: The newspaper even criticized what he  narrated, Bachchan’s ‘awkward movement’ and peculiar accent and observed that he was not at all promising as an actor!

He wrote in his Blog: “Life has a peculiar way of its cycling … it can peddle you out of it and peddle you back.

The very streets that I would walk about as a non-entity, nondescript, non plush, seeking and searching wading through the flood waters of the monsoons, for a suitable job, today I ride my bicycle for PIKU”.


Did you know?

  • Amitabh smoked his first cigarette in Calcutta
  • Tasted his first alcohol for the first time in one of the Park Street Bars in Calcutta, and made his first entry into any dance bar also in Kolkata.
  • It was the back side of Calcutta’s Victoria Memorial, where he has his first photo shoot, as an aspiring actor, which was assiduously shot by his brother Ajitabh, who was then staying with him.