Amitabh Bachchan was born and raised in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Bachchan has been described as “one of the most secular human beings in the Indian film industry.” But that statement does not mean what us anglophiles might think: a lack of religion. Rather it refers to his dedication to religious and social tolerance.
And in fact, Bachchan is quite spiritual, but not in a traditional way. Although most sites list his religion as Hindu, it seems as though he throws some other faiths into the mix. On his blog he described a morning in which he visited two Mosques and two Hindu temples. He went on to describe the portraits of the Sikh Guru Nanak that line the walls of the temple in his house. He then he meditated on the grand benefit of religion–all religion:
But here it is the supreme power, one that beckons without calling, dictates without telling, listens without letting us know that it hears. When you look at the edicts that they prepared for us – the Ramayan, the Geeta, the Bible, the Quran, the Granth Saheb Ji, you wonder at these feats of godliness. . . . It is the marvel of their existence, it is the marvel of their thought and belief that subjects us into awe and reverence.
And when he received a threat on his cell phone about his inclusive religious practices, Bachchan shot back an angry and defiant reply saying he “abhorred the existence of such elements in society” that would criticize religious freedom and tolerance.
Bachchan’s involvement in politics was brief and intense. He was handily elected to the Parliament in the 1980s through the Nationalist Congress Party, a center-left political party emphasizing secularism, federalism, and social justice among other things. But the political life didn’t suit him too well; he resigned after only a few years.
Many point to his alleged involvement in the Bofors Corruption Scandal, of which he was later cleared of all charges, as the reason for his resignation, but on his blog he claims it was with respect to his Bollywood devotees that he quit. After a fan told him that he was being criticized by fellow partisans for supporting the actor even though he belonged to a different political party, Bachchan decided he couldn’t continue on his political path:
I felt for 25 years I had tried to woo my audience to love me as an artist as an actor. And once I had accomplished that I was now telling them to love my politics as well. . . . It was wrong. I was wrong. . . . My reticence from politics is ruled and governed by that incident and it is the reason why I shall never ever go in that domain again.
These days Bachchan prefers to preach unity and encourage Indians to overcome divisions of race, caste, and religion. Sounds like a good plan to me.