The man who put Amitabh Bachchan on path of glory

- October 8, 2023

The Bollywood great, who celebrates his birthday on October 11, was introduced to acting by his Kirori Mal College teacher Frank Thakur Das

STAR ALUMNUS: Amitabh Bachchan took up acting during his college days

Only the very lucky get the chance to live in Kirori Mal College’s (KMC) hostel room number 65. It is a special room, no question about that since Amitabh Bachchan was allotted this very room when he was studying here.

Bachchan studied in KMC from 1959 to 1962. Those were the days when his father and noted Hindi scholar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was working in the Ministry of External Affairs as a Hindi officer. 

Even after six decades, those who get this room feel elated over the fact that they would live in a place where Bachchan stayed for three years. 

It is said that Kulbhushan Kharbanda, another very intense actor, was Big B’s roommate. 

Later, Naveen Patnaik, the current Chief Minister of Odisha, also lived in the same room. 

Room No. 65 apart, it was in KMC that Amitabh Bachchan met Frank Thakur Das, the legendary teacher of KMC who encouraged him to be a part of the drama society of the college. 

Das wore many hats. 

“Though he taught political science, he was also the life and soul of drama and debating society of the college. He was also a sports lover and loved wrestling, football and other games,” recalls Harish Khare, a noted author, and media advisor to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

Khare added, “Frank sir used to encourage students to excel in studies and extra-curricular activities.” 

Khare also studied in KMC in 1960s. 

As Amitabh Bachchan celebrates his birthday on October 11, it is high time that his fans know about his first acting guru, Frank Thakur Das. 

Films buff might not have seen Amitabh Bachchan as an actor had Das did not ask the shy and almost reticent Bachchan to take part in the activities of college drama society. 

It goes without saying that Das’s encouragement changed the then BSc student’s life. 

A workaholic, the Gurdaspurborn Punjabi Christian was the bedrock of college drama society. 

“I still remember vividly that one day Prof Das had told me I should take part in plays produced by the drama society of the college without any further delay,” recalled Bachchan in an interview in 2017. 

“He became my mentor in college from that very meeting. Thanks to him, I learnt the ABC of theatre world like how to speak on stage and role of expressions in acting. He was a brilliant actor and director too.” 

And then it was no looking back for Amitabh Bachchan as he started doing English and Hindi plays with tremendous zeal, dedication and purpose. 

Not only in Delhi University and within college, Kirori Mal College drama society was staging their plays in various parts of Delhi and Amitabh Bachchan was an integral part of it. 

“Frank Thakur Das was also responsible for shaping the acting careers of the likes of Shakti Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Dinesh Thakur and many others. They all owe to him forgiving them enough opportunities to learn,” says Dinesh Khattar, the Principal of KMC. 

He adds that the KMC community is proud that Bachchan is from their college. 

Bachchan often remembers Das with a deep sense of gratitude. 

“It was Das who sent my name to the women’s college Miranda House to take part in an one act play,” he once said with a smile. 

Bachchan had visited KMC a couple of years ago due to the efforts of Satish Kaushik and Kabir Khan, another KMC alumnus and well-known Bollywood director. Very tall and handsome, Das was a livewire teacher, who was always available to his past and present students. 

His life used to revolve around his students. 

NOBLE ACT: Amitabh Bachchan with other alumni meet to raise funds for drama theatre at KMC

“Frank sir was responsible for my admission in KMC. He was the epitome of knowledge and grace. He was also ready to help students financially. After his classes, he would rush to rehearse with his students for their Hindi play,” recalls Raj Kumar Jain, who later taught Hindi at Ramjas College and was once MLA from Chandni Chowk. 

“He was also a very fine Punjabi singer, who trained generations of students with devotion and built Kirori Mal College’s reputation in drama, debate and music,” informs Harish Khanna, a former DU teacher. 

Indeed, Das was a legendary teacher and mentor. When a KMC auditorium named after him was in bad shape and required urgent maintenance work couple of years ago, Bachchan came forward at once and donated Rs 51 lakh so that it could be built in a grand manner. 

Not only Bachchan, many other students of Das too generously donated money for the college auditorium. 

“When I joined KMC in early 70s, Frank Thakur Das was there and was making his presence felt. I was overawed by the fact that Frank sir also taught Amitabh Bachchan. However, he was not among those who bask on somebody else’s glory. When we talk about Amitabh Bachchan, he only used to say, “Amitabh was a quick learner and always keen to experiment. He had to touch the dizzy heights. However, he never boasted that Amitabh was his student. That was the hallmark of his personality,” the late Satish Kaushik had once said. 

“If we talk about the life and times of Amitabh Bachchan, we should also remember Das. He was certainly among those who remained unsung. The likes of him deserve better deal,” says noted author Trilok Deep, who was taught by Das at Kemp College. Camp College was established by the Punjab University in Delhi post partition for kids whose studies were hampered due to partition of the country. 

Will somebody write a biography of Das? It would be fitting if Bachchan writes a foreword of the biography of his guru.