The (Humble) King of Bollywood
Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in the living room of Amitabh Bachchan‘s suite at his favorite New York City hotel. I had flown to NYC just for this meeting with the CEO of one of our portfolio companies that we just invested in (and will announce soon!).
“Hi, I’m Amitabh Bachchan,” he said, extending his warm hand to me. “What can I get you – tea, coffee, cookies…?”.
That was the first sign. For those of you who don’t know, Amitabh Bachchan is arguably the biggest star in the world. The true King of Bollywood, he is a god in India. He has won every award in Indian cinema and was in NYC for the premiere of The Great Gatsby. His wife is an actress, his son is a famous actor, and his daughter-in-law is an actress and dubbed “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”. Yet, here he was introducing himself as if I shouldn’t know who he is and making sure we are comfortable.
A one hour meeting turned into 2.5 hours of gripping conversation focused on Indian media, technology, his father, his charitable work (and how he doesn’t want people to know what he does for reasons unique to fast growing emerging economies), and much more. I wish I could detail all that we talked about, but out of respect for his privacy I’ll just leave it at that.
Yet, what impressed me most about him was his utter genuineness and deep-rooted humility. He is not a man content with being the legend he is; he’s a philomath who listens intently to every word, probes gently but intelligently, and sucks in information like fresh air. Not once did he mention his fame or success–or that of his family–rather, he talked about his goals and areas for improvement: increasing his digital presence, building a brand in other parts of the world, and others. Not once did he mention his countless movie hits, but I can count on two hands the number of failures or shortcomings he brought up in himself. And not once did he exude any sense of superiority, which just put him on a higher pedestal in my eyes.
And I’ll never forget the way he walked us out. He looked me right in the eye, patted me on the back, and said, “I hope we can meet again soon. This was lovely.” And then he walked us out of the suite, pressed the elevator button, waited until we had gotten into the elevator, and then bowed his head slightly until the elevator door had closed, with us on the inside, and him on the outside.
An actor for the ages. But even more impressive, a gem of a person.