Amitabh Bachchan is the most successful actor that Indian cinema has ever seen and while the actor is remembered for his classics like Sholay, Deewar, and modern-day hits like Piku and Paa, he witnessed a lean phase in his career back in the 1990s. It was during this phase that Bachchan saw a string of flops that led people to declare that his career was over.
Mrityudaata was a big blow in Big B’s career at the time and bombed at the box office. The film just didn’t suffer because of the timing, it was less than mediocre in terms of quality as well. So much so that even Jaya Bachchan walked out of the screening of the film. In a 1999 chat with Vir Sanghvi, Amitabh had revealed that Jaya was a harsh critic of his work and upon being asked if she sits through screenings of his films, Amitabh revealed, “She didn’t sit through Mrityudaata.”
In the same chat, Amitabh also spoke about the financial crisis that his production house ABCL was going through at the time. The Runway 34 actor had revealed that whatever films, and endorsements he was doing at the time were all a means to raise capital for the company. “The investors felt that I was an actor and a brand that could be exploited to put money back into the company,” he said. He further revealed, “Every ad I did, whether it was BPL, Pepsi or anything else, it went into the corporation. I didn’t get any money.”
The failure of Mrityudaata had many doubting his film choices but his talent was never questioned. After all, he was still known as the force who changed stardom in the 1970s with his ‘angry young man’ persona. Film director Rajkumar Santoshi, who had films like Ghayal, Damini and Ghatak under his name, said that Bachchan’s potential wasn’t being tapped in the right way. He told India Today in 1997, “Amitji still excites me as an actor. Unfortunately, he has chosen to work with commercial directors rather than serious ones; his potential is still to be tapped.”
Yash Chopra, who once made Bachchan the star he was with films like Deewar and Kabhi Kabhie, told the same publication, “Now he has to go beyond commercial aspects. He has to make a film, not a proposal. He should do a mature romantic, emotional role.” A few years after this, Chopra made a big bet on the actor and cast him in Mohabbatein.
Soon after this Bachchan returned with full force to the big screen and changed the trajectory of his career but films like Mrityudaata certainly seem like the tangent that must have been a learning period for the star.