BY AHANA BHATTACHARYA
Tucked in the Bondel Gate locality of South Kolkata, near Ballygunge Phari, the famous Amitabh Bachchan temple of the city will not see the usual October 11 bonhomie this year, owing to the ongoing pandemic. Rather, as the Bollywood icon turns 78 on Sunday, the temple founders have organised a virtual meet where Big B is scheduled to interact with his Extended Family, or EF as he loves calling them, in the course of the day.
The birthday of Amitabh Bachchan, or “Guru” as fans in Kolkata love to call their beloved star, is the year’s biggest do at the temple every year. There is hom yagna and the ritualistic puja. Bhog prasad is offered to the ‘deity’ and, of course, cake cutting happens. Festive fervour on October 11 has been a norm since the temple was inaugurated in 2001.
This year, things are different owing to Covid. Big B’s birthday celebrations and rituals will happen, but in a restrained manner. Only core members of the temple will participate and, unlike other years, no outsider will be allowed, keeping social distancing and Covid precaution protocol in mind.
“We are doing a virtual Google meet on his birthday where Sir will also take part. We had invited him and he has replied saying he will take part for a while. The meet will take place from 12noon to 2pm with his EF (extended family) from across the world. We will also invite filmmaker Shoojit Sircar, comedian Raju Srivastava, and singer Sudesh Bhosale,” temple founder Sanjay Patodiya told IANS.
“This year Guru’s birthday is special because he has fought coronavirus and defeated it. He proved he is a true fighter,” he added.
Elaborating on the plan of action this year, Patodiya revealed: “Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we are not inviting people for celebration this time. The temple will be decorated and cake cutting will be done in the presence of 15 to 20 crore members only. Like every year, we will offer him bhog, perform pooja for his parents first and then for him, and then read out the Amitabh Chaalisa, after which we will cut the birthday cake.”
He explained the concept of Amitabh Chaalisa: “It is like Hanuman Chaalisa, where we sing praises of Amitabh sir and his achievements.”
This year, the temple members are distributing a 1000 masks, 1000 bottles of sanitisers and dry ration to 200 people in Bachchan’s name.