Amitabh Bachchan has been a Bollywood film star for more than 40 years and is adored in India. Meet a man who loves technology and social networks, but is unsure about Facebook.
Amitabh Bachchan, Bollywood's biggest star. Photo: AP
By Monty Munford
With a population of more than 1.1 billion people and rising, at some time over the next decade India will overtake China as the world's most populous country.
Out of that 1.1 billion people, it's a safe bet that any Indian who can eat, pray, love and breathe has heard of, and loves, Amitabh Bachchan. This man is beyond the moniker of 'national treasure'. His face adorns a million billboards, he endorses umpteen products and for many he is revered as a type of deity.
Known regionally as The Big B, Bachchan made his name as the 'Angry Young Man' of Bollywood in the 1970s, when Indian cinema began to embrace edgier themes than its previous emphasis on romantic movies.
Since then Bachchan has changed with the times, even entering Parliament in the 1980s after being elected with one of the highest election margins in Indian electoral history. He resigned three years later, calling politics a 'cesspool'.
More than four decades after his film debut in 1969, Bachchan works constantly and is now an adherent of modern technology to enhance his brand. As a man who will be 70 next year, his chameleon-like ability to change is similar to another 70-year-old, a certain American called Bob Dylan.
Bachchan has been a keen blogger for more than four years and his blog has more than three million unique visitors, an extraordinary figure in a country where fixed internet penetration is less than four per cent and connection is constantly bedevilled by unreliability and power cuts.
Unsurprisingly, the Indian mobile sector has jumped over fixed broadband and the country currently has more than 800 million subscribers, so Bachchan is using this channel to reach out to his fans using one of his major assets - his rich, baritone voice.
Eighteen months ago, he launched his 'vogging' presence, a celebrity voice blogging service where subscribers can sign up via a shortcode to hear his daily thoughts or in his own words 'my fans can feel as if they are having a voice conference with me'.
More than 2.5 million Indians listen to Bachchan every day and the service has now been launched in the UK across the country's major operator networks, which necessitated a recent promotional visit by Bachchan to London.
After some time setting up the interview and a multi-car cavalcade through London to the BBC studios, I finally managed to get in the same room with the Big B. As I shuffled on the sofa, Bachchan was engrossed in watching Barack Obama on TV.
Evidently unimpressed with the US president who he said 'talked too much', he spoke to me about his vogging service and how social networks were also a vital channel to engaging with his fans.
"I regard vogging as a natural extension to blogging and I am open to all digitally orientated services, including Twitter, " said Bachchan.
The Big B has more than 800,000 followers on Twitter and uses it to launch exclusives such as stills and trailers of his movies and he also tries to reply to these followers as often as he can. "At first I used to try and reply to everyone, but now I have to choose particular people to answer," he continued.
I then asked Bachchan if he was on Facebook, only for the megastar to tell me that he wasn't on that particular social network even though 'he knew what it was, but could you tell me how it works?'
The only other time I've explained anything techy to anybody famous was showing a drunk Johnny Borrell of Razorlight how mobile video streaming worked, but this was another level of opportunity.
I muttered that he should have a 'Like' page on his blog and other such nonsense, but my heart wasn't in it. I carried on wittering until that famous baritone voice interrupted me and the interview was at an end.
Consequently, I doubt if the Big B is likely to set up a Facebook page any time soon, but he did agree to have his photograph taken with me, which I promptly posted on both Twitter and Facebook, thus squaring that particular circle, although I must confess I still haven't read his blog
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2011