Amitabh Bachchan: Bollywood superstar hospitalised with COVID-19

Acting legend Amitabh Bachchan had been leading the way in India’s fight against a rapid spread of the new coronavirus.

Amitabh Bachchan, one of India’s best-known movie stars, has tested positive for COVID-19 together with his actor son Abhishek Bachchan. Both were moved to a private hospital.

“I have tested COVID positive … shifted to hospital … hospital informing authorities … family and staff undergone tests, results awaited,” Amitabh Bachchan, 77, said in a tweet.

“All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested.”

His 44-year-old son Abhishek minutes later on Twitter said he too tested positive.

The Bollywood actors were admitted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment hub.

A Bollywood legend, Amitabh has been leading the way in the country’s fight against the coronavirus, appearing in public service advertisements.

He joined the film industry in 1969 and has done more than 200 movies. The actor suffered a near-fatal injury during the shooting of an action scene on a film set in 1982 and was in critical condition for several months.

Affectionately known as “Big B”, Amitabh shot to stardom in the early 1970s on the back of roles in huge hit movies such as Zanjeer and Sholay.

His films still open to packed cinemas across India, but his new movie – comedy-drama Gulabo Sitabo – was released on Amazon’s streaming service because of the coronavirus restrictions.

Virus vulnerability

Bollywood recently resumed film shoots after a months-long hiatus following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown in India in late March.

But actors over the age of 65, such as Amitabh, are banned from the set because of their vulnerability to the virus.

India’s nationwide coronavirus toll rose on Saturday to 820,916 cases – the third highest in the world – with 22,123 deaths.

Health workers have complained about severe staff shortages, with some senior doctors and nurses avoiding front lines because of their risk of catching the virus.

As the death toll climbs, critics say the country is not testing enough – leaving many infections undiagnosed.

Millions of Indians revere Amitabh like royalty, hanging on his every word, seeking his blessings and congregating outside his Mumbai bungalow every year on October 11, his birthday.

The doyen of Bollywood is a keen user of Twitter, where he has 43 million followers, and his career has branched into television presenting, business and politics, as well as countless commercial endorsements.

Early in his acting life, Amitabh earned his reputation as India’s “angry young man” for portraying violent heroes fighting an unjust system and injecting a new aggressive element into Bollywood movies, which had previously consisted of polite romances.

After some lean years, Amitabh bounced back spectacularly, largely because of his stint as host for the Indian version of the popular TV game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which revived his artistic and financial fortunes.

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