‘He was fiery, formidable, but funny too...’
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"Balasaheb had a particular habit of caressing his beard right before he made a satirical comment or a sharp observation," said Sudhir Gadgil, a well-known figure in Marathi journalism and culture, about the late Shiv Sena supremo who he had interviewed 11 times in his career.
Gadgil was recounting his experiences with Thackeray and his style of giving interviews. "To interview such a great orator, I had to prepare well in advance, and make sure that I was up to date with all the latest news," said Gadgil. "He would not only know everything that was happening around him, but would immediately spot your errors as well."
Recalling his first interview of Thackeray, Gadgil said: "It was at the Doordarshan Mumbai studio in 1974. My show was about what my guests did and who they were at the age of 25. We chatted about his cartoons, his experiences working with R K Laxman in Free Press Journal, and how his father gave him tips about public speaking."
Having interviewed Thackeray so many times, Gadgil said he felt lucky to have got an insight into his unique character and the lighter side. Stating that Thackeray liked to be interviewed at his home, Matoshree in Mumbai, he said: "During the later years, Balasaheb's health was not good. He preferred to be interviewed in his study, sitting on his throne-like armchair."
Describing his room, Gadgil said: "His room had a lot of books, and he used to stretch his feet on a small ottoman kept in front of his armchair." Thackeray would keep framed photographs of his late father Prabodhankar Thackeray and wife Mina Thackeray. "He was extremely gracious and always had a joke or a funny comment to pass — but he was also a sentimentalist," said Gadgil.
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