‘He was fiery, formidable, but funny too...’

Thackeray was quick to spot errors: Sudhir Gadgil

"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.

Remembering his last public interaction with Thackeray earlier this year, Gadgil said he had the opportunity to read out a speech written by the Sena supremo. "It was a public speech and Balasaheb was not well those days. He told me that he might run out of breath while reading the speech. He gave me a copy of the speech and asked me to continue if he stopped. And so he began and I had the opportunity of sharing his speech twice," says Gadgil.

Uddhav Thackeray had called on Gadgil in November 2011 to request him to interview his father for a private archival video. "Balasaheb was comfortable with me and that's why Uddhav asked me to interview him," said Gadgil.

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