Balasaheb, Bollywood shared a strong link


When the news of Bal Thackeray's deteriorating health was made public on Wednesday night, among the first to visit the ailing politician were veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek. Their association, Amitabh has often recounted in public, dates back to 1982 when the actor was critically injured while filming for Coolie . In his recent posts on Twitter, the actor said that after the accident, Balasaheb's ambulance took him from Mumbai airport to Breach Candy hospital. The leader -- who happens to be a renowned cartoonist -- later visited Amitabh with a cartoon depicting him having defeated Yamraj.

His relationship with the Bachchans may have lasted over the years, but Thackeray's relationship with Bollywood has always been a bittersweet one. An artist himself, those who knew him closely claimed that the politico was appreciative of all arts. He apparently helped Sanjay Dutt get bail when the actor was locked up in the TADA case following Mumbai 1993 blasts. Matoshree became Sanjay's first stop after he was let out.

The film industry too had showed a fascination for the leader, modelling characters around him. Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, known to derive stories and characters for his films from real life, had made Sarkar and Sarkar Raj , with Amitabh's character resembling that of Thackeray's. The filmmaker and Amitabh had even held a special screening for Thackeray before the release of Sarkar . His daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray has produced several popular Bollywood films including Haseena Maan Jayegi and Sandwich .

Filmmaker N Chandra said to have portrayed the power that the Shiv Sena founder enjoyed in Mumbai in his 1991 film Narsimha , with Sunny Deol in the lead role, Chandra recounts his first interaction with Balasaheb. "My directorial debut Ankush in 1986 was a small-budget film. It was doing well upon release when two weeks later, a distributor called me up to inform that the film was being taken off from a prominent theatre in favour of an Amitabh Bachchan film that was to release soon. I approached Balasaheb, who helped me out and within a day, my film was back in the theatre," he says, pointing out how Balasaheb did not compromise on his ideology to favour his friends. "He is known to have helped several filmmakers and actors who were in need even if he has clashed with them in the past," Chandra adds.

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