Friends in filmdom, fire too
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When the news of Bal Thackeray's failing health was made public on Wednesday night, among the first to visit him were Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek. Their association, Bachchan 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, Thackeray's ambulance took him from Mumbai airport to Breach Candy Hospital. Thackeray later visited Bachchan with a cartoon depicting him as having defeated Yamaraj.
His relationship with the Bachchans may have lasted over the years, but Thackeray's relationship with Bollywood has been a bittersweet one. Those who knew him closely said Thackeray, an artist himself, appreciated the arts in all forms. He is said to have helped Sanjay Dutt get bail when he was arrested in a TADA case following the Mumbai blasts of 1993. Matoshree was Dutt's first stop after he was released.
The film industry too had a fascination for the leader, modelling characters around him. Ram Gopal Varma, known to derive stories from real life, had made Sarkar and Sarkar Raj with Bachchan's character resembling Thackeray's. Varma and Bachhan even held a special screening for Thackeray before the release of Sarkar. His daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray has produced several Bollywood films including Haseena Maan Jayegi and Sandwich.
Filmmaker N Chandra is said to have portrayed the power Thackeray enjoyed in Mumbai in his 1991 film Narsimha, with Sunny Deol in the lead role, Chandra recounts his first interaction with Thackeray.
"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.
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