Dev sahab baalasaheb thackeray ko “bal” kehkar bulaate the yash chopra ek shaam thackeray se darr gaye the
Ali Peter John
Anyone who lived in the Bombay of the 60s and 70s can not dare to say that he or she had not heard off Baalasaheb Thackeray . I was one of the lakhs of people who thronged the Shivaji Park to listen to the man whose words could swing and sway the heart’s and minds of people any which way he wanted .
He was the incredible , undisputed and uncrowned and self appointed maharaj of the millions who literally believed that he was an avataar of God on earth .
I admired him with all my heart when he made his speeches at Shivaji Park or any other venue. But I also hated him when he called for a Bombay Bandh because the day of the Bandh was also the day when I like lakhs of other people had to go without our breakfast , tea lunch and dinner till he was kind enough to call off the Bandh .And if there was one man who criticized the ,” the lion ” it was Dev Anand who had once known him as a cartoonist working for the Free Press Journal , drawing a salary of rupees one hundred and fifty a month and who Dev had seen grow into the powerful leader of the Marathi Maanoos , but who Dev Sahab always called ” Bal” ( child)
Thackeray may have grown into one of the most powerful leaders of India , but he never lost touch with his fascination for films and stars …..
Thackeray had started his own Marathi weekly , “Marmik” which was edited by him and also had all the cartoons done by him . It was not known to many of his own readers that he also wrote the film reviews for his weekly which were read by many and feared by many more . His love for films and the stars working in them however kept growing stronger , but strangely , he also put the fear of God ( himself) in the same stars .
On the occasion of his 8th death anniversary , I remember some of his brushes with some of the biggest stars .
He had a kind of father and son relationship with Mithun Chakraborty who called him “Daddy” and was like a part of the Thackeray family . Till their were some serious differences between the ” father” and the ” son” and Mithun took a decision to leave Mumbai and build his own empire in Ooty .
The veteran villain Pran was having some serious problems with a builder who was trying to take over the bungalow of the actor and the actor was highly disturbed . I happened to meet Pran Shahab the same day and he told me about his problem . I just asked him if he had ego problems and he just shook his head . I gave him the number of Mt Khare who was once the secretary of Amitabh Bachchan and asked him to call Khare and tell him that he wanted talk to Thackeray .
Within two minutes , there was a broad smile on the actor’s face’ and he was in his car and driving towards Matoshri , Balasaheb’s house . And two hours later the actor called me to tell me that his problem was solved and he thanked me profusely for the advice I had given him . The next morning Pran Sahab had full page ads thanking Balasaheb without mentioning why he was thanking the Hindu Hridai Samraat .
The Tiger as he was known among his followers had called his followers to boycott Dev Anand’s film “Sau Criteria” as the film had a Pakistani actress called Fatima Sheikh . Dev Anand whose film was to be released two days later was in a fix and for the first time since I knew him , I saw him looking sad . He told me about what ” Bal” had said about boycotting his films .
Without thinking twice , I told. him to follow the same formula I had advised Pran Sahab to follow . “Bal ” invited Dev Sahab to Matoshri and Dev Sahab who normally did not accept invitations easily went to Matoshri only to see Thackeray and his whole clan waiting at the gate to welcome him and when Dev Sahab was asked to have lunch , he just nibbled at a carrot and his lunch was done .
Dev Sahab finally told Thackeray about the speech he had made about his film and Thackeray said ” Dev Sahab, woh sab hamaara politics hai , tum Nahi samjega . Kal main Saamna mein pahele page par likhta hoon ki mere se galati ho gayi . Abhi aap arraam se jaaiye”
Thackeray had come to the help of many other film celebrities but the most important was Amitabh Bachchan . He had arranged for Amitabh to fly abroad when there was a Bandh in Mumbai and had made it possible for Amitabh to reach the airport in a Shiv Sena ambulance . Their friendship lasted till the end and when Thackeray was on his death bed at the Leelavati Hospital , Amitabh was the only outsider who was allowed to see him .
Incidentally Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar sequel was roughly based on the character of Thackeray . And finally there was an entire feature film made on his life with his character brilliantly played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
I remembered how he was the chief guest at a function organised at The Leela to celebrate the success of Ramanand Sagar’s serial Ramayan and how he didn’t care about what people would say and had swigs at his favourite Heineken German beer and smoked his favourite cigars and how he had refused to pay his tribute to Dr V Shantaram when he was asked to speak in English .
And the most remembered scene I still have fresh in my mind is the one involving him and Yash Chopra . The actress Ashiwini Bhave had produced Marathi film called “Aahuti and had a special screening at the Broadway mini theatre. Yash Chopra had arrived and was talking to me when a number of Black Cats armed with guns walked in and Yash Chopra looked visibly scared .
To make matters worst, Thackeray looked back at Yash and said ” kya re Yash , hum log ka Marathi film kabhi baanayega ? ” I had never seen Yash Chopra looking so scared and stammering and he slipped out during the interval but not before telling me that he had never been so scared in his entire life .
If there was one section of the industry which loved him most, it was the workers who were sure that they had a leader who could make their voices heard and their grievances rectified and redressed …..
The Hindu Hridai Samraat was like that , loved and adored, but also hated and feared.