There were reasons why Bollywood celebrities queued up to call on Bal Thackeray when the Shiv Sena supremo lay in a critical condition before he breathed his last Saturday. He was always with them, for them in their times of need.
With some, he shared an endearing relationship, and with some, one of love-and-hate.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who visited Thackeray Wednesday, recently recalled how inspiring and motivational Thackeray was for him when the actor was recovering in hospital after his near fatal accident on the sets of 1983 film “Coolie”.
“When I was flown in to Mumbai from Bangalore in semi-conscious state after ‘Coolie’ accident, it was his ambulance that took me to Breach Candy Hospital,” Amitabh recently shared on Twitter.
“When I fought for my life after ‘Coolie’ accident, he came to visit me in hospital, with a cartoon he had drawn – Yamraj defeated! Yamraj – God of Death, defeated by me… wish I was as proficient a cartoonist as he, I would wish to draw that for him,” posted Big B, adding how Thackeray considered Jaya Bachchan as his ‘bahu’.
Amitabh recalled when his name was drawn into the Bofors scandal, Thackeray again came to his aid. “Tell me the truth, are you involved? The don’t worry, I am with you,” Thackeray then told Big B.
For many, including Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan and even Reena Roy, Thackeray, a cartoonist-turned-politician, is said to have gone out of his way to lend a helping hand. And for legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, Thackeray was a “father figure”.
Her family knew him for the past four decades. In wake of his ill health over the past few days, Mangeshkar had even postponed a recent function of her music company.
Such was his charisma, grit and dedication that Mangeshkar says, “Maharashtra is orphaned today”.
The news of Thackeray’s death is yet to be broken to veteran actor Dilip Kumar, once his close friend.
“Balasaheb was close to Dilip saheb, but unfortunately Dilip saheb is not well since past two days. He had high fever, so I have not informed him (about Thackeray’s death) yet. It will be a big shock for him,” Dilip’s wife Saira Banu told IANS.
In 1998, Dilip Kumar is said to have had a fallout with Thackeray when the latter demanded the actor to return the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest civilian award.
Thackeray was involved in many such instances – in two with superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
In 2010, his Shiv Sena threatened to stop the release of Shah Rukh-starrer “My Name is Khan” over the actor’s remarks favouring inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League. Also, in an incident earlier this year, Thackeray had criticised King Khan for his “misdemeanour” with security officials at Wankhede Stadium.
But they never harboured any ill will. Shah Rukh even visited him recently and admitted that he shared a “personal relationship” with the Thackeray family.
“Out of huge amount of regard, plus not only for his age and status, I have spent some good time with him. My mother once told me that you can fight in good times, but when bad time comes, you must pray and spread love,” SRK said at a recent event.
The love and respect for Thackeray continues within the hearts of many celebrities.
Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma can’t forget a warm hug he received from the man whom many considered the Hindu Hriday Samrat (emperor of the hearts of the Hindus).
“Can’t ever forget the hug the real Sarkar gave me when he saw reel ‘Sarkar’. Balasaheb was a true epitome of power in every sense of the word,” shared Varma.
Over the past few days, Thackeray’s residence Matoshri saw a steady stream of celebrities, including Manoj Kumar as well as Kapoor brothers – Randhir, Rishi and Rajeev, and the flow continued Saturday.
Hrithik Roshan, who visited Matoshri post Thackeray’s death, tweeted: “Today when I visited Matoshri, I had a silent prayer in my heart and the prayer continues. God bless Balasaheb’s soul.”