Amitabh Bachchan and the Nehru-Gandhis

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Amitabh Bachchan

Friendship with the Gandhis

Left to right: Sanjay Gandhi as a young boy, celebrity wrestler Randhawa (who was also Dara Singh's brother), a teenaged Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Dara Singh and a teenaged Amitabh Bachchan
Sanjay Gandhi (centre) at Jaya Bhaduri and Amitabh's wedding
Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi with Mrs Teji Bachchan at the Breach Candy hospital, when Amitabh was struggling for life inside.
Mr Rajiv Gandhi, MP (2nd from left) and Mr Murli Deora (extreme right) at the Breach Candy hospital
Amitabh Bachchan and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Mrs Indira Gandhi's funeral
Left to right: Smt Teji Bachchan, and Mrs Sonia Gandhi and perhaps Ajitabh (all in the second row), Rajiv Gandhi (front tow, left)
Amitabh Bachchan and Mrs Sonia Gandhi
Amitabh Bachchan the politician
Amitabh Bachchan garlanding Rajiv Gandhi

Mr Bachchan was widely reported to be (and often photographed as) a friend of Mr Sanjay Gandhi--till the latter died in a plane crash. Then suddenly we were told that actually he was a friend of Mr Rajiv Gandhi.

Mumbai Mirror writes:

Amitabh Bachchan | Gandhi family

War of the dynasties

On one side is the most powerful man in the Indian film industry. On the other, unarguably, the most powerful family in Indian politics.

The ties between the Bachchans and the Gandhis - both from Allahabad - date back to at least four decades. Poet Harivanshrai and Teji Bachchan were close to Indira Gandhi. They say the late PM had tried to help then struggling actor Amitabh’s chances in the film industry by giving him letters of introduction!

The bond was further cemented when Bachchan made a smashing entry into politics after Indira’s death by defeating Hemwati Bahuguna.

The problems began with the Bofors scandal which tarnished close friend and former PM Rajiv’s image and dragged Bachchan too. Realising politics wasn’t for him, Bachchan resigned.

After Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, the chasm grew wider. Enter the proverbial third angle - Mulayam and Amar Singh. Bachchan’s lean phase with the failure of ABCL (the Singhs are said to have stood by him then) was the last straw. Loyalties shifted from Congres to the Samajwadi party and the interim bytes added masala to the fire, the highlight being the proxy war triggered by Jaya’s comments about the Gandhis not treating her husband fairly. Rahul Gandhi retaliated saying the country knew who left whom.

The Bachchan-Gandhi war was never fought openly. A few barbs, some uncanny coincidences was all it took to set the rumour mills churning. Like when Jaya was forced to concede RS seat on the office of profit controversy. Or when the taxmen came harassing Bachchan at a hospital.

A few months back there were signs of thaw when Sonia reportedly expressed concern over Jaya being targeted by the MNS. But things will never be like before. With the Bachchans firmly entrenched in the Amar-Mulayam camp, there seems little hope for reconciliation between two of India’s most enigmatic families.

The Times of India adds, quoting a book excerpt:

Amitabh first met Rajiv when he was 4 years old and Rajiv,2

Author and journalist RASHEED KIDWAI has chronicled the recent history of the Congres in 24 Akbar Road.Here is an excerpt on the highs and lows between the Bachchans and Gandhis

The Bofors scandal took a heavy toll on Rajiv in more than one way.He lost his friendship with his childhood friend,Amitabh Bachchan.The Gandhis and the Bachchans have never spoken about the actual reason why their friendship soured,but common acquaintances blame it on personality clashes,ego tussles and one-upmanship amid failures and tragedies.

The split has been painful for both sides.For Sonia,it is the loss of the first friend she made in India.Amit,as she affectionately addressed him,was the one who received her off the aeroplane at Palam Airport on the chilly winter morning of 13 January 1968.Her civil marriage to Rajiv Gandhi took place forty-three days later on 25 February.During this period,Sonia stayed at Amitabhs house with his mother,Teji Bachchan and father,Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

Family friend Mohammad Yunus and Indira Gandhis confidant,T.N.Kaul,had zeroed in on the Bachchans after Indira said she was not keen on Sonia staying in a hotel or at her residence before the marriage.At that time,Amitabh was yet to become a superstar and Rajiv was a carefree soul.Along with Ajitabh Bunty Bachchan and Sanjay Gandhi,Rajiv and Sonia were frequently spotted on the India Gate lawns,eating ice cream.Rajiv Gandhi had an old Lambretta scooter,which often had ignition problems.Invariably,either Sanjay or Amitabh had the honour of pushing it for a few metres till it started.

The families were so close that when Rahul and Priyanka grew up,they addressed Amitabh as mamun,which is Avadhi for maternal uncle.When Rajiv was assassinated at Sriperumbudur,Amitabh was in London and Rahul in Boston.They landed in Delhi together from London.Amitabh then took charge of the funeral arrangements with Priyanka,while Rahul stayed at home,trying to console Sonia and accepting condolences.

In several interviews,(Mishra,Sumant,Main Amitabh Bol Raha Hoon: In Candid Conversation,Egmont,Mumbai,2003) Amitabh has fondly recalled that his first meeting with Rajiv was when he was four years old and Rajiv,two: There was this fancy dress party on Bank Road (the Bachchans residence in Allahabad).Rajiv Gandhi was two years old and had been dressed up as a freedom fighter.Ma says he messed up his pants.We were all such tiny kids then,absorbed in our little games,that it didnt seem such a big deal that Pandit Nehrus grandson was in our midst.

He often visited me on the sets,like the time I was shooting for Ganga Ki Saugandh in Jaipur.He was extremely unobtrusive and would wait patiently till I completed my shots.His nature was such that he would never misuse his name or family connections.On the contrary,more often than not,he would not disclose his surname,fearing the distance it would create between him and the common man, remembered Amitabh.

He said,The last time I met him before leaving for London was in Delhi on 8 May 1991.On the 20th,which was a Monday,the hearing of the Bofors case against a Swedish newspaper began in London.On the 21st,the judge summarized the case and,on the following Wednesday,the verdict was to be announced.At five oclock UK time,we returned home after lunch.Thats when we received the news of the horrific incident

My first reaction was of complete disbelief.The fact that something like this could actually happen was unthinkable.As humans,we find ourselves hoping that we will never be victims of such unspeakable tragedies I was shocked for quite a while and remained numb and speechless.I am afraid I cannot describe it in words.

Asked if he considered joining politics to assist Sonia,Amitabh said,By force of habit,I find myself totally involved in any work I take up and want to complete it at any cost.Now that Im deciding to cut down on my films (this was in October 1992),people surmise that it is because I intend to join politics.Yes,Rajiv was a very dear friend.It is also true that I am one of Soniajis genuine well-wishers and Im close to her family.But how will my entering politics ease her concerns and her pains And why should she need me or require my help She is an extremely strong,sensible,competent person,fully capable of taking her own decisions.She is aware of what she should and should not do.

In Mohammed,Khalids To Be Or Not To Be,(Saraswati Creations,Mumbai,2002) Amitabh talked about the Gandhi-Bachchan family ties,and said: Rajiv and Sanjay studied in Doon School,Ajitabh and I were in Nainital But our holidays fell around the same months.Wed hang out and swim every day at the pool of Rashtrapati Bhavan.The friendship continued.After school Rajiv went off to Cambridge.Whenever he would be back home,wed get together and exchange notes When he started flying,Id go with him to provide ballast at the Flying Club of Delhi.Id glide there for hours Panditji died.Mrs Gandhi became PM and the family moved to 1 Safdarjung Road,which was close to our home at 13 Willingdon Crescent.Rajiv,Sanjay,Ajitabh and I formed a closely knit group of friends. (Mohammed,Khalid,To Be or Not To Be,Saraswati Creations,Mumbai,2002.)

By Amitabhs own admission,it was Rajiv and Sanjay who exposed him to avant-garde cinema at a young age through the European films that were specially screened for the Gandhi family at Rashtrapati Bhavan.Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi and I would attend screenings of The Cranes Are Flying and Czech,Polish and Russian films,which often packed an antiwar message, Amitabh recalled.

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