Dilip Kumar shared strong bond with politicians

From Bal Thackeray to Sharad Pawar, Dilip Kumar shared strong bond with politicians

Kumar died at a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday after prolonged illness. Credit: Reuters File Photo

From enjoying beer sessions with Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray on the terrace of his Matoshree residence to going on vacations with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his family, the late thespian Dilip Kumar enjoyed warm relations with leaders belonging to different political hues, even though the ties strained later.

Kumar died at a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday after prolonged illness, his family and doctors treating him said. He was 98.

As Kumar’s request to be a "little lenient" with Sanjay Dutt -- arrested in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts -- was turned down by Pawar, who was the then chief minister of Maharashtra, the relation between the two soured.

Read more: Cinema icon Dilip Kumar laid to rest with full state honours

Arrested in 1993 at a time when his career was on an upswing, Dutt was booked for possessing an AK-56 rifle that had come in a consignment of arms and explosives meant for use in serial blasts that killed 257 people here.

While Kumar’s acceptance of the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian decoration of Pakistan, did not go down well with Thackeray who wanted the actor to return the honour.

In his book, On My Terms, Pawar recalled how the late actor campaigned for him during elections that he fought while he was in the Congress party.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was formed in 1999 by Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma, and Tariq Anwar after they were expelled from the Congress.

Pawar said he, along with Kumar and the then Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) grew quite close.

"Since our families also got acquainted, all of us went on long vacations in India and abroad whenever time permitted," Pawar said.

Pawar said Kumar was a terrific orator who could leave the audience spellbound for hours with his speeches

Keeping aside other engagements, Kumar stole time between his shooting schedules and travelled all the way from Mumbai to Baramati to address poll rallies. The turnout was always huge and the crowd lapped up every word he said, Pawar recalls.

"As a personal friend, he volunteered to address many of my election rallies in Baramati. He would call up my Pune-based childhood friend Vitthal Maniyar and ask 'suna Hain elections aaye hain. Bataiye kab jaana hain (I hear elections have been announced. Tell me when do I have do go for campaigning)," he wrote.

Pawar said in the book discomfort was caused between the two after the actor came to meet him following Dutt's arrest by his government in 1993.

"He was saddened by the discomfiture of his close friend Sanjay Dutt and wanted me to be a bit lenient. Citing strong evidence against the young actor, I turned down his request. Though a certain chill crept into our ties after that, relations between Saira Banu and my family continue to be warm as ever," said Pawar.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum of Pawar was Bal Thackeray, and yet, Kumar shared a great equation with him too.

In his book, Bal Thackeray and the Rise of the Shiv Sena, journalist-author Vaibhav Purandare writes, his evening beer sessions with filmstar-friends such as Dilip Kumar on the terrace of Matoshree ended when the actor accepted the Nishaan-e-Imtiaz from Pakistan.

According to the book, Bal Thackeray had said in Hindi, 'Abhi chana bhi hain, beer bhi hain, lekin Dilip Kumar ke raste badal gaye’ (The beer and chana are still there but Dilip Kumar has gone elsewhere).

In his tribute, the late Thackeray's son Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said Kumar was the shining star who enriched the Indian film industry. "His will hold an immortal position in the hearts of his fans," Uddhav Thackeray added.