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A love-hate relationship that has had many ups and downs

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Maharashtra is synonymous with two powerful entities, politics and movies. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the two had a rocky relationship. The Shiv Sena, the powerful regional party, and Bollywood, which calls Mumbai home, have clashed many times throughout history. At the same time, there were countless moments of mutual admiration that went from sharing scenes to a biopic about Sena Bal Thackeray supremo.

The first example of this clash dates back to 1971 when the Marathi film industry, determined to carve out a place for itself, found itself at odds with Bollywood. Dev Anands Tere Mere Sapne replaced Krishna Kondkes Marathi’s film Songadya at Dadars Kohinoor theater, angering many. Senas’ film division has always been criticized as numerous extortion charges have been leveled against them; however, the party maintained that the division was created to ensure that Marathi films are properly represented in Maharashtra.

Dilip Kumar and Bal Thackeray had famous spinoffs when the former accepted Pakistan’s highest honour, Nishan-e-Pakistan. The two icons were friends who bonded over good food. The list goes on with Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Kumar, and B-Town bigwigs who enjoyed a friendly relationship with Thackeray. Famously, Sunil Dutts’ son, Sanjay Dutt, had found support for Thackeray after he was charged in the 1993 explosions case. Sanjay Dutt, in many events, never shied away from calling the Sena supremo a Wagh .

Famously, Bachchan had publicly thanked Thackeray for supporting him when the actor was recovering in hospital after his near-fatal accident on the Coolie sets. When I was airlifted to Mumbai from Bangalore in a semi-conscious state after Coolie’s accident, it was his ambulance that took me to Breach Candy Hospital. When I fought for my life after Coolie’s accident, he came to visit me in the hospital, with a cartoon he had drawn Yamraj vanquished! Yamraj God of death, defeated by me, I wish I was as skilled a draftsman as him, I would draw this for him, Bachchan tweeted.

Then there were cases of mutual agreement where films were screened or shown to party members before their release. While some may say that these events were motivated by fear and to avoid trouble, others feel that the relationship began to heat up because of these encounters between the two parties. Notably, Mani Ratnams hit Bombay was screened for Thackeray before its release. Ratnam dutifully incorporated the few changes Thackeray suggested before releasing the film based on the 1993 Bombay riots. Many hoped Thackeray’s artist would force him to be lenient when it came to sensitive matters. The Sena Supremo himself was a talented draughtsman and well versed in classic English, Hindi and Marathi literature.

However, slowly many started accusing the party of wringing its arms in Bollywood just to stay in the limelight. The first decade of the 21st century has seen such a capricious relationship play out. This time, statements made by Bollywood stars could result in their films being forced out of Maharashtra theaters for Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan to share the stage with Bal Thackeray, attracting a crowd of starry-eyed followers. Films like My Name is Khan and Ek Tha Tiger had problems with the party.

However, among the new party cadres, Bollywood enjoyed a friendlier relationship. That started to falter in 2021 when actress Kangana Ranauts’ office was demolished by BMC for illegal construction. Ranaut said the accusations were false and had previously tweeted that Mumbai felt like POK. Many have called the incident a one-off brawl stemming from each side’s political leanings. Otherwise Aditya Thackarey, the scion of the central party, is close to many Bollywood locals who constantly show up at events organized by the Maharashtra government. From Akshay Kumar to Tiger Shroff via Salman Khan, Bollywood has lent a hand in many initiatives to increase its popularity. While some lament this development and call it the end of an era of fear, others believe this gentlemanly camaraderie is the way forward.

In 2020, Shiv Senas spokesperson Saamna published an article supporting Bollywood. He said Bollywood has always encouraged talent and Ranaut’s accusations that the industry is dominated by Islam were absolutely ridiculous. He had supported Bollywood when NCB launched its investigation after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Many actors were questioned by the agency for their alleged drug use before being released. Uddhav Thackeray, in a statement, said Bollywood was followed across the world. The film industry generates a lot of jobs. In recent days, attempts have been made to denigrate the image of the film industry by some, which is painful. Movements to end the film industry or move it elsewhere will never be tolerated. More recently, the party called Aryan Khans stopped a vendetta against his father Shah Rukh Khan.

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