It was for the first time on Monday in the past five years that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan shared the same stage in a public program, burying their past differences.
In 2008, the MNS chief accused the actor of not being loyal to Maharashtra, a State where he lived and worked. Since then, both had never seen together on a same stage and had even avoided referring to each other.
At a program organised on the seventh anniversary of the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena, the film wing of the MNS, Mr. Thackeray made it clear that he stood by his statement but clarified that there was nothing personal in it.
“I still feel that Mr. Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar are not limited to a single State. The entire nation loves them. They are godsend,” he said.
Mr. Thackeray had criticised the actor after he became Ambassador of Uttar Pradesh.
“You are loved as equally by a Marathi person as by people of Allahabad. People like you aren’t made for only one State,” he said. He made it clear that whatever happened in the past should now be forgotten.
Earlier, responding positively to the invitation from the MNS, Mr. Bachchan started his speech in Marathi, saying that he was learning the language. “I am grateful to the party for launching insurance scheme for back stage artists of the film industry. I will be there to help them anytime in future,” he said.
The last time when both shared the stage was in 2004 when Mr. Thackeray was with the Shiv Sena. The occasion was the release of the photo-biography Shiv Sena chief and his uncle Bal Thackeray. Mr. Bachchan was specially invited for the program.
The relations between the two went sour after the MNS was formed and Mr. Thackeray took an aggressive stand against north Indians. Mr. Bachchan had even come under attack from the MNS chief when he chose a Bhojpuri film as his first non-Hindi venture instead of Marathi.
“He [Amitabh] lived and worked in Mumbai. But when it comes to contesting elections he chose Allahabad, acted in Bhojpuri films and became the brand ambassador of Uttar Pradesh,” Mr. Thackeray said in 2008. He had even questioned Mr. Bachchan opening a college in Uttar Pradesh in the name of his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, questioning why such an endeavour was never taken up in Maharashtra.
While Mr. Bachchan didn’t react to it, his wife Jaya, Rajya Sabha member of the Samajwadi Party, shot back, saying she was from Uttar Pradesh and people should excuse her for speaking only in Hindi.
The MNS then threatened to boycott the Bachchan family and their ventures. However, both sides maintained silence since then.