Amitabh Bachchan & Sonia Gandhi: From Friends to Foes

1960s

Early 1960s. From L to R: Sanjay Gandhi, Dara Singh’s brother, Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Dara Singh & Amitabh Bachchan.

The Bachchan family’s ties with the Gandhi family (i.e not Mahatma Gandhi family, but Nehru family) dates back to the early 20th century when Harivansh (Amitabh’s father) and Motilal Nehru, being from the same city of Allahabad were both iconic & close aides.

ab_rg_smallAmitabh Bachchan (Big-B) first met Rajiv Gandhi when he was 4 years old and Rajiv 2 years. Their friendship grew stronger as they grew up particularly due to their shared interest. Sanjay Gandhi would also accompany them at times and end up in discussions related to automobiles & flying machines (Sanjay was an auto freak whose ambition was to build a “people’s car”, and Rajiv was always fascinated with airplanes).

Their friendship reached the pinnacle when Big-B and his family lent moral support to Rajiv in late 1960s during his marriage with Sonia, which was opposed by Indira. It was Big-B’s mother who acted as a mediator between the young couple and Indira during their courtship and successfully convinced Indira to accept the marriage.

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The friendship continued throughout 1970s and early 80s too, with families sparing some time to visit each other and discuss about Big-B’s possibility of entering full time, active & serious politics.

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Rajiv Gandhi & Amitabh Bachchan at a political rally

However, things started taking a different turn in late 1980s when the Bofors scandal was exposed and alleged many including Rajiv and Bachchan for receiving kickbacks & indulging in serious corruption. This was the turning point when Bachchan started distancing himself from Rajiv to avoid tarnishing of his image (Bachchan was given clean chit later).

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In the early 1990s, the relationship between families turned sour especially after the assassination of Rajiv. The Gandhi family was expecting Big-B to join Congress and assist Sonia, which he clearly refused citing his priority for film industry. This offended the Gandhis who felt betrayed by him. Few years later when Big-B was in a financial crisis (due to bankruptcy of his company ABCL), he felt betrayed by the Gandhi family because he was expecting them to lend some support. This mutual feeling of betrayal compounded and led to further events of further betrayals and rifts which widened especially after the Bachchan family’s ties with Amar Singh became stronger.

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Big-B alleges that him being a normal citizen has always been at the receiving end in a series of frictional events. One recent example among the series of such events being the slapping of income tax notice to the Bachchan family when Big-B was in a hospital undergoing serious treatment (2005).

I think the takeaway from this story must be about our cautious approach towards politicians who ruthlessly use every possible opportunity for their advantage and even friends are no exceptions. It might not be justified to put only one party in the dock and sympathize with the other but the fact that betrayals had taken place cannot be denied. Amitabh Bachchan has been one such victim of political vendetta, betrayed & snubbed by the Gandhi family.

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