Balasaheb's connection with Hindi cinema began in 1945 when he was a cartoonist with 'The Free Press Journal' and was also associated with Famous Pictures. He would often visit the studio because he was a member of their staff and made advertising layouts. It is there that he came across film directors and actors.
He had seen the rise of actors like Dev Anandand A R Rahman and also knew the Saprus (Preeti Sapru's parents) well. He was also familiar with V Shantaram, J B H Wadia of Wadia Movietone. He knew Tabassum when she was barely 7 years of age. His father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray worked as a publicity officer for Wadia Movietone and later for Ehsaan, Saira Banu's father. Balasaheb had drawn sketches of artistes like Mehtab, wife of Sohrab Modi. He also recalled Kajol's maternal grandmother Shobana Samarth.
The Tiger loved watching Westerns. He liked the cowboys, the gun-fights and the horse-riding sequences. One of his favouriteBollywood films was Ramesh Sippy's Sholay (1975). According to him Hindi cinema certainly grew in stature after the film's release because it had a westernised concept and was also technically very sleek. He liked Amitabh Bachchan and Big B reciprocated his sentiments. They had a good relationship throughout. Way back in 1994, AB Sr had said, "Balasaheb is a friend, a well-wisher... someone I respect."
Of the leading ladies of Hindi cinema he felt yesteryear actresses like Durga Khote, Devika Rani, Vyjayanthimala, Shanta Apte and Hema Malini had grace. Sridevi, Jayaprada andMadhuri Dixit also created an impact. He liked Sanjay Dutt. He understood that in a moment of weakness, Sanju may have made some mistake. However, he was upset that the actor was detained under something as severe as TADA (Terrorist And Disruptive Activities) even before his guilt was proven. Sanju, in turn, looked to Balasaheb as a father figure. The distraught actor, who was incarcerated for possession of an AK-56 and later released from prison, confessed that he wouldn't be able to roam the streets of Mumbai freely had Balasaheb not intervened. "He stood by me when no-one else was willing to,'' Dutt said.
Balasaheb's strength was the Shiv Sena. "I've given birth to the Shiv Sena and I can count on them for my lifetime. Many people cannot digest the fact that, I, who had such a humble beginning as a cartoonist, has actually managed to become so big. My sainiks are a team of fine people who worked for the nation and for Bollywood. Said he, "I am a man of the masses and I often tell actors that they too should consider themselves lucky not because of their bank balance but because they have a mass following. The Shiv Sena is my true strength, my wealth,'' he reiterated.
He felt that the domination of Muslim actors in Bollywood was fair. And that a Muslim man had nothing to fear from him or his Shiv Sena. However those who had terror links or were in any way found to be guilty of being anti-India — whether they were Hindu or Muslim — wouldn't go unpunished, he'd always declare.
He loved Mithun Chakraborthy and recalled the actor paying him a visit in 1993 when his partners Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora (who had a company called Magnum Video) were found to be guilty of nefarious activities. Mithun is like my son, said Balasaheb. "I love him but if found guilty I'd say, hang him.''
Filmmakers Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai were his friends. Ghai signed Sanjay Dutt Jr forKhalnayak before the actor was arrested under TADA and Chopra had signed Sunil Dutt forParampara. Both films came under fire post the bomb blasts and it was Balasaheb who bailed the Dutts out. Chopra and Ghai were indebted to the Sena supremo because of this.
Courtsy - Meena Aiyar ( The times of India )