The 15-year ban on Bachchan!

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IndiaFM News Bureau, January 27, 2007 - 08:24 IST

From lip-locks to skimpy garb, Indian cinema has witnessed vetoes imposed by the censor board as well as the industry itself. Very few are aware of the ban on one of the greatest actors of Bollywood – a ban that shook the film industry by its roots. Yes, we are talking about the ban that emerged on the face of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan!

Many years ago, a show was being organized by ‘Stardust’ magazine for the Army Wives. Most of the actors from the film fraternity had agreed to be a part of the show. Just then, Bachchan received a call from Saira Banu, saying that Dilip Kumar wanted to meet up with him. On the day of the meeting, almost all the top actors from the industry were present in order to discuss how ethical it would be to get associated with a magazine that endorses yellow journalism. There were several rounds of meetings where the stars pondered over this issue. After a heated argument, it was decided that the Stardust Army Wives show must be boycotted.

It was also decided that the stars would ban all the magazines that included gossip, and that no star would give interviews to such publications. Stardust, of course, was in the lead. But as hypocritical as the celebrities could get, they started calling Bollywood magazines, asking them to take interviews quickly. Suddenly, the magazines had more content than they could accommodate. The stars declined any such incident having taken place. There was also an interview of Bachchan in Stardust, taken by journalist Uma Rao. The actor was furious when he learned that the article spoke against his family. He fired the journalist but it was too late. The magazine was already in circulation!

Interestingly, there was somebody leaking out the minutes of the mid-night meetings on a regular basis. These behind-the-door secrets were getting published openly in Stardust! Apparently, Stardust had its sources that were none other than some of the stars present in those meetings. Amitabh Bachchan said that he always knew this was inevitable. The information of the meets was bound to leak out someday. This gave him yet another reason to ban Stardust.

In the year 1975, the country saw an Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. Reportedly, Amitabh Bachchan was very close to the Gandhi family. He is said to have used his influence in attempting to shut down Stardust. Censors got harsh on Stardust for carrying items on Amitabh. There was a strong censorship imposed on the press, due to which magazines other than Stardust had to suffer as well.

Stardust avenged the deed by imposing a ban on Bachchan. All the film magazines got together to form an association. They decided not to print anything about the actor, in any of their publications. In his defense, Amitabh said that he had banned the press from entering his sets almost till the end of 1989. However, he had nothing personal against any particular magazine.

Nari Hira, MD of Stardust, said that he had started taking Bachchan for granted, which is why he was shocked to learn about the mid-night meetings. He never imagined that Bachchan could join hands against them. But he agreed upon the existence of a cold war, and a misunderstanding between AB and Stardust that lasted for many years. Hira also went on to saying that this misunderstanding could have been solved if AB had contacted the magazine directly. Surprisingly, Amitabh also owned up for him folly. He said that he was wrong in being so adamant and banning the press – that he should not have turned down Stardust for interviews.

And while everybody wondered as to who would finally emerge supreme in this cold war, AB and Stardust decided upon a temporary truce. In 1982, AB met with a fatal accident. That is when Stardust offered a peace treaty to him by publishing an article on him in the magazine. The superstar was moved by this act, which tried to prove that Stardust considered AB as family. But when he recovered, the cold war continued.

In 1989, AB found himself stranded in the Bofors scandal. His movies failed to make it big at the B.O. The actor’s PRO went around, begging for the press to write about him. When he approached Stardust, a journalist insisted that AB must directly get in touch with the MD of the publication. So he met up with Nari Hari at his residence. The duo sat down and cleared all the misconceptions that had taken place over the years. Hira was humbled by AB’s graciousness. He decided to call for a ceasefire! And thus, the 15-year cold war came to an end. The ban on Bachchan was finally lifted.
Posted 29 Jan 2007

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