The two senior-most and most venerated leaders of the Bharatiya Janta Party, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, shared a common trait: their love for the arts and cinema. Atalji had many friends and admirers in the film industry. Most prominent among them being Lata Mangeshkar and Dilip Kumar. Atalji loved Lataji’s singing and his favourites were ‘Laga Ja Gale Se’, ‘Jo Humne Dastaan Apni Sunayee’, ‘Allah Tero Nam’ and of course ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’. He would ask Lataji to sing a few lines of his favourite songs of hers whenever they met.
Subsequently she sang an album of Atalji’s poems. The album released in 2014 was entitled Antarnaad. Dilip Kumar was another Bollywood favourite of Atalji. Until some years ago when Dilip Saab was in good health, Atalji would make sure to spend time with the Thespian, discussing poetry and literature for many hours. In fact there was some talk of Dilip Kumar playing Atalji. But the matter never proceeded.
Atalji’s favourite Hindi film was Ramesh Sippy’s Seeta Aur Geeta. He had seen it innumerable times, more times than he could count and each time he would meet his BJP colleague Hema Malini he would discuss the film with her amidst loud chuckles.
“Yes, he loved Seeta Aur Geeta. Atalji was very much attuned to Hindi cinema. There were many films and actors whose works he admired. And his poetry has been sung by Lataji. There was a healthy give-and-take between cinema and politics when Atalji was Prime Minister,” says Hema Malini who now plans to do a sequel to Seeta Aur Geeta as a homage to Atalji.
Shatrughan Sinha was perhaps the Bollywood actor with the optimum proximity to Atalji. Sinha literally hero-worshipped Atalji to the point of precluding almost all other politicians from his range of reverence.
“Whatever I’ve learnt about life and politics has come from Advaniji and Atalji. I don’t only consider them my mentors in politics, as I came into politics and into the Bharatiya Janta Party, only for them. I also consider Atalji and Advaniji my gurus in life and not just politics,” says Shatrughan Sinha emotionally.
About Atalji’s strong bond with Hindi cinema, Sinha says, “Atalji loved our films and actors. To him the thin line dividing politics and the arts was easy to cross if the individual had the sensitivity to care for the wellbeing of humanity. Both politics and cinema are about giving to society some of what you’ve got. And Atalji was a very generous man.
The Pokhran nuclear explosions were approved of and sanctioned by Atalji. The recent film Pramanu paid rich tributes to Atalji. However another recent film savagely lampooned Atalji showing him dozing off while the hero was narrating his problems.
Bollywood on the whole never forgot to pay its respects to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. One has been hearing of a particular production house planning a bio-pic on Atalji for years. Shatrughan Sinha says he would love to play Atalji. But that won’t be possible as they are physically quite dissimilar. Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal are also keenly interested in playing Atalji.
Come to think of it, who is the correct actor to play Atal Bihari Vajpayee? None has that radiance and glow on his face to carry off the role of the man who saw tomorrow and made sure the nation’s todays were tinged in hope and positivity. And poetry.