August 20, on late Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday, may I use this pious platform to pay tribute to his memory, to the extent I remember him as my most respected Prime Minister of the country:
If credit for modernising the country by creating institutions of scientific advancement goes to his grandfather Pandit Nehru, if winning crucial war against Pakistan in 1971 and as a consequent birth of a new country, Bangladesh, on the map of the world is credited to his grandmother Indira Gandhi, then Rajiv Gandhi deserves to be decorated with the honor of initiating automation in India by passionately pursuing expansion of studies in computers in the country. An interesting offshoot of his approach on the issue was his message to our son, Alok, then studying computers at the University of San Francisco, to come back immediately after completing his courses in computers to help India advance in automation. It so happened that the Prime Minister of Morocco, on state visit to India, during a conversation with Rajiv Gandhi mentioned that his son’s roommate at USF is an Indian student who too was majoring in computers as his son was. Rajiv asked him if he knows the name of that Indian student or any information on his parents in India, and on receiving the reply in negative, he requested the Moroccan Prime Minister to convey his message to the Indian student through his son. His son, instead of directly telling Alok, put the message on the notice board, to give a surprise to Alok as well as to convey to all the Indian students at USF what their Prime Minister wants them to do after studying in computers at the university.
Sir, an important chapter in Rajiv Gandhi’s life was his long friendship with you right from your childhood days when you, Ajitabh, Rajiv and Sanjay used to have great fun playing together in the lawns of Teen Murti during the time when his grandfather Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister. In Mohammed Khalid's To Be Or Not To Be, Amitabh talked about the Gandhi-Bachchan family ties, and said: “Rajiv and Sanjay studied in Doon School, Ajitabh and I were in Nainital... But our holidays fell around the same months. We'd hang out and swim every day at the pool of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The friendship continued. After school Rajiv went off to Cambridge. Whenever he would be back home, we'd get together and exchange notes... When he started flying, I'd go with him to provide ballast at the Flying Club of Delhi. I'd glide there for hours... Panditji died. Mrs Gandhi became PM and the family moved to 1 Safdarjung Road, which was close to our home at 13 Willingdon Crescent. Rajiv, Sanjay, Ajitabh and I formed a closely knit group of friends.” (Mohammed, Khalid, To Be or Not To Be)
By Amitabh's own admission, it was Rajiv and Sanjay who exposed him to avant-garde cinema at a young age through the European films that were specially screened for the Gandhi family at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi and I would attend screenings of The Cranes Are Flying and Czech, Polish and Russian films, which often packed an anti-war message,” Amitabh recalled.
Actor Mehmood's biographer, Hanif Zaveri, has many interesting and anecdotal accounts of young Amitabh and Rajiv. When Amitabh was a struggling actor, Mehmood, the comedy king of that era, became his patron. Both Mahmood's brother, Anwar Ali, and sister, Zubaida, became close pals of Amitabh.
In Mahmood: A Man of Many Moods, author Hanif Zaveri reminisces: 'Just before the release of Bombay to Goa, Amitabh had brought a very fair young friend (Rajiv) to Mumbai. The friend had accompanied him from Delhi. Mehmood was on a high after taking Calmpose tablets, a drug to which he was addicted.
Anwar introduced the young man to Mehmood, but in his state, he was unable to understand what was said. Mehmood took out five thousand rupees and handed them to Anwar to give to Amitabh's friend.
A puzzled Anwar asked what the money was for. Mehmood said the young fellow was fairer and smarter than Amitabh. He could become an international star. The money was the signing amount for taking the young man in Mahmood's next project.'
As much your friendship was famous as souring of it infamous amongst the people, though no one knows the inside story how it became sour, if at all it did:
Bachchan has opened up about his relationship with the Gandhis in an interview to Headlines Today. Bachchan has said the rapport between the two families remains intact. But he also said that he can't see himself going out of his way to reach out to them.
"It's not a question of reaching out. So long you understand, I don't have to necessarily meet you every day to tell you I am your friend. We have spent time together. In a relationship these things don't matter."
When asked if they were still friends, Bachchan asserted, "Of course. In my mind there is no change. I will always respect them."
Bachchan then added, "We meet them sometimes at public functions. There is no anger, no angst. We're still pretty normal."
With regards and best wishes