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100 MOST CONTROVERSIAL INDIANS

Mavericks

 

TSI
TSI | Issue Dated: June 24, 2007
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Mavericks Lalu Yadav

Shivanand Tiwari on his love-hate relationship with the former Chief Minister of Bihar

The politics of Lalu Prasad Yadav commences and culminates at home. That is why he always remains in the eye of the storm. He relishes looking down at his friends, but promoting his relatives. He secures his position by granting concessions to his subordinates and colleagues, to ensure that the hierarchy is maintained. When he got into trouble during the fodder scam, he preferred his wife Rabri Devi over many of his able colleagues in order to secure his bastion. Lalu’s entry into politics might ostensibly have been due to ideological reasons, but he is not bound by any ideology. It was his sheer luck that Karpoori Thakur died, he was elected as the leader of the opposition and later became Chief Minister. During his stint as the CM, he did nothing for the emancipation of the poor, as he apprehended that once the OBCs were empowered, they would desert him. Lalu thinks that his partymen can be traded and that is why leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar deserted him. The manner in which he ignored his loyalists at the cost of his family members is evident. Nevertheless, what seems bizarre is how could a buffoon like Lalu become a management guru and the architect of the turnaround of Indian Railways and I believe someone else is behind this turn around.

DID YOU KNOW?

Perhaps the most colourful character in Indian politics, Lalu Prasad Yadav defies all stereotypes. In 1990, he became the hero of the secular brigade by arresting L.K Advani and stopping his Ayodhya Yatra. By the mid 1990s, he was accused of being involved in the multi-crore fodder scam and stunned India by resigning as Chief Minister and putting wife Rabri Devi on the throne. As Union Railway Minister, he seems to be acquiring the halo of a corporate turnaround artist.

Shivanand Tiwari is former RJD leader and litigant in fodder case Mavericks Bal Thackeray

Sanjay Nirupam

Balasaheb started his career as a cartoonist, but he has been changing his role frequently. He often is brimming with an amazing sense of humour. He doesn’t mind crossing the limit and can crack the crudest of jokes, but behind closed doors. He is a very strict leader who thinks opposite of what the entire country thinks. His fiery speeches ensure that he is always surrounded with controversies. At times, he threatens the Hindi-speaking people to leave Maharashtra, but at the same time, he is not allowed to cast his vote because of his statements. His behaviour is that of an on-off switch, which transforms his profile in a moment. Balasaheb is a caring father and he is so sensitive about his family, that he sacrificed the interests of the Shiv Sena, because of the love for his son. Due to this, many left the Shiv Sena.

DID YOU KNOW?

In an era when the adjective tiger is sprinkled around liberally, this man can still stake a claim. A cartoonist who metamorphosed into a political leader who was brazenly pugnacious, sectarian and didn’t hesitate to flaunt regional chauvinism, Bal Thackeray is a self confessed admirer of Hitler and used to love sipping warm beer in his lair in Bombay. Old age, family squabbles and political defeats have dimmed his fearsome aura, but the founder of Shiv Sena still packs a roar.

Sanjay Nirupam is a former Shiv Sena leader, now in the Congress Mavericks Uma Bharti

Madan Lal Khurana

I have known her for long as a potent BJP leader and joined hands with her briefly last year, after both of us were expelled from BJP for alleged anti-party activities. The idea was to form a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative and I was hopeful of a good alliance, but it was not to be. Just as our party was shaping up, Uma withdrew her candidates in UP in favour of the BJP, in an effort to consolidate the saffron votebank and to placate VHP leader Ashok Singhal. Nothing helped and I decided to party company with her precisely because of that. I think she will be making a mistake if she goes back to the BJP. Uma is a great orator and greater mobiliser, as was evident in her campaigns during the Ayodhya movement and then the elections in Madhya Pradesh. She galvanized the entire party. Alas, there is no recognition of good grass root workers in the BJP any more!

DID YOU KNOW?

Images of a rapturous Uma Bharati hugging fellow Hindutva movement after the Babri Masjid was demolished will be etched in memory forever. She is one of the most charismatic and visible faces of the rise of Hindutva in India. A sanyasin by choice, her relationship with another Hindutva ideologue Govindacharya has been a cause of whispers and titters. Thrown out of the BJP, Bharati is now trying hard to carve a niche for herself as a leader of consequence.

Madan Lal Khurana as expelled by the BJP & is the former CM of Delhi Mavericks N T Rama Rao

T Udayavarlu

NTR , as he was called fondly, never thought of taking up acting as a profession. He acted in 42 historical and mythological films. His first mythological role was depicting Sri Krishna in Sonthavooru in 1956. He enacted Sri Krishna in 22 films, but when he enacted Lord Shiva in Uma Chandi Gowry Shankarula Katha, his son Rama Krishna expired. Thereafter, NTR refused to act as Lord Shiva. Although he was not the recipient of a prestigious award, his popularity remains unparalleled in Telugu cinema. His most interesting role was as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and he made the word Telugu popular around the world. He remained an icon of discipline and self pride. At a time when the Congress was at the pinnacle of its power, he managed to take on the might of Rajiv Gandhi, the all powerful Prime Minister. Like most of the films he acted in, even in his real life (political role), NTR emerged victorious. However, his ambition to forge a national party, Bharat Desam, always remained a dream.

DID YOU KNOW?

He demolished the unchallenged monopoly of the Congress over Andhra Pradesh. An immensely popular actor of Telugu cinema, NTR formed the Telugu Desam and trounced the Congress in assembly elections in 1983. He married again in life and was ousted as Chief Minister by his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu in the mid 1990s. NTR nevertheless remains what MGR is in Tamil Nadu.

T Udayavarlu is a noted Telugu author and critic Mavericks Saadat Hasan Manto

Mosharraf Alam Zauqui

Saadat Hasan Manto is arguably one of the best Urdu story-writers of all times. There are few writers who have injected a ‘realism’ in their writings other than Manto. He portrayed the fringe groups commendably in most of his stories like Thanda Gosht and Khol Do. Nothing can be more outlandish than to claim that Manto’s writings have sexual overtones. Anybody who has read him knows that nothing can be further from the truth. The incidents which suggest sexual overtones in his stories were not incorporated to tantalise, but were the part of the narrative. In Khol Do, the protagonist goes to see a doctor after undergoing sexual harassment incessantly. The doctor points towards the window and says, Khol Do (open it). But the woman, stung by the betrayal of society, starts shedding her clothes. Such scenes bring out the bitter realities of the contemporary society. This is why Manto should be remembered.

DID YOU KNOW?

One of the finest writers in Urdu, this man was torn between Pakistan and India after the partition. His story, Toba Tek Singh, amongst others, is a visceral tale of the brutality and butchery indulged-in by the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims during 1947. Saadat Hasan Manto, like many creative geniuses of his generation, even tried his hand at Bollywood, only to go back disappointed to Pakistan. If the poems of Mirza Ghalib describe the era around the First War of Independence in 1857, Manto is the muse of 1947.

Mosharraf Alam Zauqui is a scholar on Manto’s works Raj Narain

Rajinder Puri on the stormy petrel

Raj Narain was an upper caste Bhumihar. He belonged to the family of the Raja of Benares. and he hailed from an affluent background. Under Ram Manohar Lohia, he became a socialist. He was a very active disruptionist. Lohia lacked money and numbers, but relied on aggressive storm troopers to confront the establishment. Aggressive activists like Raj Narain and Mani Ram Bagri abounded in Lohia’s Socialist movement. Raj Narain was the most prominent activist amongst them. He courted arrest very frequently through stormy agitations. He was not an intellectual, but he was very shrewd. Even though Narain was the right hand man of Charan Singh, Singh felt uncomfortable with his earthy approach. Despite his image of a peasant leader, in private, Charan Singh was a middle class moralist with very courteous manners. In one-on-one dealings, he felt more at home with leaders like Madhu Limaye. The temperamental incompatibility between two strong men in the Janata Party, Raj Narain and Nanaji Deshmukh, was one of the causes why the Janata Party fell apart.

DID YOU KNOW?

The only person to have ever defeated Indira Gandhi in a Lok Sabha election, as well as a major legal case in the Allahabad High Court, Raj Narain was the quintessential gadfly of Indian politics, during the tumultuous 1970s. A close ally of Charan Singh, Raj Narain is often blamed as one maverick whose antics led to the collapse of the Janata party government that came to power in 1977. Once Indira Gandhi stormed back to power in 1980, Narain simply faded into oblivion.

Rajinder Puri is a political commentator Mavericks George Fernandes

Vishnu Bhagwat

George Fernandes has always been a troublemaker. He blew up railway lines and killed innocents in the Baroda dynamite case. He gave a call to the armed forces and the police to revolt against Indira Gandhi’s democratically elected government. In 1977, as Industry Minister, he brokered the BHEL-Siemens deal, taking people for a ride, while he was crying hoarse for the expulsion of Coca Cola. People in the civil service and our intelligence agencies know George Fernandes too well. His visits abroad and his contacts in foreign countries are all on record. If he was in the United States, he would have to seek the confirmation of the US Congress, which he might not have got. During his tenure as Defence Minister, he made attempts to politicise the defence forces, which had the potential to polarise them on political lines. A former defence minister once told me that dividing the armed forces along sectarian is the gravest crime. We would then be heading for a Yugoslavia-Bosnia situation. I as Naval chief, would never permit it. The Constitution too prescribes that we maintain the secular character of the armed forces and to maintain the unity and integrity of our country. Nobody is allowed to violate the law of the land.

DID YOU KNOW?

A hero during Emergency, when he openly defied Indira Gandhi, George Fernandes was a totally different man in 2001, when the sting operations of Tehelka embroiled him in one of the most debated scams of India. George was also responsible for the exit of Coke and IBM from India in 1978, when he was the Union Industry Minister in the Janata party government. Last but not the least, he is known as the first mainstream ‘secular’ leader that embraced the BJP as an ally.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked as Naval chief by George Fernandes Mavericks O P Nayyar

Shaan on the music composer who had temerity to take on the legend Lata Mangeshkar

Ihave met him on a couple of occasions, because of the TV show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’. Contrary to his image of being aloof, I found him very approachable and friendly. When we were out of India for some work and he actually sat with me and shared a lot about his life. He believed that there was nothing to hide about all the controversies that were doing the rounds. I found him to be a self-respecting person, a quality which many construe as arrogance. He was very committed towards his work and was one of the few musicians who composed music to the lyrics of the song, not the way other way around. Nowadays, composing music first and letting the lyricist write the lyrics to suit the composition is the norm. His commitment to work became evident in Dubai, when we had a shoot scheduled early in the morning and it was extremely cold. We politely told Nayyar ji that we can postpone the shoot, but being a workaholic that he was, he insisted on conducting the shoot at the scheduled time. He’s always been very helpful and was admired for his style, which includes a hat that he wore always. A legend in Indian music industry, his music is still remembered for the peppy style it had.

DID YOU KNOW?

In an era when mass-media was still in its infancy, O P Nayyar knew how to be in the news. From flaunting his relationship with Asha Bhosle, to completely ignoring Lata in her heydays, he has done it all. The man is remembered for music with an earthy Punjabi tinge.

Shaan sings for Bollywood movies and is a television presenter Mavericks Ram Jethmalani

Sabrina Lal

I knew Ram Jethmalani as one of the top legal brains of the country. His capability as a professional lawyer has never been in doubt. I got an opportunity to experience a sliver of his brilliance, when he undertook the task of defending Manu Sharma. I thought that he would be able to twist the case, but he was a total disappointment. It was sad to see a totally helpless Ram Jethmalani. He tried to divert the case, but did not succeed. He has become aged and he should retire. The Jessica Lal case will not only be remembered for the great media hype and the manner in which Jessica got justice (after being murdered by Manu Sharma), but also for the sad demise of the brilliance of the great criminal lawyer called Ram Jethmalani. The man who used to be the idol for an up coming breed of lawyers, shocked the nation by trying to defend Manu Sharma. He has been controversial throughout his life and does not think before speaking.

DID YOU KNOW?

Long before he created waves after becoming the lawyer of Manu Sharma (accused of murdering model Jessica Lal), Ram Jethmalani was one of the most celebrated lawyers in the country. While he was praised for his brave defence of those accused in the Indira Gandhi assassination case, there have been frequent complaints about his defence of the rich accused in cases of dowry and deaths. Jethmalani will of course remain larger than life, no matter what the controversy and who the accused.

Sabrina Lal is Jessica Lal’s sister Mavericks Khushwant Singh

Baljit Malik

Khushwant’s pen drips with humour, scholarship, incisive and racy fiction. He has, nevertheless, cast a veil on his frailties. For we shall never know why his wife Kaval Malik managed to win the heart of some of his closest friends. A living legend within a casteist, racist society, I can see Khushwant make love to (if only he could) anyone from a deep brown sweepress to the ivory-pigmented Kashmiri Panditain. I, for one, enjoy the explicit sex of his novels on the odd lonely night. Another enigma that surrounds him is his amiable aura, though his temper is not beyond short-circuiting at the slightest of provocation. He is so likeable that he is spared the wrath of feminists. Or perhaps he is grist to their own sexy (ist) fantasies.

DID YOU KNOW?

Millions of readers lap up his columns every week, confident that there will be some ‘masala’ that will tickle their voyeuristic appetites. Having written one of the finest works of fiction on partition (Train to Pakistan) and worked as a sort of diplomat in London, Khushwant Singh chose to be the voyeur par excellence while writing about Indians. His early support of the Emergency and Sanjay Gandhi earned him brickbats, while his brave opposition of Khalistani terrorists earned him acclaim.

Baljit Malik is Khushwant’Singh’s nephew and a noted author ` Mavericks Dada Kondke

Anita Padhye

He was hit with the masses and hated by the classes. Dada, though a thorough gentleman, who never uttered a foul word in his personal life, deliberately employed his infamous double entendre dialogues in his movies, for he knew his fans would enjoy them. He knew their requirement for risqué entertainment and the level of their understanding, as he was born and brought up in the same area where these poor labourers lived. He knew their thinking and limited expectations from the performing arts, which are usually a Tamasha or Nautanki. It was his peculiar character of a simpleton, which made him immensely popular and wiped out the vulgarity of his dialogues with dual-meanings. Dada always said that most elderly women were his fans, as they see a lovable son in his character. They never bothered about anything else, even the vulgarity. He was withouot doubt trenchantly criticized by the elite, who thought of him as a cheapskate. They always wondered how he could be such a popular film personality with no less than twenty five silver jubilee hit films. He became a one-man industry. He was the story writer, composer, lyricist, actor-director and of course, the producer. Many of his songs were so popular and tempted many to record the remixed versions like - Dhagala laagali kal. The tragic paradox is - though Dada was always condoned or ignored in his life time, he has been showered with praise by the elite!

DID YOU KNOW?

His double meaning comedies used to give Hindi classics a run for their money. Dressed in his drawstring pyjamas, he dominated the silver screen in an era that saw the likes of Amitabh and Rajesh Khanna. Remembered for his slapstick humour, the man saved the cinema halls from closing down.

Anita Padhye is a Marathi writer Mavericks Protima Bedi

Prahlad Kakkar on the first showwoman of the Indian classical dance form

They broke the mould when Protima was born, maybe they were scared or thought they had made a mistake with her. Maybe they thought ‘the world can’t afford two of her kind’, or maybe they thought she was born ahead of her time. Regardless of all the shocked and admiring types, Prots, as her friends called her, exploded on an unsuspecting and unprepared world like a nuclear explosion. She had everything that everybody’s imagination promised: dusky, high-breasted, long-legged, flashing eyes which seared your soul and a mouth that promised the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. I heard of Prots first, when the grapevine was agog with the news that the young Kabir Bedi had been lassoed and hog tied in matrimonial sweepstakes by a Bong bombshell. In the meantime, she became a legend, when she streaked across Juhu beach and informed the Press. I finally got to meet and know her, when I was running Prithvi Café for Jennifer and Sashi Kapoor and she was a regular there. At that time, Protima was also endeavouring to collect funds to start Nrityagram, her dance academy, and she did that with single-minded ferocity. When I received the news of her passing away due to an avalanche in the mountains, my heart stopped and a crazy pattern of images flashed before my eyes. God! I miss her!.

DID YOU KNOW?

In an era when Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley ruled, she left her glittering career in modelling to learn Odissi. She made it big in every genre that she touched. Married to actor Kabir Bedi, she will always be remembered as the milestone of metamorphosis.

Prahlad Kakkar on Protima Bedi Mavericks Biju Patnaik

Rajkishore Naik

Biju Patnaik was always larger than life. He was generous and flamboyant in whatever he did. He liked taking big risks in politics.Though his gamble did not always pay off, the failures did not deter him from taking bigger risks.This explains the formation of Utkal Congress after he quit the Congress. Though Utkal Congress could not make him the chief minister again, it allowed him to play the kingmaker for a long time. He was one of the first leaders to introduce the concept of coalition politics in the country with his Utkal Congress. It must have been tough to wait for nearly 30 years to become the chief minister for the second time, now as the head of a Janata Dal government. Biju was more a visionary and statesman, than a politician, who laid the foundation of modern Orissa. Most of the major industries of the state , including the Rourkela Steel Plant and the Paradeep port are his contribution. A man who loved the big stage, he was not afraid of crossing swords with the likes of Nehru and Harekrishna Mahtab, his political mentor. Biju Patnaik remains an abiding symbol of fearless adventure and bold entrepreneurship.

DID YOU KNOW?

A self made man, industrialist, and ace aviator, Biju Patnaik was called India’s buccaneer. He is best known for the dare devil manner in which he flew over Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and rescued the ousted President Sukarno. Not known to mince his words, Patnaik became a sworn enemy of the Congress.

Rajkishore Nayak is former MLA and Biju Patnaik’s close confidant Mavericks Subrato Sahara

Raj Babbar

I never saw him as a businessman. I first met him during the preview of my film Karmyodhya, which was based on the theme that one should never underestimate the power of the common man. Though I didn’t know his background, I was impressed by his views on philosophy, life, work and on the theme of my film. We met frequently thereafter and became friends. I admire his zeal, wisdom and passion. He works up to 22 hours a day. He is a lovely human being for whom work ethics, culture, commitment and conviction reign supreme. He enjoys emotional relationship with almost everyone he knows. Your position, power and status don’t matter. He goes to any length to help friends – ever ready to be the biggest loser. I witnessed that during the Lok Sabha election that I fought against Atal Behari Vajpayee in Lucknow. I still enjoy same relations with him, despite having rebelled against Mulayam Singh Yadav. He called me once, requesting a patch up. I urged him not to mediate, as I had suffered enough humiliation and walked out before he could say anything. He is indeed a friend of friends.

DID YOU KNOW?

Once considered a shining star of a ‘rags-to-riches’ saga, Subrato Sahara ended up being a ‘crony capitalist’. A flamboyant man, he tried to project himself as the Richard Branson of India and in the process, lost it completely. A man who sold dreams for more than 2 decades, now prefers seclusion. Raj Babbar is a Lok Sabha MP and director of the Sahara group of companies Mavericks Pamela Bordes

Scandal!

Pamela Bordes, born Pamela Singh Choudhary in Rajasthan, almost turned out to be ‘Christine Keeler’ for a few British Members of Parliament. A former Miss India (1982), Pamela was dubbed as ‘Mata Hiri’, after it was discovered that she had managed entry into Britain’s House of Commons on a security pass arranged by the MPs David Shaw and Henry Bellingham in 1980s. The Evening Standard, a British newspaper, revealed that she was cosy with Ahmed Gaddaf al-Daim, a Libyan security official close to Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and had made several trips to Tripoli in a private jet. This created an uproar in the British parliament. Later, Pamela would comment that her story, if revealed, would bring down the government. She also shot into limelight as the arm candy of influential men like the billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and the Emir of Qatar. After a long hibernation, she emerged and is now believed to be a full-time photographer. She uses her Indian name now.

DID YOU KNOW?

The darling of the glitterati, the sexual escapades of Pamela Bordes used to give ‘Letters to Penthouse’ a run for its money. Referred by British tabloids as “Wham Bang, Thank You Pam”, she burnt more newsprint than the famous British bands ‘Queen’ and ‘Beatles’ combined. She married an aging Frenchman Henri Bordes to gain French citizenship She went into hiding and got injured in a moped crash in Bali, when she and Rachael were escaping from the paparazzi. Her fall was as mercurial as her rise. Mavericks Meena Kumari

Vinay Pathak

My earliest memories of Meena Kumari were pleasant, as my father was a great fan of hers. I remember my father listening to her songs repeatedly and my mother yelling at him all the time!! Her films like Pakeezah, Baiju Bawra and Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam got her a lot of acclaim. She even imbibed the roles in her real life which is very apparent from the kind of poetry she had written in I write, I recite. Also Tanha Chaand, her Urdu poems are fondly remembered and I’ve seen my father listening to them time and again. In Bollywood, some actors are labeled according to the role they’ve portrayed, as Amitabh Bachchan is known as the ‘Angry Man’. This does not mean he is inferior in the other roles he plays. Similarly, Meena Kumari was known as ‘Tragedy Queen’ of Hindi cinema and it was this image of hers which was exploited the most. Looking at the ease with which she has played comic roles too, one realizes how versatile she was.

DID YOU KNOW?

She broke every possible taboo that the India of 60s had and yet, was simultaneously the darling of classes and masses. A poet and actress rolled in one, she defined how tragedies should be written. She failed to find her true love, both in her life, as well as on celluloid.

Vinay Pathak is a Bollywood actor Mavericks Mahendra Singh Tikait

Sompal Shastri

It was my father, Chaudhary Raghubir Singh, who, while reviving the ‘Collective Panchayat’, made Mahendra Singh Tikait the head of the Panchayat. Mahendra Singh got the title of Tikait in the swearing-in organised at Sisauli. Tikait did extensive work for the emancipation of farmers and was instrumental in creating awareness amongst them. He led the marathon Meerut commissionary movement. He gradually got entangled in politics and started issuing diktats to vote for a particular party. He succumbed to nepotism and started promoting his son. Later, he entered active politics due to the cajoling of his son and lost the election. The defeat dented his reputation and dismantled the age old tradition of collective Panchayat system. Ironically, Tikait will be remembered for both uplifting as well as downgrading the agrarian politics.

UPS AND DOWN

A man of honour, Mahendra Singh Tikait is better known for his raw political tactics. In an era when panchayati raj was considered passé, he made it cool. A man of honour, he can be best described as a man who remained in perpetual confusion.

Sompal Shastri is a leader of farmers and former Union Minister
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017