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Amitabh steps into first family feud

Varanasi, Oct. 15: Amitabh Bachchan today added his baritone to an uncharacteristic public row between two of India's most famous families, regretting his wife's controversial remarks about the Nehru-Gandhis but squeezing in a reference dripping sarcasm.

The surprise comments from the superstar ' known for choosing his words with care and zealously guarding the privacy of his family ' followed statements of his wife Jaya Bachchan and a thinly-veiled rebuttal from Rahul Gandhi.

Without naming anyone, Amitabh today said in Varanasi that he was 'deeply hurt' by statements in the media that described his family as 'liars'. He said he might consider taking steps to protect the name and honour of his family if such diatribes persisted.

But for that note of caution and a reference to the 'king' and the 'commoner', Amitabh's comments at length gave the impression that he is keen to set the controversy at rest.

Fielding a fusillade of questions from reporters, Amitabh regretted the comments that have escalated the controversy, including those attributed to his wife.

The comment of Jaya ' who has been elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Samajwadi Party nominee ' that those who brought her husband into politics did not stand by him when he was going through a crisis was made at two rallies in Uttar Pradesh.

Amitabh, one of the closest buddies of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi's first friend when she landed in Delhi in 1968, reminded all the personalities involved that none of them was around when ties between the two families struck deep roots.

He recalled the relations between his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Jawaharlal Nehru and the ties between his mother Teji Bachchan and Indira Gandhi. All this took place at a time when neither Jaya nor Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka was there.

Amitabh said he could neither forget those relationships nor tolerate any comment on them. 'Those relationships were between the two families. I have nothing but respect and goodwill for them. I am shocked by the way the relations between the two families were needlessly being scrutinised by the media and debated by the members and well-wishers of the two families.'

But Amitabh hinted it is unlikely that he would take the first step towards a rapprochement with the Nehru-Gandhi family, from which he drifted away in the late nineties. A television soundbite that had Amitabh saying it was Sonia who shut the door on him did not help improve the ties.

The sting was at play today, too. 'The Nehru-Gandhi family has ruled the country. Woh raja hai, hum rank hai (They are king and we commoners),' Amitabh said.

He added that only the king establishes contact with the poor and not the other way round. 'If the king says he does not want to have a relationship, what can the poor do' The poor cannot afford to say that 'we want to have relations with the king'.'

Amitabh is in Varanasi to shoot for Banti aur Babli, a film being made by Muzaffar Ali's son Shaad.

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