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Ajitabh back in Bachchan bungalow

Oct. 27: If Bachchan watchers were hoping for a family reunion, their Prateeksha (wait) has ended.

Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday celebrations marked a special bonding for the actor as his estranged brother Ajitabh has started living in Prateeksha, one of the two family bungalows within walking distance of each other at Juhu, Mumbai.

Amitabh and Jaya live in the other bungalow, Jalsa, their new house, with son Abhishek, daughter-in-law Aishwarya and granddaughter Aaradhya.

Ajitabh, three years younger than Amitabh, had been living in a company guesthouse in Vashi in Navi Mumbai for several years before he moved into Prateeksha.

It’s not clear if the old bungalow has been legally transferred to Ajitabh as a settlement between the brothers or he is just staying there. Both sides have declined comment on grounds of privacy.

The Amitabh-Ajitabh reunion was evident at an art exhibition — B Seventy — that Kokilabehn Ambani inaugurated at Mumbai’s Nehru Centre as part of the actor’s birthday celebrations. Amitabh turned 70 on October 11.

At the opening, Jaya rested her head on her brother-in-law’s shoulder and got a gentle hug in return from her “dewar” (brother-in-law), all in full view of media photographers.

At another event to mark Amitabh’s birthday, Ajitabh made a speech where he reminisced about their childhood. Many, including Jaya, thought the speech was “the most moving of the evening”.

In Delhi’s and Mumbai’s social circuits, Ajitabh’s re-entry into the heart of his brother’s family is a far cry from their acrimonious dispute that had its roots in the ABCL crisis of the nineties.

During the course of the decade-long dispute, the Bachchans had not only omitted Ajitabh from many family gatherings but also publicly ignored him. He was a no-show for his brother’s 60th birthday celebrations and neither was he included in the guest list for the Ash-Abhi engagement in January 2007.

At the funeral of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Amar Singh, by his own admission, publicly took on the role of Amitabh’s younger brother during the rituals.

There were whispers that the presence of Ajitabh and family friend Rahul Gandhi at the funeral was nearly ignored.

In 2005, a somewhat hurt Ajitabh, also known as Bunty, had gone public, threatening to write a “tell-all” book, but the project was shelved without any explanation.

Some close Bachchan friends attribute the thaw in the relationship to Singh’s exit from the Bachchan fold following criticism of Jaya by the former Samajwadi Party general secretary.

Jaya, hurt by Singh’s remarks, seems keen to consolidate her ties with her brother-in-law, with whom she shared a relationship of mutual warmth and respect in the early years after her marriage. Together, they had also weathered much gossip and talk when Amitabh’s name was linked with that of his heroines.

Some Bachchan insiders, however, see a political angle to Amitabh’s reunion with Ajitabh who, they point out, has maintained contact with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

In June 2012, Ajitabh had campaigned on behalf of Congress candidate Shree Wadhawan, who was contesting as mayor of Allahabad. She and her husband Ravi have been long-standing friends of the Bachchan family and well known to the Gandhis, too.

The cultivation of Ajitabh by Amitabh and Jaya, according to some Bachchan friends, is another significant move in an altogether highly politicised life and career of the superstar.