Pawar recalls how he cycled to Jejuri to watch Dilip Kumar shooting for Naya Daur

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Pune, Jul 7 (PTI) As a school student, Sharad Pawar once cycled to the temple town of Jejuri in Pune district to see Dilip Kumar shooting for 'Naya Daur'. Many years later, the Bollywood legend visited Pawar's constituency to campaign for him.

Kumar, 98, died at a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday morning.

'I cherish a lot of memories of him. I still remember that when I was doing my secondary school education in the Pune district, we learnt that the shooting of Naya Daur was going on at Jejuri. We all went on bicycle to see the film shoot. This was the first time I saw Dilip Kumar,' the NCP chief told reporters here.

With the demise of the veteran actor, he has lost a 'fatherly figure', Pawar said.

'Years later, when I entered politics and started working in the public life, a different bond developed between me and Kumar. During my election campaigns, he used to come for one or two rallies,' Pawar recalled.

The actor was active in public life in Mumbai and that was why he was appointed `Sheriff' of the state capital (an honorary position), Pawar said, adding that as Sheriff, Kumar took keen interest in the city's problems.

Besides India, Kumar had a big fan following abroad too, especially in West Asia, Pawar noted. 'When we went to Syria and Egypt together, the local people, especially the youth used to come in large numbers to see him,' he reminisced.

During the India-China and India-Pakistan wars, Kumar worked to boost the morale of the soldiers and after the wars helped to keep the nation united, Pawar said.

'Lately, he was not in good health. I went to see him three weeks ago. His wife Saira-ji was hopeful that he would reach the age of 100 but the journey ended today at the age of 98. But we all should be grateful to him for his contribution and I pray to God that his soul be in peace,' the former Maharashtra chief minister said.

Incidentally, in his book `On My Terms,' Pawar has written about the 'chill' in their relations after he turned down Kumar's request to be a bit lenient about actor Sanjay Dutt who was arrested in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

'He was saddened by the discomfiture of his close friend Sanjay Dutt and wanted me to be a bit lenient. Citing strong evidence against the young actor, I turned down his request. Though a certain chill crept into our ties after that, relations between Saira Banu and my family continue to be warm as ever,' the NCP chief said.

In his condolence message on Twitter on Wednesday, Pawar said, 'Saddened to hear about the demise of the veteran actor Dilip Kumar. We have lost a legend. Deep condolences to the grieving family and fans.' PTI SPK KRK KRK

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