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Meet Raj Bahadur, the man after Thalaiva’s acting dream and his friend of 50 years

Rajnikanth’s journey from Shivaji Rao Gaekwad to Thalaiva had just been a dream if his best friend, Raj Bahadur, had not persuaded him to turn it into a reality. From financially helping Rajni to helping him make decisions, his friend continues to be his pillar of strength even today.

Meet Raj Bahadur, the man after Thalaiva's acting dream and his friend for 50 years - DRB
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Mumbai, First Published Oct 27, 2021, 1:56 PM IST
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When actor Rajnikanth received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award at the 67th National Film awards ceremony recently in New Delhi, he went on to mention his 50-year-long friendship with Raj Bahadur (77). So who is Raj Bahadur? Back in the days when Rajnikanth was a conductor, carrying the dreams of becoming an actor in his eyes, Raj was the driver of the same bus.

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The two became friends and started a friendship that proves to be a real Jai-Veeru Jodi in today’s times. While accepting the award, Thalaiva dedicated his award to his best friend, Raj, saying, “I dedicate this award to Raj Bahadur, my friend in Karnataka, bus driver, my colleague and the man who saw acting talent in me, and further encouraged me to pursue it.”

The superstar met Raj when in 1970 when he joined duty as a conductor while Raj was the driver of the same bus. Raj, who comes from a humble background and lives in the Chamrajpete area of Bengaluru, did not only identify Rajnikanth’s acting talent but also pushed him to pursue his dreams. In fact, he went on to teach Rajnikanth fluent Tamil.

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Reminiscing the old days, Raj had once told the media that for every cultural programme in the department, Rajni would be seen performing on the stage. It was Raj who forced Rajni to go to Chennai and join an acting school, and where the superstar was born after renowned filmmaker K Balachander came to meet Rajni after his performance and asked him to learn Tamil.

Interestingly, Raj also paid for Thalaiva’s acting fees. Raj was earning a monthly salary of Rs 400. When Rajni got convinced for the acting school, Raj did not let him go empty-handed. He gave Rajni half his salary and continued doing so till the time he the next two to three years.

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Even today, Rajni and Raj’s friendship continues to sail through. The superstar, who continues to be Shivaji for Raj, pays surprise visits to his best friend. In fact, a room is also reserved at Raj’s residence for Rajni where he comes, stays, and spends time with his best friend.

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