Bal Thackeray's death halts filming, closes theaters

Bollywood came to a screeching halt over the weekend following the death of Bal Thackeray, the founder and leader of the movement known as Shiv Sena (Shiva’s Army).

The 86-year-old activist’s death on Saturday in Mumbai had been expected and barriers had been set up around his home in Bandra, where many Bollywood studios are located, to deal with the crush of mourners.

Even before his death, production was sputtering as filmmakers rushed to pay final respects to the Hindu fundamentalist who many had feared during his life because he had the power to rally his supporters to shut down movies whose subjects he didn’t approve of.

Thackeray, who started his career as a cartoonist, became hugely influential, rallying local support against immigrants from North India who were perceived to be stealing jobs, and setting Hindus against Muslims.

Thousands turned out for his funeral on Sunday and trade org the Federation of Assns. of Maharashtra declared Monday a day of mourning for Thackeray, banning all work in Mumbai including film and TV production, and closing theaters.

Meanwhile, many leading lights of the Hindi film industry released statements mourning the controversial activist, including Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar, Salman Khan, Ramgopal Verma, and Preity Zinta.

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