He was the first to hail Mahatma Gandhi as "father of the nation," was regarded by him (Gandhi) as his "rebellious son" and a prince among patriots. Fully immersed in the freedom struggle, he also fell in love once.
Aspects of his life and death, nonetheless continue to be controversial both in India and abroad, says a new book on Subhas Chandra Bose.
"His Majesty's Opponent, Subhash Chandra Bose and India's Struggle Against Empire", by Harvard University professor of history Sugata Bose, analyses Netaji's life and legacy, tracing the intellectual impact of his years in Calcutta and Cambridge, the ideas and relationships that influenced during his time in exile and his ascent to the peak of nationalist politics.
Having resigned from the ICS and returned to India, one thing was clear after the very first meeting between Gandhi and Bose - the Mahatma had failed to cast his hypnotic spell on Subhas as he had done with so many of his followers, the book, published by Penguin, says.
Family elders, his political mentor C R Das and Das' wife Basanti Devi, had been inundated with marriage proposals for Subhas all of which he had spurned.
He was particularly indignant on one occasion when Das was offered a large political donation by a wealthy benefactor, if only the Deshbandhu would persuade Bose to marry his daughter.
Another aspiring father-in-law went further. On being told by Basanti Devi that Subhas would probably be sent to the gallows one day, he responded that his daughter would be proud to be Bose's widow.
The book quotes Netaji's close friend and political associate ACN Nambiar saying that Subhas was a "one idea man, singly for the independence of India, I think the only Departure", and adding, "If one might use the word "departure," was his love for Miss Emily Schenkl; otherwise he was completely adsorbed. He was deeply in love with her, an enormous, intense love."
He had been immersed in the freedom struggle and had taken little interest in relationships with women.
"So many did love me before," Netaji would write later, "but I never looked at them".
"He started it," Emily stated categorically about the romantic turn in their relationship.
Their intimacy grew as they spent time together in Austria and then Czechoslovakia from mid-1934 to March 1936, the book says.
Before he escaped from his Calcutta home, Bose had written to Gandhi offering his unconditional support to any movement the Mahatma might lead in the cause of India's independence. Gandhi wrote to his "rebellious son" saying that until one of them could convert the other on the question of best way to pursue Independence, they must "sail in different boats."