Thackeray, by Abhijit Panse, is a biopic on Bal Keshav Thackeray, popularly known as Balasaheb, the founder of Shiv Sena. The challenge in reviewing such a biopic film is that how to articulate and write about a film where the titular character’s many acts are not in the interest of the mankind. It turns out to be so difficult to appreciate the rabble-rousing politician portrayed on screen. How to appreciate the character who had a controversial life ? He had no qualms in choosing violence, indulging in hate-speech, fighting for the rights of Marathis but demonization of other communities etc. One of the strange parts of the film is that Nawazuddin is chosen for the lead character, who ends up promoting Hindutva and talking against certain communities especially Muslims. One is certainly able to see the transformation of a cartoonist to a ferocious leader through the film and there is every probability of its sequel too.
The film is disturbing due to many dialogues and the way Thackeray’s life and decisions are justified. There are many instances where the leader is looking at mass turning violent and still not apologetic about the same. So, one is forced to think, how to support a leader who promoted communalism and just rationalized every act. He projects that he believes in the unity of the nation first and then Maharashtra by saying : Jai Hind, Jai Maharashtra. This is the inner conflict as a critic how to even rate and review the film which is not in favour of the mankind. But then, the film has to be taken as a piece of art. Now, looking at the film as simply a piece of art, Nawazuddin breathes life so effortlessly into the lead character Thackeray. Nawazuddin does not imitate every mannerism / voice of Balasaheb, but he projects the very essence of the character so brilliantly on screen.
The film begins with Thackeray being interrogated in court for the charges against him in being instrumental for Babri Masjid demolition and his hate speech. The flash back scenes are interspersed along with the interrogation process and Thackeray’s rational statements for every situation. Thackeray’s sense of humour is also captured well. Thackeray is shown to be working on his own terms even when he is employed as a cartoonist with Free Press Journal. He chooses to resign his job than to succumb to the political pressures. Then he decides to start up his own weekly newspaper – Marmik. His father’s goodwill in the market ensures him the loan to begin with this journey.
Thackeray is shown to be very shrewd and blunt from the very beginning. Thackeray grows from there to a very influential position where he was able to win people over on his sides. He first worked for the rights of Marathis. He was adamant about calling Bombay as Mumbai even before 1995. He went to extremes to achieve the power. He neither bothers about his people picking up weapons against other people nor digging up and ruining the cricket pitch ahead of an India-Pakistan match. He himself protests from the front on many occasions. He does not hesitate to express his extremist views. At the same time, there are certain scenes in the film, where he is shown to be liberal as well in his viewpoints. Certain dialogues like “Pungi bajao lungi bhagao” are disturbing. But the film propels ahead glorifying the acts of Balasaheb and his ways of politics.
His wife Meena’s role is essayed by Amrita Rao. The film does not explore much on his personal front except a few scenes at home, with his father as well as with Meenatai, who is shown to be a silent but strong support system of his life. Various leaders viz. Morarji Desai, George Fernandez, India Gandhi, Sharad Pawar are also seen in certain scenes to reflect upon the political scenario as well as certain major decisions of those times.
As far as the cast is concerned, Nawazuddin seems to be the perfect choice for the Balasaheb’s role. Even without mimicking Balasaheb, he could project the character so incredibly on screen. Amrita as Meenatai is also good. Rest of the characters are also ok.
In spite of Nawazuddin giving one of his finest performance in Thackeray, it is difficult to celebrate the film since it relishes the provocative politics displayed by Balasaheb. The film has its elements in place to convey that the transformation of Bal Keshav Thackeray from a cartoonist to the tyrant Balasaheb was need of the hour. It is indeed difficult to appreciate the rabble-rousing politician portrayed on screen but kudos to Nawazuddin for playing this character with finesse.
Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)
Cast and Crew Details (Source: Wikipedia page)
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Balasaheb Thackeray), Amrita Rao (Meena Tai Thackeray), Rajesh Khera (Morarji Desai)
Directied by: Abhijit Panse
Produced by: Viocom18 Motion Pictures, Dr. Shrikant Bhasi, Varsha Sanjay Raut, Purvashi Sanjay Raut, Vidhita Sanjay Raut
Written by: Arvind Jagtap, Manoj Yadav (Dialogues)
Screenplay by: Abhijit Panse
Story By: Sanjay Raut
Based on: Bal Thackeray
Cinematography: Sudeep Chatterjee
Music by: Rohan, Sandeep Shirodkar, Amar
Edited by: Ashish Mahatrae, Apurva Motivale Sahai
Production Company: Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Raut’ers Entertainment, Carnival Motion Pictures
Distributed by: Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Release Date: 25th January, 2019
Duration: 139 minutes
Language (s): Hindi, Marathi