An honest attempt

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 Jan 2019 10:03:01




By Kartik Lokhande,

Every eminent person in the world, who stood for the self-professed cause, may be viewed in positive light by his supporters and in negative light by his opponents. The same holds true in case of Shiv Sena founder Bal Keshav Thackeray, popularly known as ‘Balasaheb’.

‘The’ Thackeray continues to remain in the hearts of countless many Marathi people as a man with rock-solid determination, and many still view him as instigator of violence in political history of Maharashtra. The movie Thackeray based on his life presents both these sides, though it -- like most biopics -- glorifies the person and his

Even before its release, the movie had generated enough buzz to attract viewers to theatres on the opening day. The fact that it has been made in Marathi and Hindi both, attracted more crowd even in the afternoon shows.

The movie starts with the scene of arrival of Balasaheb Thackeray at Lucknow airport for the hearing in a lawsuit against him in connection with his support to Babri mosque demolition. Through the court-hearings, the story unfolds -- of the making and rise of a young cartoonist with the ‘Free Press Journal’ into a firebrand supremo of Shiv Sena aspousing the cause of Hindutva and Marathi Manoos. The film with a run-time of 140 minutes, tries to pack all the major events in the life of Balasaheb Thackeray till Shiv Sena gets its first Chief Minister in Maharashtra -- Manohar Joshi -- sworn in.

The director Abhijit Panse, who is associated with Thackeray family and now with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, has made an honest attempt to portray the major events in the life of a legendary, and controversial, figure in politics of Maharashtra and India. Usually, whenever a biopic is made, much attention is paid only to the glowing chapters of the life of the central character.

However, in Thackeray, several chapters and deciding moments in the life of the protagonist have been captured. These include even the instances when Thackeray had to take a decision on whether to continue with the sword and knife wielding supporters of his party, shades of his autocratic behaviour through dialogues and telling symbolism when he holds ‘remote control’ of television when Manohar Joshi is being sworn in as Chief Minister, and such scenes.

There are other scenes also when Shiv Sena had supported Emergency (reflected in dialogue ‘If Emergency brings in discipline, I support it’), political friendship with the then Chief Minister Vasantrao Naik (whose support had led to Shiv Sena’s description as ‘Vasant Sena’) and Sharad Pawar, the time when Shiv Sena received a setback, riots following Babri mosque demolition, 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, Thackeray’s opposition to cricket match between India and Pakistan, violent clashes with Communists etc. For someone who wants to have a peep into the political history of Maharashtra, these highlights -- obviously from the point of view of Shiv Sena -- may be a treat.

One of the highlights of the movie is the use of cartoons in the initial part, to showcase the plight of Marathi Manoos in Mumbai of 1960s that prompted the rise of Balasaheb Thackeray. Further, there are some brilliant cinematic moments. While much of the pre-interval part has been shown in black-and-white (as story is being told in flashback), on two occasions the Bhagwa (saffron) colour dominates the otherwise black-and-white frame. On one occasion, Shiv Sena’s flag is shown in saffron colour. In another scene, after murder of Communist leader Krishna Desai, Thackeray is shown trimming marigold plant to which a single flower blooms with its saffron colour deepening with seconds passing by. Of course, it shows the rise of Saffron over the Red.

The biggest star of the movie is, of course, the life of Balasaheb Thackeray. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has put in his best to portray the protagonist with conviction. Still, one feels, he could have done it without the prosthetic nose, which unnecessarily adds the element of artificiality to his look. Amrita Rao as Thackeray’s wife Meenatai is okay. Except for a scene -- when she reads a letter sent by Balasaheb from prison -- in which she has been given an opportunity to act, not much has been left for her to do, acting-wise.

But, hats off to the casting team led by Rajesh Mapuskar. For, it has selected right kind of lookalike actors to portray the characters of Bal Thackeray’s father ‘Prabodhankar’ Keshav Thackeray, Vasantrao Naik, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Yeshwantrao Chavan, Sharad Pawar, Datta Salvi and others. Noted and brilliant Marathi poet Sandip Khare has portrayed the role of Manohar Joshi with aplomb. The sad part about the film is that though it rolls credits, the songs have not been included in at least Marathi version of the movie.

For Nagpurians, there is a special reason to watch the movie: It shows an incident that had happened at Nagpur airport in 1969 when a few Communists had tried to attack Thackeray and he had wielded his pistol at them.

Abhijit Panse is writer of the movie, and noted writer Arvind Jagtap has written the dialogues for Marathi version of the film. Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP, has produced the movie. Obviously, the main intention of the movie is reflected in its timing of release -- just a couple of months ahead of Lok Sabha elections. But, there is more to it, as is indicated at the end by the words ‘To be continued...’ So, there might be sequel highlighting post-1995 life of Balasaheb Thackeray.

Shiv Sena supporters will, no doubt, love the movie. However, even if one is not a Shiv Sena supporter, one may like to watch the film to enhance understanding about Balasaheb Thackeray and the rise and role of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra’s and country’s politics.

The Hitavada Rating : O O O