Film Review Thackeray
By Sunita Vijay
Nawazuddin Siddiqui remains the front runner in biopics. His splendid performance in both Manto and Manjhi is praiseworthy. The film industry as a whole uses factual manipulation most prominently and to its best advantage especially in biopics and takes liberties while making them. Maybe the truth is too boring! Cinematographically, Thackeray remains close to the authentic. Whether it is a lopsided presentation, like many other biopics, is not easy to say. “Mujhe Bombay shaant chahiye…iss waqt Bombay ko ek hi aadmi shaant kar sakta hai.” This dialogue describes the magnificence of Bal Keshav Thackeray, the god man, the Tiger as he was fondly called. The huge popularity and charisma of Bal Thackeray doesn’t require any decorative details. The dynamic life he led from an ordinary cartoonist to the leader and founder of Shiv Sena is known to all.
It is understandable that the loyalty of a party MP, Sanjay Raut, who happens to be the producer of this film, will surely favour the man, who was given the status of Demi-God by his die-hard supporters. It highlights the brighter side of Thackeray’s life and intentionally maintains silence or puts an exclamation mark on some crucial aspects.
The firebrand leader began his career as a cartoonist in an English Daily with just two Marathi men (including him) working in the newspaper office amidst mostly south Indians, which presented an environment suffocating to the ‘out of the box’ thinker in him. He found that the artist within him was being suppressed and so was his sharp political wit and remarks. He felt that, in their homeland, Marathis were not receiving their due. The rebel in him was perturbed at the plight of Marathis. His campaign and struggle began for their rights. Soon, he started his own political weekly, Marmik, to be the voice of the Marathis, and to fight for their ‘first right’ to jobs and opportunities within Maharashtra. His climbing the political ladder, his rise in the hearts of his people, hate speeches, provocative talk, hard hitting language that he used in plenty during his ‘Marathi bacchao campaign’, is presented in unadulterated form. The softer side of his personality – to help a feeble landlord vacate his house occupied by goons, financing the poor, letting a Muslim read namaaz in his living room, his interesting desh bhakti talks with Javed Miandad, and his political views, make the movie interesting.
Bal Thackeray was an iconic figure who was obeyed and feared by all in Maharashtra. Playing the part of a man of his stature must have been challenging for Nawazuddin, including the hate talk against Muslims; but the brilliant actor in him shines brightly against all biases. He brings out all the typical habits, style, manner of talking, gestures so close to the real Thackeray. He wears the Thackeray cloak perfectly. All the idiosyncrasies of this man, who had anger, frustration and a mere pen that he used as a weapon to paint things in his favour, are introduced in a crisp manner. How his thoughts connected with the common man, how he calibrated his vision with that of the public to achieve the set goals, how he rose steadily to a highly respectable position in political circle – are all explored in the movie with brief references to crucial political scenarios and leaders like Sharad Pawar, Indira Gandhi, George Fernandes and Morarji Desai.
The film begins with the Babri Masjid trial, with some superb replies given by Thackeray; Nawazuddin awes all with his replies and acting, imitating a man who never changed his expressions but had lots of explosive stuff within. The director, Abhijit Panse, captures the mood of the masses, the massive followership of Bal– all those who stood outside the court for a mere glimpse of a man. The camera positioning and angles capture the right atmosphere, the one who generated so much respect from public that even the Judge almost got up from his seat as Thackeray entered the court room. The transcendence and charisma of this man has been shown in full grandeur.
The film is simple but engaging and is close to reality in terms of uncontrived sets. The radiance of Thackeray, every aspect of his personality, the fear he evoked, power, leadership qualities, helping the poor, intolerance, the patriotic sentiments, unconditional support towards Marathi and Maharashtra, sharp intellect, wit and subtle humour, love for cricket and cigars – all come forth as the film progresses. The supporting cast, including Amrita Rao as his wife, have performed well.
The story is narrated in flashbacks. The first half is presented in black and white and the second half slowly acquires colour with a marigold flower being watered by Thackeray changing from white to saffron, and so grows the roots and strength of the saffron Shiv Sena. The dialogues, like ‘bheek mangne se accha hai, goonda bun kar apna haq chheenana’, ‘Mein agar akela bhi reh gaya na toh laakhon logon koi ikattha karne ki taaqat maa Jagdambe ne mujhe di hai’ are powerfully delivered by Siddiqui.
It’s an interesting democratic mood of the society in which biopics are designed to support and favour certain political ideologies and parties. It is a commendable strategy to bring this film when the elections are round the corner. There are strong views, rude remarks and violence, too.
Ignoring the favouritism in the script and appreciating the technical richness of the movie, it is a good watch. For that matter, every film to a greater or lesser extent contains factually warped information and edited accounts in order to make them commercially and critically successful. This biopic too has its share of shortcomings but is a must watch for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s performance, who nails it.
I go with two and a half stars.