Banners: Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Carnival Motion Pictures, Raut’ers Entertainment
Producers: Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Dr Shrikant Bhasi, Mrs Varsha Sanjay Raut, Ms Purvashi Sanjay Raut, Ms Vidhita Sanjay Raut
Director: Abhijit Panse
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amrita Rao
Writers: Sanjay Raut (Story), Abhijit Panse (Screenplay), Arvind Jagtap & Manoj Yadav (Dialogue)
Political figures and the films based on them always attract controversy. There is always an attempt to justify actions, whitewash the subject’s image or project them as a messiah. And there is always the use of fictional characters to enhance the impact or dramatise the on-screen proceedings. We have seen this happen in quite a few biopics of late.
So, when you have a film based on arguably one of the most controversial, provocative and enigmatic political leaders in recent times, all this is to be expected. But Thackeray, based on former Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, manages to stay away from these clichés.
The film begins with Thackeray’s court appearance in the Babri Masjid demolition case. From there on, the film goes back and forth in time, chronicling his life as a cartoonist with the Free Press Journal right up to when he made the Shiv Sena a strong political party with Manohar Joshi taking oath as Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The film presents a series of events from Thackeray’s life interspersed with his fiery speeches, animated clips and glimpses into his personal life. The sons-of-the-soil agitation against non-Maharashtrians, the Belgaum-Karwar issue, Thackeray’s role during the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, his conflict with Morarji Desai, the ‘Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain’ campaign, his opposition to the India-Pakistan cricket matches … each of these has been shown. The film also offers a sneak peek into Thackeray’s relationship with political figures like Yashwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil and Sharad Pawar as well as leaders like George Fernandes.
The writers do not mince words in presenting the events in Thackeray’s life. Everything is shown as it happened for the most part. The screenplay is a little long-drawn at times and there are certainly some attempts to justify his actions, especially his stand against non-Maharastrians. What really appeals is the use of colour. The first half of the film is majorly in monochrome, with the presence of saffron in important scenes. This is also the most engaging part of the film.
Also, the effort taken to showcase Mumbai of the ’60s and ’70s is commendable. It is authentic and the scenes don’t look like they have been shot on sets. The second half of the film is dialogue-heavy, with Thackeray’s speeches taking centre-stage. Though the personal life of Thackeray is presented only in brief glimpses, it is done beautifully, especially the time he spends with his wife and family on the beach.
While Thackeray’s character is the focus of the story, given that it is a film about him, it would have been nice to see some of the other characters more fleshed out, especially when the casting is pretty much on point. With the film ending on a ‘to be continued’ note, looks like there is a sequel on the cards.
Performance-wise, the film belongs to Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He brings Bal Thackeray to life with not just the prosthetics but also getting the nuances in terms of his gestures. What also works in favour of the actor is that he has not tried to speak in a Marathi accent. Amrita Rao as Meena Thackeray has very limited screen time but she makes good use of it. The scene when she is reading a letter her husband has sent her from prison is moving. The supporting cast is relegated to the sidelines, but since the casting is so apt, each one stands out, especially the actors playing Prabodhankar Thackeray, Manohar Joshi, Sharad Pawar and Indira Gandhi.
Verdict: A Must-See!