In spite of Nawazuddin giving one of his finest performance in Thackeray, it is difficult to celebrate the film
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.