Thackeray ends up aggrandising Balasaheb rather than actually portraying his life in truest form.
Thackeray is a biased take on the life of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. It is a movie which is solely made for the glorification of the ideologies of Balasaheb and his deeds. We get the glimpse of how he gets deified through the introductory shot itself. We see the back of Balasaheb (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), then one of his hands appears, and the camera swirls around to show his face. This is almost like the heroic entry of protagonists in typical Indian ‘mass movies’.
Written and directed by Abhijit Panse, the film seems excruciatingly long trying to establish the reasons that triggered anger inside Balasaheb. It sure is arresting in some phases like the one where he is trying to make peace with Muslim community but winds up propounding the path of Hindutva after riots.
Thackeray justifies everything that Balasaheb did by saying things like if loving the nation is a crime, then what he did was also a crime. Take for instance the violence that erupted under Balasaheb’s direction in Mumbai when he believed ‘others’ (South Indians majorly) are taking up the major chunk of jobs in Bombay (sorry, Mumbai, as Balasaheb corrects an advocate). It was horrendous to see some Marathi guys, supporters of Shiv Sena, are standing with weapons like knife in their hands while a South Indian man drops his bicycle and the container full of Idlis and Sambhar on the road and runs away in fear; Or, when a guy hurls a stone at the window of a south Indian hotel In another scene, Balasaheb gestures to one of his men to slip the knife back inside his pocket and justifies that weapons used by his men are for the purpose of saving ‘their’ people. It was strangely uncomfortable when he tries to change the name of Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar (This reminds of recent instances like the name change of Allahabad to Prayagraj).
His relation with his wife Meena Tai Thackeray (Amrita Rao) hardly develops. A small boy comes up to Balasaheb and asks for an autograph. There is no significance given to their relationship and when Balasaheb sends her a letter from prison, we don’t feel the sentiment at all as she weeps reading the letter.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a class apart. You can’t ask for more from an actor who has made a name for himself with his exemplary acting. But the film’s objective of glorifying Balasaheb, his actions on spreading hate and finally justifying all that with his love for ‘his’ people and the nation is hugely discomforting. And the movie hopes to continue unsettling the audience as it ends on a note of ‘To be continued’. Thackeray ends up aggrandising Balasaheb rather than actually portraying his life in truest form.