“Nawazuddin delivers a solid,career-best performance, lionizing the Shiv Sena Supremo”
While relaxing with his wife at a beach, Balsaheb confesses to his wife that during his stint in the press, he used to mine satire when observing people but after foraying into party and politics, the hardships, emotions and sufferings curb his attention. It is one of the very few moments in the Abhijit Panse-directed biopic THACKERAY that offers nuance and insights into the life of the prolific personality, Bal Keshav Thackeray, played with an undeterred commitment by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Kicking off at the courtroom where Balsaheb was accused of instigating communal violence and provoking the enemity between Hindus and Muslims during the Babri Masjid riots, the narrative flashes back and chronologically traces the evolution of the Shiv Sena and the emergence of the Supremo while driving his ideologies and compassion for the ‘Marathi Maanus’.
The early life of Thackeray sees him working for the Free Press Journal but he quits his job when his cartoon figures which prevailed as sharp critique of the political figures are not regarded well. His thoughts and actions, often the violent ones, were largely influenced by the plight of the economically weaker section of the society who face oppression and dearth of opportunities at various levels with the influx of the people from the other states. Bal Keshav soon escalates to Saheb , the savior of the oppressed and robin hood for the masses. His house becomes the darbar where masses queue up with their problems , seeking for solutions.
The formative years of Thackeray are shot in black and white and the setting re-created by the makers forms a flawless palette to depict the Mumbai of 60s and 70s and the eponymous leader’s major political milestones. I am a sucker for vintage and was drawn into the finesse of the production design. The first half is particularly engaging, effectively bringing out the grit in the protagonists through Manoj Yadav’s dialogues. But the second half plays out flat and the Panse who has crafted the screenplay doesn’t build a sense of urgency, especially when the issues at hand, like the Babri Masjid controversy and 1993 blasts, are so sensitive.
Consequently, those portions appear flabby and repetitive but what saves the film from derailing is the man playing the enigmatic person. Nawazuddin nails the part and holds it up firmly from start from finish – composed, brimming with resolute strength and a sharp tongue with wit, he embodies the spirit of Thackeray. Unapologetic and unabashed about his means, he also reflects the deep cynicism through Thackeray’s uncanny sense of generating controversies. Note the conversation between him and cricketer Javed Miadad – it is equally fun and acts like a double-edged sword. But it is also true that except Nawazuddin, other actors serve as mere tokens in the political drama.Amrita Rao, plays the mild-mannered wife, gets a couple of scenes where her performance can be deemed worthy. The talented Prakash Belawadi just gets a one-scene cameo.
The film also ends with a possibility of a sequel. Its justified, considering his extensive repertoire. Thackeray called himself the missionary warrior for the Marathi cause and this biopic reiterates that he is the true Maharashtra icon and their symbol of pride. But I am also more interest in his vices. Hope the installment brings that on to the table.
I go with 3 stars.