25th of January this year witnessed the release of two biopics: Manikarnika and Thackeray, each respectively dealing with the historical and political scenario of India, pre and post Independence. The viewers of both the movies can almost learn the history of India through the life of these magnanimous political figures. As you all have hopefully read the all-inclusive review of Manikarnika previous week, let us now evaluate what the other biopic had to offer to its audience.
Thackeray being an account of the commander of the Shiv Sena couldn’t have been contained in a single film. The ending of the movie mightily indicates a sequel with a note of ‘to be continued’. In addition to the note, the map of Maharashtra drawn with the saffron shawl and demeanor of Thackeray artistically portrays his spellbinding power over the territory.
The growth and the political actions of this leader produced by the MP of the party Sanjay Raut almost prepare the audience what to expect from the movie. The script does not really provide any new information to the audience and states the events of the political history of the character and Maharashtra like an information bulletin. Just like the screening of most of the movie itself, everything about the script and obviously the character is black and white, he and his ideals are never in conflict, and it is what it is.
More than half of the movie screened in black and white portrays the incoming of Bal Keshav’s ideology and the subsequent formation of his party, the infamous ‘Shiv Sena’. The reason and the argument put forth regarding the formation of this party is shown to be very smooth and easy. The movie shows the lack of job and business that the Marathis are apparently facing according to the protagonist. I use the word ‘apparently’ because a concrete ground or scenario to display that the Marathis lack job opportunities are evidently missing. Though there are scenes where certain characters are struggling to acquire a job, concrete scenes and examples of them being unable to attain it as a result of being a Marathi could have perhaps added a ground to the main logic held by Thackeray. Thackeray himself being a Marathi works as a cartoonist in a publication owned by Non-Marathis which he willfully chooses to resign from. When deciding to start his own weekly named ‘Marmik’, Thackeray manages to inaugurate it by the Chief Minister himself. All this almost negates the helplessness of the Marathis in Maharashtra. Moreover, in one of the scenes when the Chairman of the All India Radio states that employment in the sector requires a certain qualification and degree, Thackeray shuns this logical factor blatantly. So is then, the concept of hiring unskilled employees who are Marathis to be applauded? Till this time, I as a viewer was almost unable to understand if all this is supposed to be taken as an offense or is to be silently digested.
The movie introduces Thackeray, standing in the witness box against the Sri Krishna Commission, for his involvement in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The very first scene thus invokes this foreshadowing of Hindutva that takes over Maharashtra. The scene and the entire movie not for once alleges Thackeray for his involvement in illegal and undemocratic actions. Be it partaking in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, taking down of a Hindi film in order to run a Marathi film, barging in the office of the All India Radio, beating up a party member for favouring democracy, etc., the movie holds these actions highly by taking satisfaction in it. The development of the character, seemed almost unemotional to me because the ideals that he holds at the beginning of the movie remains constant till the end without much addition to the reasons for the characters reactions. When you compare biopics that have released in the past, there is a display of a certain reason and circumstance which leads to the characters behaving in a certain manner. For example, in Sanju, Sanjay Dutt is seen to indulge in substance abuse because of his lack of integrity and weakness of character and decides to change because of his realisation of responsibility; in Manikarnika we see Laxmi Bai growing up amongst male peers and thus building a warrior-like nature. The basis for the way Thackeray decides to be what he is, as I said, lacked concrete ground and is accepted by the people without really questioning.
The character and his decision like killing an opponent of a communist party, or killing a member of his own party, and many other actions of riots and political turmoil like ceasing a match between Pakistan and India and vandalization of Wankhede stadium go unquestioned. That is when perhaps as an audience, you are supposed to realise that, the movie simply holds these stringent reactions to actions as logical, as almost natural. The character, his actions, and resultant events are not to be questioned. The people around him like the police officials (who should dutifully protect all the citizens) adhere to his ideas of protecting only the Marathi citizens. His extremist opinions about democracy and communal stance are almost hurled at the viewers. He aims to be Hitler, a figure that brought upon dictatorship, animosity, and unlawful and unethical deeds on a huge mass of people. Thackeray for once does not deny the accusations standing in the witness box and owns up to them like an achievement. The director, Abijit Panse, thus may be in no way try to evoke sympathy in the heart of the people.
The movie attempts to bring a balance with the showing of some social work that the character indulged in during his rule. The establishment of technical institutes to make the Marathis educated, increasing the frequency of ambulance, aiding to the medical needs of the poor, etc., make you calm down for a bit. His hatred for the Muslim again is then balanced with this scene of allowing a Muslim man to pray in his own house. By this, perhaps, the movie made sure that the hero of a huge mass of people does not appear to be and is not all-in-all a tormentor.
The director makes the scenes of the movie almost uneven in nature. Some political reaction takes place, but we never see the causal effect of most of the scenes. The director contributing to Thackeray’s deeds in social activity in a little more elaborate manner would have made the movie more balanced.
Amrita Rao playing the role of Mina Thackeray has a minimal role. She is like a constant presence and support to Thackeray as she takes care of his family and his weekly in his absence. The addition of his role as a father, son, and a husband perhaps could have added an edge to the man that Thackeray was away from the political ground and thus would have engaged the role of Amrita Rao more.
The highlight of this movie was none other than of course Nawazuddin Siddique. With his dark roles in Gangs of Wasseypur and Sacred Games, Siddique has already built ground in the mind of his viewers. He has again proved it that he is one of the most effortless and versatile actors that the Bollywood industry possesses. He fits in and plays the role of Bal Keshav Thackeray like no one else could have. The body language, the oratory power, and the devil-may-care attitude are executed impactfully. The way his acting chiseled the actions of Thackeray makes the movie and the story engaging. Siddique’s acting alone can be a reason to offer some credibility to the director. Siddique manages to put a viewer almost in the dilemma of disliking the character and his audacity but liking the hero that he becomes for his Sena and Mumbai.
One should not miss this movie if they are an ardent fan of Siddique and wants to add a dark political biopic to their movie list just like me. You will surely witness the progression of a man who walks a path from being a cartoonist to a master and a gatherer of people in a celebratory manner.
Watch the movie and do tell me what would have added more essence to the character bend of this biopic in a cinematic sphere?
Watch the trailer:
Until then! Sayonara!