Thackeray is a problematic film over political propaganda. An obvious release before the Lok Sabha Elections is an in-your-face political campaign, few weeks ago it was Vijay Gutte’s mockery The Accidental Prime Minister. There’s no harm in propagandist films unless and until they rightfully serve “cinema” as a medium, even the outspoken Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi serves the purpose in its cinematic universe amidst a right dose of patriotism. Director Abhijit Panse’s Rege (2014) was an absorbing as well as a hard-hitting film which raked justification. Well, Balasaheb Thackeray wasn’t a man (rather a tiger) of subtlety, his command over oratory skills, reactions to actions and outspokenness makes him a grey character. Thackeray is penned by Shiv Sena Leader Sanjay Raut, who pens a black-and-white promotional story, smartly utilising sensational material. Hence, Thackeray never makes a justification and instead begins and ends blandly on one-note.
Thackeray’s initial sequences smoothly lays a trap – inconsistency and injustice. When young Balasaheb enters a theatre, his inner demons of racism are unleashed which sets for a retrieval and survival of Marathi community. Though the sequence establishes ‘caricaturist’, it falls prey to a tunnel vision – on a broader perspective, the theatre audience consists Pathan, Sikh, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayali and Marathi (India in a nutshell?); but Thackeray travels through a tunnel. It looks secular, but slowly it transforms into caricaturish narrative out of nowhere and injustice towards Marathi community. ‘Caricaturist’ element is conveniently to stage (what looks like a) confession about racism, but the sequence feels off track and forced. And then the particular narrative is never utilised again. There’s a notable inconsistency throughout where the protagonist is a superior deity and hence, one couldn’t connect amidst the bias. Also, a track dwells into people’s lives to make the protagonist superior through words and not action, it’s tangible yet somewhat effective.Well, it’s such an honest film where pointing out the flaws and negativity is indirectly challenging Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology. No problem, but at least make a balanced film or put a strong perspective. With chapters smartly titled as “Deceit” and “Group Settlement”, the content falls short punch hard while ending up as an Aaj Tak News. With less action and more reactions, Thackeray constantly dictates what to fall for – and Balasaheb even claims himself as, “Hitler of Maharashtra” yet works for “Hindustan of Hindus”. Abhijit Panse’s bold presentation where he doesn’t shy away from confessing the real identity (even if single-minded) is appreciable. But again, there’s no benefit of doubt when a film written by Politician releasing pre-election. And then, the film which begins with a map of India ends up with a map of Maharashtra hinting at a sequel…
Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee intricately captures the bland narrative which adds valuable aesthetic in form of high contrast. But, it never dives in a personal zone considering it as a “biopic”. Dialogues by Arvind Jagtap and Manoj Yadav are mere tools where common man converses in rhymes and verses. The inspirational quote kind-of dialogues win accolades (backed by Nawazuddin’s delivery) but never lay a punch. Amar Mohile’s background score constantly manipulates the one-note narrative bombing loud rages and directing how to feel about a moment. Screenplay is effective but feels incoherent at places because of film’s dwelling in other reigns to uplift the protagonist over reactions.Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the death of irony here. Few years back, Shiv Sena protested against his involvement in Ram-Leela and now, he plays the Shiv Sena supremo whose hatred against Muslims and Non-Marathis is infamous. From playing Saadat Hasan Manto to Balasaheb Thackeray, Nawaz conquers extraordinary pillars of contrast with conviction. But, being aware of the political inclining; Nawaz as Thackeray seemed a satire. With him mouthing and celebrating destruction of Babri Masjid found a way for entertainment: dark comedy. Amrita Rao as Meena Thackeray, Balasaheb’s biggest support system is reduced to the role of a servant. While an ensemble of supporting actors from “Marathi community” are perfect lookalikes but fail to lend a strong support, given the one-note writing and underwhelming performances.
The material written above would provoke you to look at Thackeray in a different way; I suppose, the audience would fail to distinguish between real Thackeray and reel Thackeray. Here’s an unapologetic film, subjective takeaways but unjustified and bland. Cent percent for its cinematic quality and presentation, but that’s not enough and in terms of duration, it’s long enough!
Language: Marathi & Hindi
Release: 25 January, 2019
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