“Thackeray”… A celebratory epic that’s less about a leader’s psyche than his penchant for punch lines

Posted on January 25, 2019


Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/thackeray-movie-review-nawazuddin-siddiqui-baradwaj-rangan

When the incendiary trailer for Abhijit Panse’s Thackeray landed, the actor Siddharth tweeted: “Nawazuddin has repeated ‘Uthao lungi bajao pungi’ (lift the lungi and *’#$ him) in the film #Thackeray. Clearly hate speech against South Indians… In a film glorifying the person who said it! Are you planning to make money out of this propaganda? Stop selling hate! Scary stuff!” With due respect to Siddharth, that is perhaps the point. Thackeray is a warts-and-none propaganda film about a man who peddled hate and keenly fostered a sense of otherness (first South Indians, then Muslims). The trailer may be offensive, but it’s honest. The story is, after all, by Sanjay Raut, a Shiv Sena member and a Rajya Sabha MP. And this is, after all, an election year.

This scene occurs early in the film, after Bal Thackeray (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has resigned from his job at the Free Press Journal. (His political cartoons proved too “sharp” for the spineless Tamilian editor.) Thackeray, subsequently, slips into a movie theatre. It’s probably the late 1950s. A poster for Kaagaz Ke Phool is on display in the foyer. Inside, as the camera sweeps across the audience, we see that Thackeray is surrounded by Tamilians, Sardars, Parsis, Muslims. (And everyone wears something that identifies them, like a skull cap or an ash stripe on the forehead; this is that kind of movie). And in their midst sits Thackeray, small, anonymous, undistinguished by any visible signs of the community he belongs to. The screenplay fails to tell us what exactly these people with roots in other states, speaking other languages, have done to squash the Marathi spine. At least, in narrative terms, that would have given Thackeray a few fleshed-out villains, instead of leaving its protagonist shadow-boxing with invisible antagonists. After the movie, Thackeray steps out and walks on streets whose sides are further reminders of the other. (A man he bumps into, for instance, spews cuss words in Malayalam.) And he thinks, “Inhe dikhana hoga ki Marathi manoos ghaati hoga magar ghatiya nahin.” (I’ll have to show them that the Marathis are not an inferior people.)

Continued at the link above.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi