Thackeray Movie Review: With a run-time of 2 hours and 19 minutes, Thackeray, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Bal Thackeray, feels like a political sermon that goes on too long, says our review.
Directed by Abhijit Panse, Thackeray is based on the rise of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who believed in “thoktantra” (anarchy, rough translation) over loktantra (democracy). However, the film fails to provide any insight into his trajectory or rise above anything more than one incendiary speech after the other.
The film begins with Bal Thackeray in the dock for inciting the demolition of the Babri Masjid. When he is asked about his supporters tearing down the mosque, he replies, “Nahi, nahi. Toda nahi, saaf kiya. (We did not demolish it, we cleaned it up.)” As soon as these words are uttered, chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram’ begin blaring in the background.
In another scene, Bal Thackeray embraces his Hindu Hriday Samrat image, after being supposedly backstabbed by Muslims. “Jab jab humne inko gale lagane ki pehel ki, inhone humara gala kaatne ki koshish ki. Kuch nahi ho sakta hai inka… Arre, fattu ki aulaad ban ke mat jiyo… Voton ke liye itni laachaari? Aaj ke baad jo Hinduon ki baat karega, wohi Hindustan mein raj karega, (Every time we have tried to embrace them, they have tried to kill us. They will not change… Don’t live as cowards… Why so desperate for votes? Now on, whoever advocates Hinduism, will rule Hindustan).” he declares.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui puts in a fine performance as Bal Thackeray, but there is little that he can do to elevate a film which is so brazen in its propaganda. Amrita Rao, as Meena Thackeray, has little to do other than serve tea and food to the guests at Matoshree (the Thackeray residence).
The Shiv Sena, which has failed to win a majority since 1995, is trying its best to whip up passions. From Pakistan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not-so-subtle digs are taken at all and sundry.
Metaphors are used with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Communist leader Krishna Desai is stabbed to death soon after Bal Thackeray declares that it is time to do something about these “lal bandar”. It is hinted that the assassination was a milestone for the party – in the very next scene, which is entirely in black-and-white, the Shiv Sena supremo is seen trimming shrubs with a smug face and one marigold blooms brighter and brighter saffron.
Everything is tweaked to favour the Shiv Sena. Rather than instigators of violence during the 1993 riots in Mumbai, the party and its supporters are portrayed as the messiahs of the Hindus. Hooliganism is not only glorified, but presented as a solution to unemployment.
The film, in every scene, caters to the sentiment of Thackeray’s supporters. The rabble-rousing takes over story-telling from the word go. Director Abhijit Panse, who is closely associated with the Thackerays, brings his idolisation of Balasaheb to the screen and forces it down the viewer’s throat. There are tigers roaring all over the background music, hammering it into your senses that Bal Thackeray is the tiger here, almost a decade after his death.
The dialogues are crude and most of it sounds like one warcry after another. No, Panse, people don’t speak in verses like “arre, ghar mein nahi hai ration, aur yeh bahar jaa ke sunn rahe hai sahab ka bhashan” – not in 2019, not in the 60s.
With a run-time of 2 hours and 19 minutes, Thackeray, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, feels like a political sermon that goes on too long, says our review.
1 out of 5 stars for Thackeray. There is nothing in the film that can pass off as cinema. Thackeray works better in election rallies than in theatres.