The trailer for Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Thackeray makes Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar look like a documentary in comparison. It starts with the camera carefully placed on a child sitting on the lane of a riot-torn Mumbai as a Molotov cocktail rolls past. It is the kind of insincere filmmaking that spills into a dialogue from the trailer, where Siddiqui’s Thackeray says something along the lines of, ‘it’s better to become a goon and seize your rights instead of begging for them’.
After all, the real-life Bal Thackeray used his political muscle to shut down Bombay/Mumbai on more than a few occasions just to that end. And now there is a biopic produced by Thackeray’s right-hand man, Sanjay Raut, that paints him as a ‘hero’. A revolutionary. A legend.
They may have recruited a Muslim actor from UP to play the titular role, added a heroic background score and shown sweeping shots of his millions of supporters, but they cannot erase history. They cannot deny the problematic legacy of the man.
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!
— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) December 26, 2018
Here are 5 such truths about Shiv Sena and its leader, Bal Thackeray, that the biopic will try to paint as ‘heroic’.
1. Anti-Gujarati, anti-South Indian speeches for the ‘son of the soil’
If you wish to understand the intention of the makers behind this film, all you have to do is watch out for the difference in ‘tone’ in the Hindi and Marathi trailers. While the Hindi one is restrained in comparison, the Marathi trailer of Thackeray shows Nawazuddin Siddiqui repeat his alter-ego’s offensive remarks, ‘Uthao lungi, bajao pungi’. Unlike the Hindi trailer, the line hasn’t been edited out of the Marathi trailer solely to cater to the lakhs of Shiv Sena supporters in Mumbai and Pune. Shiv Sena built an entire manifesto in the 60s, that aimed at shutting out Gujaratis and South Indians from the city, and make more opportunities available to the ‘son of the soil’. Such venomous, xenophobic sentiments for fellow Indians are captured in the film as if something called hindsight doesn’t exist.
2. Shiv Sainiks dug up the pitch in Wankhede stadium to prevent India-Pakistan series
Thackeray and Shiv Sena have always publicly stated their hatred for the country of Pakistan, to the point that a few party workers even dug up the pitch in Wankhede to prevent an Indo-Pak test series in 1991. The incident is fleetingly mentioned in the trailer too, where we see a cricketer resembling Javed Miandad sitting inside the Thackeray residence. The Shiv Sena leader says he cannot allow the match to happen because of the ‘martyred Indian soldiers’.
3. Arrested for inciting Shivsainiks to commit violence against Muslims during the ’92 riots
One of Bal Thackeray’s biggest claim-to-fame as a right wing Hindu nationalist, was his alleged role in the ’92 riots. Many Shiv Sainiks were found to be directly accused of killing Muslims during the riots, and by association Thackeray was arrested for inciting those within his party. At one moment in the trailer, we see Siddiqui’s Thackeray defend the demolition of Babri Masjid by saying it was the birth place of Ram Lalla. When asked to explain himself, Siddiqui’s Thackeray says – “…do you think he was born in Pakistan?” Much to the applause in the court room. It’s eerie how even today, the Ram mandir remains a contentious issue who will clap and whistle at the line in the film.
4. Banned from voting and contesting in elections for 6 years
Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena were barred from voting and contesting in elections between 1999 and 2005, for indulging in corrupt practices of soliciting votes on the basis of religion. Identifying expressly as a Hindu party on the national stage and as sympathisers for the Marathi manoos. The hate has trickled from the Gujaratis, South Indian, Muslims, people from Uttar Pradesh and even Biharis. But it’s forever been a politics of hate, of identifying the ‘other’.
5. Thackeray was found to sympathise with Hitler on more than one occasion
Bal Thackeray’s not-so-objective sympathy for Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and his ways have been a talking point on more than one occasion. He was even quoted by Asia Week: “what India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand.” He’s even gone as far as to refer to Muslims as ‘green poison’ during a political rally. Thackeray even cited in an interview: “If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word ‘Jew’ and put in the word ‘Muslim’, that is what I believe in.”
It is a thing of beauty in a democracy like India, that a hateful film like has been allowed to be screened. Abhijit Phanse’s Thackeray is so deeply entrenched in the poisonous world-view of its subject, that it’s amazing how this film will be allowed to peddle hate to lakhs, when many have been stopped for significantly smaller ‘crimes’.