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Nawazuddin transforms into Thackeray in the biopic

Produced by : Viacom 18 motion pictures, Dr. Shrikant Bhasi, Varsha Raut, Purvashi Raut, Vidhita Raut 
Directed by : Abhijit Panse
Star cast : Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amrita Rao

FILMFARE ME STARS:  (3)

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We will start from the very end of Part 1.

When the film ends, you actually realise it is Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing a role. He coaxes you into believing that he is the Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. The mannerisms, the throw of voice, the prosthesis, his make-up styling, the rudraksh beads wrapped on his wrist, his orange costume, his batik- lungis and most of all his daring attitude, is embodied and internalized by this truly gifted actor.

That Nawaz is a Muslim from UP adds to the film’s appeal since the sena is often accused of being anti-Muslim and anti-UP.

Written and directed by people associated with Shiv Sena, the film makers make no bones of the fact that the genesis of the sena started out as a move to restore the pride of the Maharashtrians living in Maharashtra (that ‘ghati is not ghatia’) – of fighting for the rights of the local population, often ousting out the ‘outsiders’ that included South Indians, Gujaratis and Punjabis.

A fact cinematically presented in the Tamil, Malayalam murmurs in the background at the Free Press Journal office where Thackeray works as a cartoonist. And as he walks on the Mumbai streets where every shop or restaurant name is anything but Maharashtrian. In that space, the film dwelves into the mind of the man who is processing and incubating his philosophy that we see manifest later in the film.

The film tries to get into the mind of the man who sees his version of ‘injustice’ and decides to correct it. The resignation scene from the Free Press Journal is particularly hilarious because it is not written down but sketched by the cartoonist Thackeray. In its sub-text it lays the foundation of his ‘freedom’ from regular office work to his larger mission. “Naukri se pyaar karo, kaam se nahi.”

As the cartoons start disappearing and the social work starts increasing, Thackeray is inundated with grievances from people and as he solves them, slowly becomes their hero. The transition is shown in a small scene in the film where a complainant comes to meet him and asks father Thackeray, where is ‘Balasaheb’- the ‘saheb’ added with respect. The light in the father’s eyes is particularly heart-warming.

The family’s constant support is depicted in the film. Be it his brother and father or his wife’s character played by Amrita Rao. She supports him totally and selflessly – ensuring that his people are well looked. A poignant scene is in the letter he writes to her from jail, asking her look after his mini-aquarium fish Marshal and the people who lay down their lives for him. Her delicate presence and quiet unrelenting support adds serenity to the screen and Amrita Rao charms in her role.

The black and white tone used in the film’s first half is reminiscent of old file pictures, black and white newspaper cuttings and adds a touch of nostalgia and old-world Mumbai.

The colour saffron associated with Shiv Sena is used very effectively in the film particularly when the film credits are all in saffron and the scene before the interval shows the saffron marigold in bloom in what is a black and white landscape. It reminds me of the Schindler’s List scene where, in an entire film shot in black and white, the only other colour used is red.

Rioting, change of regimes, bandhs politicians such as Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, and the recently deceased George Fernandes or the late Marathi actor Dada Kondke are characterized in the film and highlight aspects of Thackeray’s philosophy.

Thackeray’s well known and infamous one-liner when asked about his involvement in the Babri Masjid issue “mera haath nahi, pair tha” is shown in the film during the court proceedings. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Thackeray ensures that not just the limbs or mannerisms and voice, but his heart and soul is totally committed to the character of Thackeray, that he plays with aplomb.

A good watch!

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