The much-awaited biopic on Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray releases Friday amid uncertainty over the future of the alliance between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Thackeray, the film, has been produced by Shiv Sena member of Parliament (MP) and executive editor of party mouthpiece Saamana, Sanjay Raut, and has acclaimed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the charismatic protagonist
Curiously, the biopic has been directed by filmmaker Abhijit Panse, who is the leader of the rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
The movie has been made in Marathi and Hindi. This is the first part of the biopic, which looks at the life of the Shiv Sena founder from 1965 to 1995. In 1966, Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena, which captured power in Maharashtra in 1995 in alliance with the BJP.
The relationship between the BJP and the Shiv Sena has been strained in the last four years. However, the run-up to the release of Thackeray has seen public bonhomie between the saffron allies.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis attended the first promotional event in Mumbai last week along with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. Fadnavis paid rich tributes to the Sena founder, who died in 2012, and recalled how Thackeray senior ensured that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance endured despite occasional tensions.
On 22 January, the Fadnavis government cleared a grant of ₹100 crore for the Thackeray memorial, which is being built in Mumbai. On Wednesday, the chief minister formally handed over the mayor’s bungalow in Dadar, which will be converted into the memorial, to a trust. Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray had a closed door meeting at the venue.
On 23 January 2018, the birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray, the Sena’s national executive had passed a resolution that the party contest the next elections on its own. Uddhav Thackeray has not changed his position since, though mixed signals have come from the Sena MPs and MLAs.
Raut had said last week in an interview that the biopic sought to portray Thackeray as “the man who became the phenomenon and the Hindu Hriday Samrat (emperor of Hindu hearts)". The movie was accommodative of Thackeray’s critics also and it “does not caricature anybody like The Accidental Prime Minister does", he said, taking a swipe at the Anupam Kher-starrer on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Yet, the Thackeray biopic does take a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom the Sena leadership routinely criticizes, as the film’s trailer showed Thackeray wryly commenting on Modi’s “56-inch chest" claim. In real life, however, the Sena founder never said so and was actually quite fond of Modi, who reciprocated in equal measure. On 23 January 2019, Modi paid tributes to Thackeray as the man of the masses with a sharp intellect.
Raut has also spoken about arranging a special screening of the film in Delhi for the Prime Minister and other MPs. The Sena MP said Siddiqui has done a “fabulous job" in portraying Thackeray, picking up nuances of the Sena leader’s persona, mannerisms, gait, and his signature style of salutation at public meetings.