Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amrita Rao
When Shiv Sena is mentioned in the state of Maharashtra, there is almost always a mixed reaction. Some dread them, some celebrate them, but you cannot ignore them. For most part, the film Thackeray stays true to those emotions. You do dread the fact that there are people who believe that violence, even towards the innocent is acceptable if it brings you what you are vying for. You celebrate the fact that sometimes only one voice is enough to make a state wake up and take notice….
The film begins with Thackeray (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), dealing with accusations regarding the Babri Masjid demolition. Of course, he slams the court with some clever lines about not demolishing but cleaning up the premise. That scene establishes the character. Bad ass, smart mouth and of course, unapologetically dictatorial. What follows are more such instances, more dialogue-baazi and so on.
What is shocking is how the producer and the director (both Sena-centric) have refused to smooth out the rough patches from the life of their beloved Chief. They obviously take pride in their leader’s far from human ways of ruling Maharashtra. The film is very verbose when it comes to being anti-Muslim and anti-non-Maharashtrians, making the state Maharashtrian centric and such.
Of course, casting Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Thackeray mouthing all the anti-Muslim chants might have been a supposed casting coup of sorts but it ends up being the biggest fail for the film. An actor like Nawaz, who has made a space for himself as an actor par excellence, has now formed a style and attitude of his own. Despite the prosthetics on him, he has not been able to disregard his own persona and adapt that of Thackeray’s.
Thackeray, a man that most movie goers are aware of, had a very distinct diction, a very distinct style and Nawazuddin has not managed to get into the skin of it. Given Nawaz’s interpretation of Thackeray was the biggest pull to get the audience to the theatres, this one is the biggest flaw in the film. What more is that Nawazuddin has ended up playing the Shiv Sena Chief with an arrogance that stinks of autocracy. The biggest asset for Thackeray was his ready wit -- while dialogues have been inspired verbatim from some of his popular speeches, the film does over-do the speeches.
What’s surprising is how accurate the casting director, Rohan Mapuskar, has been when it comes to the supporting cast. From the soft-spoken Amrita Rao being Thackeray’s wife, Meena Tai, to the actor who plays Thackeray’s father in the film - are all perfectly cast. What also works for the film is the cinematography. Sudeep Chatterjee’s high contrast photography, though obviously inspired by films like Schindler’s List, works well for the film. The textures used give the film a sleek appearance, though the person they are trying to project clearly enjoyed rough edges. What is worrisome is the fact that the filmmakers and the political parties through this film have made it too obvious that Thackeray emulated Hitler, and the tyranny has been enhanced and glorified with pride.
Without overthinking the motives that surround this political propaganda, Thackeray is a film that is not for all kinds of audience; ironically it is the film that makes this choice and not the audience.