Considered powerful to the extent of being untouchable, controversial to the point of having completely different public perceptions, the epic legacy of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray cannot be denied, even if views about the nature and consequence of this influence differs across political spectrums. As the biopic of his life comes out in the first month of an election year, the country is starting to take note of the political leader 6 years after his death.
Bal Thackeray Played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Source- Viacom18)
Shiv Sena MP and co-producer of the biopic Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, has only this to say of the controversy generated by the movie’s trailer – ‘Balasaheb was controversial, but his thoughts gave direction to the country. We show him as he was.’ He further waved off the objections raised by the Censor Board, and assured to the press that the movie will not be banned or censored in any form.
The issue began with the bilingual offering’s trailer release, the Marathi version of which contained remarks considered to be derogatory towards the South Indian community, highlighting the anti-migrant sentiment that had been a central pillar of Thackeray’s political ideology. As seen above, while the makers of the movie emphasized a realistic portrayal, many on the net found the scene, where the then-young leader addresses party members against the encroachment of Maharashtra by South Indians, as outrageous and excessive. Many also highlighted the fact that the incendiary dialogues were missing from the Hindi language trailer, released simultaneously. Tamil actor Siddharth has been amongst those who have condemned the contents of the trailer.
Late Balasaheb Thackeray
Others have also pointed out significant differences between the Marathi and Hindi trailers that seem to suggest a deeper, more political motive than just depicting the life of a political stalwart. Scenes of Thackeray with Indira Gandhi highlighting his national (and Hindutva) commitment are missing from the Marathi trailer.
The differences in trailer content, along with the calculated timing of the movie’s release have already become topic points for the internet and news communities, conversations that are likely to become more intensified as the release date draws to a close. It seems to be the inevitable and almost overt conclusion – the foray to the big screen is just as directly related to the Shiv Sena’s current political ambitions as it is related to the revival of its founder.
That much stands true – the movie is a realistic depiction of Thackeray and the politics he inspired, hiding none of the sentiments, goonda-gardi, xenophobic and anti-Muslim outlooks and the sheer scale of Thackeray’s and Shiv Sena’s political power that has held Maharashtra in some sort of grip since the party’s inception in 1966.
Source- Hindustan Times
However, what remains to be seen in the kind of impact the movie will have, and that impact might very well be quite immediate, as the general elections for the nations would be conducted in phases from April to May in 2019. It might be that the biopic may intensify commitment towards the ideals put forward by the movie and idealized by the Sena, leading to favourable political results.
But the opposite may very well be possible. Given the intense reaction to the trailers, it may be possible that the biopic intensifies all that the Sena may be proud of, but the rest of India, particularly both the North and South that the middle-placed Sena is so against, may not prefer. And while this may clinch Maharashtra, the party may lose out on the pan-India appeal.
By Niharika Rawat