Why casting Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Balasaheb Thackeray is a whiplash of brilliance

After all, everything leads up to the elections.

 |  3-minute read |   22-01-2019
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Nawazuddin Siddiqui will be seen as Balasaheb Thackeray in the latter’s upcoming biopic, Thackeray.

We keep repeating this sentence over and over again because it sounds so surreal.

Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena supremo, was not exactly known for his benevolence to all. In fact, quite the opposite. He allegedly had a finger in every pie available during his time — or, as the giggle-inducing dialogue in the Thackeray trailer goes, “Riots mein mera haath nahin, mere paon thein.”

If Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘inspired’ version, the Sarkar trilogy (although only the first part is of consequence here) is to be believed, Thackeray was just that — judge, jury and the executioner.

His hatred against North Indians, especially people from the Hindi heartlands, South Indians and people from the minority community, was legendary, at least in his rants. There was a time when the word ‘bhaiyya’ would piss off the ‘Marathi manas’ he spoke directly to, leading to instances of violence.

And what can one say about the ‘Hindu Hriday Samraat’ and his apparent cold-heartedness towards Muslims, the man who allegedly sent his thugs to make chalk marks on the houses that housed Muslim dwellers and fomented the 1992-93 riots?

Which is why we repeat the above lines again and again — it is surreal to sit in 2019, and watch a Muslim man, an immigrant from Uttar Pradesh, bring to life the character of the man who was most hostile to precisely those communities.

Given that the film is written by Sanjay Raut, a man once regarded as Thackeray’s right hand, the answer should be coagulating in your brain. Add to that the fact that it is backed wholeheartedly by the Thackeray family — with Uddhav Thackeray personally launching the trailer.

In fact, the Shiv Sena, who’ve made a name for themselves by threatening vandalism and burning down of theatres before the release of a film they deem a peril to the cultural fabric of India, are even ready to indulge in a dialogue with the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) over their suggested cuts — four dialogues and two scenes — on the biopic.

So, what happened? The answer lies in the countdown to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. And more precisely, in the two quotes below:

“Balasaheb was controversial. What he said and did are in the records. We have not made it up. He spoke about protecting the rights of the locals, all the regional parties are doing that today. He has been shown like he was.” — Sanjay Raut.

“I think the least we all could do is at least appreciate Shiv Sena for having a progressive approach and choosing me to play their idol irrespective of my religious background.” — Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

If there’s one thing Indian politicians have learned in the last four years of the BJP’s domination at the centre, it is that the general public does not really care about cities being renamed, or any other cosmetic changes, for that matter.

The second-most important thing is that militant Hindutva is a road best left abandoned.

77148-xazylrcovz-151_012219060001.jpgSee you at the elections. Erm... movies! (Source: Still from Thackeray/YouTube screengrab)

Then how does a political party, which was formed on this very ideology, sustain itself under the neo-secular wave? Why — by presenting itself as:

1F4CC Aware of their dark past.

1F4CC Progressive enough to want to evolve from that darkness.

So, yeah. ‘Appeasement’ is the mantra. And in the process, they are simply keeping their options open, however limited they may be.

Also read: Bal Thackeray’s life is worth a movie, but did Nawazuddin Siddiqui face ideological contradiction essaying the role?

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