When the trailer of this Abhijit Panse directorial was out on the internet I was personally disappointed with the vocals of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the Hindi version and Sachin Khedekar in the Marathi version giving the voice to one of the most influential leaders of India, Bal Keshav Thackeray popularly known as Balasaheb Thackeray it was a dismantled mismatch for sure. A voice that stays in the heart of the millions and a lack of it could have ruined this brave biopic. Thanks to Chetan Shashital's voice, an ace dubbing artist who has replicated the vocals of famous personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and many more when it comes to the requirement in the advertising world. Shashital has simply personified Bala Saheb's voice with all his potential skills. With this accurate voice of Balasaheb, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Bala Saheb begins the journey from the old days in the past when this skinny and geeky cartoonist & writer was working in the free press journal.
The film opens with a bang as Balasaheb is about to visit the Allahabad High Court for judgement in the Babri-Masjid demolition matter and then goes back to the flash-back on how it all began. Thackeray argues with a press manager who is upset with his impish sketch that takes a jibe on the current political scenario and resigns in some style. He enters in the vintage Eros theatre of Bombay where a cartoon flick showcasing the oppression of the Marathi common man has all his attention. One of his colleagues says ''We are the only two Maratha individuals in this office, rest are all South Indians" that's when Thackeray walks down the tidy streets of Mumbai where commercial shops stand tall with either South Indian or Gujarati board. A worried artist is now thinking about his people, the people that belong to Mumbai, the community that contributed a lot for the freedom of India and his will for making this community credible and worthy. Giving fodder to his thoughts, his father Prabodhankar Thackeray suggests him to form an army that works for the welfare of the people, in this case especially for the rights of Marathi community, by hook or crook. Whether it is the rally opposing Air India urging them to appoint job to the majority of Marathi people or his rivalry with Morarji Desai (Rajesh Khera) the Janta Party president who was not in the favour of Balasaheb's autocratic style of leading things.
Every controversy from Balasaheb's life is bravely embedded in the film's narrative and the credit goes to Sanjay Raut, the Rajya Sabha member of Shiv Sena party who has worked along with the Shiv Sena supremo so closely and he doesn't hide away from any topic, whether it is the criticism of Shiv Sena on Indira Gandhi's Emergency or taking a stand on the Ram Mandir- Babri Masjid case, every topic is explored from Thackeray's point of view which is as well the voice of his Shiv Sena army. Abhijit Panse's crisp screenplay just engages the audiences with the created aura of Balasaheb and they don't even move from their seat for a second such an engrossing narrative wins in the end as the true tribute for the Shiv Sena founder.
Whether it is communal riots or serving justice to the depressed Balasaheb's ideology is clearly served through this 2 hours 20 minutes long feature film and now we come to know why thousands of commoners were ready to bleed for this man. "This country needs a Hitler to run but I would love to be with my people" was his approach to Saheb's politics. Amrita Rao as Meena Tai Thackeray was very graceful with her act. She had a good amount of screen-time which she essayed with a lot of conviction. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has mastered Bala Saheb's mannerism, and style and he is surely believable with Chetan Shashital's dubbed voice that brings an authentic character on-screen. Nawaz surely roars with his act and who knows he might get a Shiv Sena ticket in the future to contest elections.
The film stands for it production design headed by Sandeep Sharad Ravade who had every eye of detail creating vintage Bombay with minute details kept in mind. Abhijit Panse's engrossing screenplay will keep the audiences going with the journey and the duo of Chetan Shashital and Nawazuddin Siddiqui with voice and act respectively has pulled a gem of a film as a tribute to one of the bold persuasive Maratha leader Bala Saheb Thackeray. Costume design by Kin Bathija brings was laudable. Director of Photography has captured captivating cinematic shots and I was wondering how well these riots scenes were shot so smoothly. Give it a definite watch for an infectious ideology and authoritative style of leadership by Bal Keshav Thackeray which many looks for even today.
Go for it! It's a big screen watch.
(The above published review is based on the Marathi version of the biopic)