'Main artiste hoon, majdoor nahin,' shoots back Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Bal Thackeray at his editor when asked to tone down his humorous cartoons which take a dig at the big-shots. The resignation follows soon in the form of his self-caricature kicking the said-editor's behind and Thackeray storms out of the newspaper office with his head high.
Abhijit Panse's Thackeray traces his journey from a cartoonist at Free Press Journal to becoming one of the most important leaders who changed the politics in Maharashtra. He begins with how Balasaheb Thackeray brought a stir in the state with his 'Marathi Manoos Jaaga Ho' in response to the growing influx of migrant jobbers especially the South Indians. Through his self-publication Marmik, he fanned the flame of Marathi ire and slowly became their messiah with his political party, Shiv Sena.
In the narrative, writer Sanjay Raut also squeezes in relevant political events like the Morarji Desai episode in 1969, the crushing of Communist trade unions, Thackeray's meeting with Indira Gandhi during the Emergency period, Javed Miandad's courtesy visit to the Sena chief's residence along with Dilip Vengsarkar and the Babri Masjid demolition.
Speaking about the film as a whole, Thackeray focusses more on the political aspect rather than giving us a sneak-peek into the lesser known side of the man. There are many times when the filmmaker succumbs to the temptation of constructing a self-righteous man out of Thackeray and even gets Nawaz's character to mouth dialogues like, "Mere liye desh pahle hain, Rajya baad mein" and "Maine pehle kalam uthaya tha, par kuch nahin hua" to justify the violence his party endorsed during certain periods.
However, the makers soon pull up the strings with him saying, "Main sahi hun, yaa galat...Iska faisla..Aap nahin...Desh ki Janta karegi...Kyunki sabse upar ek hi adaalat ko manta hu...woh hai janta ki adalat hai."
Speaking about the performances, Nawazuddin roars loud as Balasaheb Thackeray. Rather than resorting to mimicking the late leader, the actor brings in his own interpretation but retains the soul and spirit of the original man. Amrita Rao as Meenatai Thackeray is likeable in her part though one wished she had more to do in the film.
Sudeep Chaterjee's camerawork is effective and the film scores well on the production values. Having the first half of the film in black and white works in its favour. The editing goes in tune with the narrative though one feels that the film could have been snipped short by few more minutes to make it more razor-sharp.
Thankfully, the makers do not throw in unneccessary songs which could have deviated your focus from the story-telling.
Thackeray as a bopic may not tick all the boxes, but it does entertain with its crowd-pleasing dialogues and Nawazuddin Siddiqui's superlative performance. I am going with 3 stars.