Hours after the release of the Marathi theatrical trailer of Thackeray, the bilingual biopic on Bal Thackeray has kicked up a storm, with many slamming it for lines referencing south Indians in a derogatory manner. The biopic, on the life of late Shiv Sena chief, has also received objections from the Central Board of Film Certification, and among others like actor Siddharth, who took to Twitter to call out the ‘hate speech’.
The controversial lines appear only in the Marathi trailer of the film, and not in the Hindi version which also released on Wednesday. A young Bal Thackeray, played by actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is initially seen walking through bustling areas of erstwhile Bombay with Tamil, Malayalam and English signboards on the streets, with men busy at work. As he walks around, he accidentally bumps into a man, presumed to be a Malayalee, who yells, “What, dog? Can’t you see? (Endaada patti? Dhiktha nahi hai?)”
Moments later, we see an angry Bal Thackeray addressing a meeting at Amar Hind Mandal, where the leader was known to meet party activists in the early days.
“[How] these salé ‘andu gundu’ South Indians come together! How they [help] make each other big in life! They bring people from their hometowns even to wash the dishes at [their street side] idli carts. But not anymore. Now “uthao lungi, bajao pungi!” he says in what is supposed to be a rousing speech.
Shortly after this, an Udupi Coffee House, where men in lungis (depicting south Indians) are walking around, is attacked. The glass exteriors of the restaurant are smashed by a trouser-clad thug.
While these shots from the trailer have evoked outrage online, the CBFC too has raised objections. The film certification body has reportedly sought the deletion of the controversial lines mentioned above, along with references to the demolition of Babri Masjid. However, it is not clear as to which version or portions of the movie or the trailer the CBFC has objected to. The CBFC could have raised objections to the lines mentioned in the Marathi trailer, other unseen parts in the Hindi version or both.
However, speaking to News18, Shiv Sena MP and co-producer of the film Sanjay Raut said that there would be no cuts in the film. "Balasaheb was controversial, but his thoughts gave direction to the country. We show him as he was. It is not a love story, right?" he says in response to what the CBFC's objections had been. When the reporter asked if he was saying that there will be no cuts, the MP said, "No cuts."
It is to be noted that Bal Thackeray’s 46-year-long political life was premised on the anti-migrant sentiment. He advanced the xenophobic notion that south Indians arriving in Maharashtra and particularly, Mumbai, had ‘stolen’ jobs belonging to ‘Marathi manoos’ or sons of the Marathi soil.
The trailer of the film, which is also written by Sanjay Raut, exalts the Marathi nationalist as a 'fighter', whose 'life changed history' and whose 'courage changed lives'. Going by its trailer, the film seems to be a glorification of a politician who has been incarcerated multiple times for electoral malpractices and spewing hatred on Muslims.
Taking to Twitter, actor Siddharth termed the controversial dialogues ‘hate speech’ against south Indians:
Some others were quick to note that the Hindi version of the trailer did not have the controversial lines, focusing instead of how Bal Thackeray ‘stood for his people’ and ‘his state’.
Meanwhile, some others said that despite the attempts to malign, south India stands tall.