Tiger zinda hai!

Anjali Jhangiani
Sunday, 20 January 2019

Before the release of his film Thackeray, Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks about the complications of a flawed hero, and how audiences should keep an open mind

Sitting down for an exclusive interview with Sakal Times regarding his upcoming film Thackeray, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has a lot to say about the evolution of Indian audiences. While it’s common knowledge that films are taken more seriously than they should be, in the country (remember all the fuss over Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat?) we wonder if Nawazuddin is ready for any controversies caused during the release of Thackeray, which is based on the life of the Shiv Sena supremo. “I don’t believe there will be any trouble with the film. If you consider a film to be a work of art, there shouldn’t be any problems. People should look at a film as a film, which is nothing more than a cinematic experience. We’ve made a film on the life of Balasaheb Thackeray, we’re not doing anything wrong that we should face any trouble,” says the actor who goes on to explain, “In the West, films are made on every subject and on various personalities, be it the President or a regular person. Indian audiences should also develop such a progressive mindset for films made here.”

Getting to know Thackeray
But playing the role of a controversial personality known for his strong stance on Hindutva, right-wing ideology and ethnocentric campaigns, Nawazuddin had a lot to learn before going on the set. “Personalities such as Balasaheb have a certain public image, which I could learn from the internet. I looked at his speeches, interviews and such content. Apart from that, when you make a biopic, it is very important to observe the character’s personal space and get an idea of that. But unfortunately I haven’t met him or seen him in person. So Sanjay Raut, the writer-producer of the film and Shiv Sena leader, helped me out. I imagine he and Balasaheb spent hours sitting together. He told me about Balasaheb’s habits, characteristics, temperament and everything I needed to know,” says Nawazuddin, adding, “Thousands of people, who have met him, have so many different things to say about him. But they’ve known him professionally. Only a handful of people were close to him who knew how he was in his personal space.”
The actor did not have an opinion about the politician before taking up this role. “I honestly believe that until you meet someone, you should not form an opinion about them. In fact, without getting your facts right, you shouldn’t form an opinion at all. Nowadays, everyone seems to have an opinion about everything and everyone, be it Gandhi, Mandela or Lincoln. Opinion aisi milti hai jaise khairat mein batati ho (people distribute their opinions for free),” he says. 

But now that he has portrayed the leader in his biopic, Nawazuddin claims to be inspired. “I learnt that he was a cartoonist doing such brilliant work, but he left all that and decided to spend his whole life working for the people of his State. He has done so much work for Maharashtra, it makes me feel that if there is such a dedicated man in every State, then India will grow into such a powerful country,” he says. 

While public opinion about the late politician ranges from admiration to rejection (of some of his ideologies), the film does not aim at changing his image in the minds of audiences. “We are not glorifying him in any way. We are not changing the facts. Indian audiences have accepted that the glorified hero we have been showing in cinema for the last 40 years. They don’t want to see faults in the hero. The hero has to be perfect. Whenever there is a Raman Raghav type of a lead role, it is rejected by audiences because they believe that the hero should be flawless. In the West, a few flaws are added to the hero’s character to make him more realistic. But Indian audiences don’t want to accept reality yet,” says Nawazuddin. 

The film is also made in Marathi, not just dubbed in the language. Scheduled to release on January 23, the 93rd birth anniversary of Bal Thackeray, the film might leave a lasting impression of Shiv Sena and the politicians seen in the film before the upcoming elections this year. 

The actor, however, denies such claims. “When films are made on sports, it comes around the time of some tournament or the other. This film is releasing on Balasaheb’s birthday. If his birthday was during some other time of the year, the film would have probably been released then. I don’t think this has anything to do with the elections. Even Balasaheb had nothing to do with elections, he never contested any,” Nawazuddin says and concludes. 

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