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Thackeray, the biopic of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, has triggered a debate that stands out because of the unsparing nature of the comments and the question of faithful reproduction when it comes to depicting polarising figures.

Released on Wednesday, the film’s trailer in Hindi and Marathi drew criticism. Some industry colleagues of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays Thackeray in the movie, and social media users alleged that the actor was glorifying the Sena founder known for his sectarian views, although dialogue is usually not written by actors. Besides, enacting a person does not mean that an actor shares or supports the beliefs and actions of the character.

“Arrey, …humraa Faisal to bipolar nikla bey (Our Faisal is bipolar),” tweeted Richa Chadha, referring to the character played by Siddiqui in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur I and II. Richa had played his mother in the films.

Actor Siddharth Narayan of Rang De Basanti fame posted strongly worded tweets, condemning Siddiqui’s decision to play Thackeray, which the actor has described as his toughest role.

“Nawazuddin has repeated ‘Uthao lungi bajao pungi (lift the lungi and *#$ him) in the film #Thackeray. Clearly hate speech against South Indians… in a film glorifying the person who said it! Are you planning to make money out of this propaganda? Stop selling hate! Scary stuff!” tweeted Siddharth.

Some social media users replied to Siddharth that the Sena founder had indeed said the words and they did not want sugar-coated biopics like Raju Hirani’s Sanju, based on the life of actor Sanjay Dutt.

The dialogue — a part of Thackeray’s campaign in the then Bombay in the 1960s — is shown in the Marathi trailer but not in the Hindi one.

“They conveniently un-subtitled Marathi trailer of Thackeray. So much hate sold with romance and heroism (Music, tiger roars, applause, jingoism). No solidarity shown to millions of South Indian and immigrants to make Mumbai great,” Siddharth tweeted.

In October 2016, Siddiqui had to back out of a Ram-Leela performance in his village Budhana, Uttar Pradesh, where he would have played Ram, after objection from the local Sena unit.

“Poetic justice is when a Muslim actor from UP gets to play the part of the revered Marathi bigot in a propaganda film,” tweeted Siddharth.

Release warning

A Shiv Sena leader has threatened not to allow any other film to run on the week Thackeray is released next month.

“The Thackeray film will be released on January 25th. Any other film coming on 25th will not be allowed to run,” Bala Lokare, the secretary of the Sena’s film wing Chitrapat Sena, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.

The film will be released on January 23, the birth anniversary of the Sena founder, and not on January 25 as Lokare has mentioned.

“If any other film is released, we will deal with it in Sena-style,” he said later.

Sena MP and producer of the film Sanjay Raut, who is busy taking on the Central Board of Film Certification to get the film released without any cuts, was quick to distance himself from Lokare’s stand.

“There is an emotional connect between the film and the Sainiks. This is an individual opinion and not the party’s stand,” Raut said on Thursday.

Three other releases are lined up in the same week on January 25. Two are biopics: one on mathematician and founder of the Super 30 coaching classes Anand Kumar, starring Hrithik Roshan, and the other Manikarnika — The Queen in which Kangana Ranaut plays the Queen of Jhansi.

The third is Emraan Hashmi’s home production Cheat India on malpractices in educational institutions.

The producers of these three films have set the date targeting the weekend coinciding with the Republic Day holiday. “It is too early to say whether any of these producers would like to lock horns with the Sena,” said an exhibitor.

The Sena supporters are known for flexing their muscles in cinemas on any issue that might offend them.

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