Hours after the trailer for Bal Thackeray biopic Thackeray was released on Wednesday, it ran into a controversy around its offensive remarks about migrants to Maharashtra, particularly South Indians. The January 25 release, directed by Abhijit Panse, stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the Shiv Sena founder.
Actor Siddharth was among those who took objection to a line in the Marathi trailer of Thackeray, which repeated the Sena founder’s offensive “Uthao lungi, bajao pungi” slogan about South Indians. Notably, this line was not included in the film’s Hindi trailer. In a tweet on Wednesday night, Siddharth said this was hate speech against South Indians.
The slogan was part of the Sena leader’s Marathi manoos campaign, a platform on which he launched the Shiv Sena in the 1966. Thackeray insisted that jobs in Maharashtra should go to locals and launched vicious campaigns against migrants in Mumbai city.
The film’s Hindi trailer is a watered-down version of the Marathi clip. Though it touches upon Thackeray’s sons-of-the-soil campaign, it does not include the verbal attacks on South Indians that are featured in the Marathi one. The film has also got into trouble with the Central Board of Film Certification, which has reportedly demanded three cuts, which producer Sanjay Raut has said he will contest.
Raut, a Shiv Sena Member of Parliament and executive editor of the party’s mouthpiece, Saamana, has produced the film through his Raut’ers Entertainment banner along with Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Carnival Entertainment.
Some on social media also pointed out the irony of Siddiqui, a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh, being cast in the film. Thackeray earned noteriety for his incendiary comments against minorities and migrants from the North. He and the Shiv Sena were blamed by the government-appointed Srikrishna Commission for fuelling attacks on Muslims during the 1992-’93 Mumbai riots.