People are misinformed about Balasaheb's life: 'Thackeray' writer-producer Raut

Nawazuddin-Siddiqui-Thackeray via IMDb

People harbour many misconceptions about Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, senior party leader Sanjay Raut, who has penned the biopic Thackeray, said on Tuesday.

The divide between Maharashtra locals and people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is a matter of perceived "misinformation", he said.

"People are misinformed about Balasaheb's life and Shiv Sena's journey. The issue on people from Bihar and UP was neither raised nor did it come up.

"You ask all these questions here, but in reality in all his 50 years of politics people from Bihar and UP were the ones who were most emotionally attached to him," the Thackeray writer-producer told reporters at a press conference ahead of the release of the film this week.

Known for his provocative statements, Thackeray targeted south Indians, accusing them of snatching jobs from local Marathi youths, in the late 1960s. He also dominated the headlines for his anti-Muslim comments.

In an apparent reference to various state governments encouraging recruitment of local people, Raut said the bone of contention then and now is jobs.

"In 1969, a movement did start for the 'bhoomiputras' (sons of the soil) there (in Maharashtra) and that is something which is gathering pace in every other state today...," he said citing Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal as examples.

"Unemployment was an issue then and a law that the locals should have the right to employment first was passed. It was limited to this."

Asked if the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-fronted film will change Thackeray and the party's image with north Indians, Raut reiterated that people have limited knowledge.

"Today, there are about 12 MLAs in Maharashtra assembly who come from north India. Mumbai Congress head (Sanjay Nirupam) also hails from Bihar. The maximum number of position holders in Shiv Sena have Hindi as their mother tongue.

"Give me an example that people feel like that towards Balasaheb and then I'll answer you," he said.

Co-producer Urvashi, Raut's daughter, said the team received "good response" when it promoted the film in Lucknow on Monday.

"The issue regarding Bihar and UP had initially nothing to do with the two states. The movement that took place was centred around south Indians... Bihar and UP bit happened much later. We have focused on the period from 1961 to 1995 in the film," she said.

Biopics in Bollywood have been targeted for whitewashing the subject with Sanju, based on actor Sanjay Dutt, being the most recent example.

Raut said his film had no fictional elements, only truth.

"There is no fiction, only truth in Thackeray. Balasaheb's life is an open book. You all know everything about him. There was no need for us to create a story or add masala to the film. My experiences with Balasaheb and the way I saw him, I have tried to translate that into the film," he said.

The political leader also took a dig at Anupam Kher-led The Accidental Prime Minister, saying Thackeray was not The accidental Shiv Sena pramukh.

Kher played former prime minister Manmohan Singh in the film, which was based on a book by his former media advisor Sanjaya Baru. The film, which released early this month, received negative reviews.

Asked if there was a motive behind releasing the film ahead of Lok Sabha polls, Raut retorted, "If someone feels there is a motive behind making the film, I appeal to the Election Commission to change the date of elections."

Also present at the press conference were Nawazuddin and Amrita Rao.

Thackeray will face off with Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi at the box office this Friday.