Marathi pride reignited

Why the Shiv Sena failed politically

For a few decades now, the Marathi-speaking Maharashtrians have been feeling uprooted, marginalised, and upstaged from jobs both in the public and private sectors. Trade and business is a no no for the Marathi Manoos.

Restaurants are monopolised by Udupis from Karnataka. They are continuously being pushed to the periphery of the mega-city from the core, where high rises are under construction for the affluent.

The Maharashtra NavNirman Sena (MNS) of Raj Thackeray exploited this supposed grievance of the Marathi Manoos. It launched a rather violent campaign against the North Indian community resident in the state for many decades. The central message of the film, which is running house full in Maharashtra, exhorts the Marathi Manoos to cast their ballots in favour of the MNS which received 23 per cent votes in Mumbai alone and played a direct role to defeat the Shiv Sena-BJP candidates in Mumbai and Thane.

Meanwhile, well known Bollywood film maker Sanjay Manjrekar scripted a daring movie on the theme, "Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosale Boltoy". In the movie Shivaji the Great is  stirred by the plight of the Marathis and descends on Mumbai to instill confidence and pride in the film's protagonist, a typical timid, middle class bank clerk Dinkar Bhosale who lives in a huge ancestral mansion in Mumbai, which is sought after by a Marwari builder. The offer is tempting with a posh two-bedroom, hall, kitchen flat in Badalapur, in the Mumbai suburbs, along with a Santro car. Dinkar almost grabs the offer but for the distance of Badalapur. His wife too is keen the deal comes through. The builder then tries to pull almost all the tricks in the book to make Dinkar sell him the property.

As the plot unfolds, several sub-plots emerge which apparently hurt Marathi pride. Dinkar's daughter wants to be a Bollywood actress, but is rejected by a producer because he thinks Maharashtrian girls are too conservative and their accent too vernacular.

This despite the fact that many leading ladies of Bollywood like Madhuri Dixit, Urmilar Matondkar, Sonali Bendre, the upcoming Mugdha Godse are Marathi-speaking. His son applies for admission to an engineering college but gets a rude shock on learning that the college, run by a Marathi minister, has seats reserved only for the cash-rich non-Marathis. Dinkar’s boss from southern India often jibes him for being a Marathi Manoos.

Halway through the film, Dinkar gets so frustrated that he curses himself for being born a Marathi. He denouncs all great Marathi-speaking leaders like Lokmanya Tilak, Veer Savarkar, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phule and Maharshi Karve which stirs Shivaji Maharaj, who decides to find out what went wrong. Dinkar actually comes face to face with Shivaji. The Maratha icon is angry. He takes Dinkar to task for being timid and scared. "Did I establish Swarajya, fighting against the then five powerful enemies for you to tremble like this?" the Raje asks.

When Dinkar blames all his problems on 'outsiders' or non-Marathis, Shivaji fires him again. "Don't blame others for your problems. If South Indians and Biharis are occupying top positions in government services, it is because of their education. If Gujaratis and Sindhis are prospering in business, who stopped you from doing so?"

Shivaji is furious at the hypocricy of the Marathi manoos, at their apathy and narrow-mindedness. He tells Dinkar that he himself is responsible for his decadence and asks him to rectify his mistakes and to show some nerve and follow in the King's footsteps. With his Marathi pride re-ignited, Dinkar embarks on a journey of self-realisation and becomes a proud man, changing the fate of others too. In the process, he exposes the corrupt municipal and police officers, his minister friend, wins over a gangster and forces the Marwari builder to concede defeat. In the end, he is shown exhorting people to vote, to weed out corrupt and irresponsible politicians, and elect good ones.

The character of Shivaji is played by Mahesh Manjrekar and Dinkar by Sachin Khedekar. While Shivaji's resurrection in the film is reminiscent of Gandhiji's appearances in Lagey Raho Munnabhai, the similarity ends there.

Shivaji's guerilla tactics, his slaying of Bijapur general Afzal Khan who first tried to stab him in the back are in total contrast to Gandhigiri. In the film, Shivaji exhorts Dinkar to follow his tactics, which are far more practical and direct in approach, and do not depend on the supposed goodness of others.
At no point in the film targets any community for the ills of the Marathi manoos. This is in sharp contrast to the MNS line. But just like Shivaji Maharaj is stirred by the multiple failures of Dinkar, the film spurred the real Marathi manoos in Mumbai to act, at least to vote, in the elections. The immediate beneficiary was MNS. The real beneficiary was Congress. Are you surprised?

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