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Bolly warms to Sena biopic

- Uddhav meets directors for Balasaheb film

Mumbai, Dec. 16: Uddhav Thackeray is wining and dining top Bollywood directors to immortalise his late father on celluloid, now that his hopes of having a memorial to Balasaheb at Shivaji Park have been set back, sources said.

“If the film can be released before the 2014 elections, as Uddhav wants, it has the potential to be his electoral trump card against estranged cousin and political rival Raj Thackeray,” a senior Shiv Sena leader said.

Bal Thackeray was an avid fan of cricket and films but his party’s plans of a monument to him in Mumbai’s nursery of cricket have left the “Marathi manoos”, the Sena vote bank, cold. Under pressure from civic authorities, the party has said it might shift the temporary memorial it has erected at the park.

Bollywood, though, has responded with greater warmth. “Over the past ten days or so, top Bollywood directors have visited Matoshree to discuss the idea of a biopic on Balasaheb,” said a source at the Thackeray family home.

Madhur Bhandarkar, Ram Gopal Varma, Mahesh Manjrekar and Sena leader turned filmmaker Ajit Pense have been Uddhav’s dinner guests, the source said.

Meals at the Thackeray home are usually non-vegetarian Maharashtrian fare and the fish koliwada served at the family’s table is much talked about.

“But because of Bal Thackeray’s death, the family is eating vegetarian food and that is what was served to the guests as well,” the source said.

Manjrekar, who is very fond of Matoshree’s matar usal (green-pea curry), visited the Thackerays on Thursday.

“I have received the offer to direct a film on Balasaheb. But I am busy with two acting assignments in Hindi, Himmatwala and Shootout At Wadala. Plus, my next Marathi film is going on the floor, so I am a bit tied up. But Balasaheb is a great subject — who would not be interested?” Manjrekar told The Telegraph.

The Thackerays are keen that besides being a top director, the man they entrust with the biopic should have been close enough to Bal Thackeray to be able to portray him “in the right way”.

Ram Gopal Varma, who made the Sarkar films with Amitabh Bachchan, whose character apparently draws on aspects of Bal Thackeray’s life, has also been asked to come up with a script, the Matoshree source said.

“But Sena workers and leaders love Manjrekar, whose films often dwell on the struggles of middle-class Maharashtrians,” the source said, adding that Uddhav’s wife Rashmi personally called up and invited the directors on separate days to sound them out.

Sena leader and film director Pense, who heads the Shiv Sena Chitrapat Shakha, too is keen on the job. “He is currently shooting a Marathi film but met Rashmi to make a pitch for the (Thackeray) film,” the source said.

Pense did not confirm or deny the meeting but Sena leaders said the idea for the biopic had come from him. Bhandarkar and Varma could not be reached.

“Rumblings from the streets indicate that Uddhav’s attempt to make Shivaji Park a political legacy of the Sena has had little support from middle-class Maharashtrians. So, many (in the party) feel that, perhaps, a film with its wide appeal would be more appropriate,” a Sena leader said.