Art Street: Mumbai’s first statue of supremo Sena Bal Thackeray appeared in Colaba last year
Even as the legacy of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray is disputed in the political arena of Maharashtra, a statue of Shiv Sena founder takes pride of place at Dr Shyamaprasad Mukherji Chowk at Colaba in Mumbai. Amazingly, this is the first statue of the influential Sena leader in the city and appeared in January 2021. The city already had statues of his father Prabhodhankar Thackeray and his mother Meenatai Thackeray, both located in Dadar.
The nine-foot-tall life-size bronze statue in Mumbai, set on an 11-foot-tall pedestal and erected on a two-foot-tall landscaped area in a traffic island near the National Gallery of Modern Art, was inaugurated on Thackeray’s 95th birthday on January 23 last year. The inauguration event saw a galaxy of Maharashtra politicians, the Thackeray family comprising Raj Thackeray, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and then opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis among others.
The opening lines of Bal Thackeray’s speeches, “Jamlelya maj… tamam Hindu bandhavano, bhaginino ani Matano (All my Hindu brothers, sisters and mothers gathered here)” were inscribed at the bottom of the statue. Many believed that the inscription was one of the ways to show the Hindutva leanings of the Shiv Sena at a time when they were in coalition with the NCP and Congress under the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
Shashikant Wadke, who carved the statue, is a resident of Kalanagar in Bandra (east) and is also the person who carved the statues of Prabhodhankar and Meenatai Thackeray in Dadar. Wadke went through about 150 photos and videos of Balasaheb to express himself well. In the statue, Balasaheb looks at his Shiv Sainiks, has a smile and at the same time his serious expression has also been captured.
The statue initially met with opposition from locals in 2019 on the grounds that, pursuant to a Supreme Court order, no statue should be erected on public roads, as congratulatory events pose inconvenience to pedestrians and also result in traffic jams. However, after approval from local authorities, the statue was given the green light.
Earlier, Balasaheb’s son and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in 2017 unveiled a 22ft bronze statue of Bal Thackeray in Kalyan (west) installed by Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC).