Art Street: First statue of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in Mumbai came up in Colaba last year

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Even as the legacy of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray is being contested in the political arena in Maharashtra, a statue of the Shiv Sena founder occupies pride of place at the Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee Chowk in Mumbai’s Colaba. Surprisingly, it is the first statue of the influential Sena chief in the city and came up in January 2021. The city already had statues of his father Prabhodhankar Thackeray and mother Meenatai Thackeray, both located at Dadar.
The nine-feet tall life-size bronze statue in Mumbai, set atop an 11-feet high pedestal and erected on a two-feet high landscaped portion within a traffic island near the National Gallery of Modern Art, was inaugurated on the 95th birthday of Thackeray on January 23 last year. The inauguration event saw a galaxy of Maharashtra politicians, the Thackeray family including Raj Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and then leader of opposition 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)” has been inscribed at the bottom of the statue. Many believed that the inscription was one of the ways of showing the Hindutva leanings of the Shiv Sena at a time when they were in coalition with the NCP and Congress as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
Shashikant Wadke, who sculpted the statue, is a resident of Kalanagar in Bandra (east) and is also the person who sculpted the statues of Prabhodhankar and Meenatai Thackeray in Dadar. Wadke went through around 150 photos and videos of Balasaheb to get his expression right. In the statue, Balasaheb is looking at his Shiv Sainiks, has a smile and at the same time his serious expression too has been captured.
The statue had initially faced opposition from locals in 2019 on the grounds that as per a Supreme Court order, no statues should be installed on public roads as felicitation events pose inconvenience to pedestrians and also result in traffic congestion. However, after approval from the local authorities, the statue got the go-ahead.
Prior to this, Balasaheb’s son and former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had in 2017 inaugurated a 22-feet bronze statue of Bal Thackeray in Kalyan (west) installed by Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC).

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