Aaditya Thackeray: A son bridging the East and West?
Gathered in Shanmukhananda Hall for the first anniversary celebrations of the Yuva Sena, the Shiv Sena's youth wing, one expected a cultural programme and then some speeches. In previous years, the Shiv Sena's events have included some wonderful Marathi plays, skits and even cultural dance performances by well known Marathi artistes.
That's why what unfolded in that hall, packed beyond capacity yesterday, astounded many. And perhaps left Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, seated in the front row between his mother Rashmi Thackeray and senior party leader, 74-year-old Manohar Joshi, squirming.
The artistes on stage performed a small skit praising the Sena heir apparent and then announced 'Hya ugavtya Aadityala vandana karuya' which translates into 'Let's offer a prayer to this rising sun'. The loudspeakers started blaring Hindi item number 'Jalebi Bai' followed by 'Sheila ki jawaani' and a popular Marathi actress in a shiny white outfit gyrated to the tunes... latkas and jhatkas in perfect tandem with the backing dancers.
Up in the balconies of Shanmukhananda, the Yuva sainiks broke out into their ganpati dance.
Don't get me wrong. There was nothing obscene about this whole set up. It is perhaps the most widely accepted form of entertainment in the country. It was just in sharp contrast to the image of the Shiv Sena so far. A party that prides itself as the keeper of Maharashtrian culture, that fumes if you call Mumbai Bombay, that has in the past attacked shops and threatened students for celebrating Valentine's Day.
Maybe this was the Sena's attempt to reach out to the young Maharashtrians, many of whom have switched loyalties to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Maybe they've finally understood that just because I enjoy watching an item number, that doesn't mean I enjoy watching a Marathi film any less, or that I don't hold my culture close to my heart.
In fact there were many changes I saw yesterday that were welcome. A young student who was invited to relate her experiences about the Yuva Sena's intervention in a college crisis, chose to speak in English. Some youngsters amongst the audience booed her but Aaditya and several of his colleagues silenced them.
Bar stools rather than the typical Sena sinhasans were kept on stage, one of them pulled up in front for Aaditya. As soon as he came on stage he immediately pushed it back in line with the others. Someone then raised the height of the stool, he again pushed it down, wanting to appear no different than the others from his team.
During his open interview, Aaditya personally made sure every one of his team members got their moment of glory, even those seated in the audience. When Uddhav and the older Sainiks came up on stage, they chose to remain standing. Uddhav's speech wasn't a long lecture to the youngsters. In fact, he chose to be rather deferent to the youth.
But it's not a full transformation. The fact that a 21-year-old was repeatedly referred to as 'Aadityasaheb' or 'Aadityaji' often by those far older and far more experienced than him, made one cringe.
While detailing their exploits over the last year, the sainiks often referred to the 'Yuva Sena style' of achieving their objectives, not very different from the 'Shiv Sena style' of settling matters. Most of us, I'm sure, know exactly what this means. Ugly political posters with Aaditya's face plastered on them came up all along the route from Matoshree in Bandra East to Shanmukhananda in Sion.
Aaditya appears more mature than most 21-year-old boys. He seems smart about what kind of image he wants to project. Yet, is it right that the Shiv Sena decided to bring him out this early? It's a question that has bothered the family too. Aaditya says his mother helps him be grounded. There is a beautiful father-son bond between Uddhav and Aaditya that's hard to miss.
He writes poetry in Hindi, English and Marathi and knows the difference between Urdu and Brij Bhasha. Will he manage to surface above his dynastic lineage and make for himself in the political world an identity that is his alone? From the uncertain boy who waved a sword at the crowd in Shivaji Park on Dasra last year, there was a confident young man in control of the situation yesterday. Perhaps next year's anniversary celebrations will give us some indication.
More about Yogita Limaye
Yogita Limaye joined CNN-IBN in 2006 as a Desk Editor in New Delhi and worked for a year packaging, scripting stories and understanding the way a dynamic newsroom environment functions. She then started anchoring news bulletins and moved to the Mumbai bureau in July 2007. From reporting live on the 26/11 terror attacks, Assembly and Lok Sabha Elections, the Swine Flu outbreak, the MNS anti-north Indian tirade in Nashik to hosting a plethora of discussion-based shows, this graduate in electronics engineering from the Maharashtra Institute of Technology, Pune, is at ease both inside and outside the studio. She also holds a diploma in Broadcast Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.