Marmik, Thackeray’s launch pad
The seeds of Shiv Sena's influence and political muscle in Mumbai and Maharashtra were sown by a frail yet fiery cartoonist whose sketches were witty, sharp and often unabashedly derogatory.
The Sena was born six years after Bal Thackeray launched for himself a platform where he could —with his strokes — freely voice his opinion and create Sainiks from among Maharashtrians. It was called Marmik, and as Thackeray himself put it, it was not just a cartoon weekly but also the main reason for the birth and growth of the Sena.
While many long-serving Sainiks will claim that Thackeray, along with his brother Shrikant, launched Marmik in August 1960 without any political intentions, even the earliest editions of the weekly pushed the idea of a separate political front and ideology — repeatedly lashing out at the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress, S A Dange of the Communist Party and Jai Prakash Narayan's Janata Party.
The launch of the magazine by Samyukta Maharashtra's first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan did not help him escape Thackeray's wrath in his later cartoons either.
With no other Marathi cartoon weekly in existence at the time, Thackeray's acerbic jibes found an eager audience and as the word Marmik means, touched people's heart with its poignancy. His long stint with the Free Press Journal, and its Marathi daily Navshakti from 1945 to 1960, had launched him as a cartoonist who let his brush paint local and state issues as well as about India's international relations.
Thackeray's political ideology found further form and shape during the mid-60s, when Marmik started addressing issues linked to Maharashtrians and the alleged injustice being done to them in their own city and state by "outsiders".
In less than five years, the magazine established a state-wide network of 2,400 agents and stringers and about 20 full-time cartoonists and reporters.