Written by Manisha Lakhe on January 11, 2019
Mimicry Or Acting? Is This A Propaganda Film Or Just An Adaptation Of The Book?
Titled after a book of the same name, this film looks at Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh from the point of view of his media advisor Sanjaya Baru. The film is shabbily made even though they get lots of cast to look like people in real life, and skims the events in Dr, Singh’s work life. Is this a propaganda film?
The timing of the film about a Congress party Prime Minister which shows the machinations of its party president and her then callow son seems like a propaganda film by BJP, the current party in power.
Dr. Manmohan Singh called himself the ‘Accidental Prime Minister’ (and hence the name of the book and the film) because he was appointed (not elected) to lead the coalition government by the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. She could not become Prime Minister because she’s Italian and there was some rule about citizenship then… Dr. Singh was chosen because of his impeccable credentials as well as his ability of being unassuming and perceived as amenable and hence acceptable to all the various parties in the coalition .
The film uses the House of Cards technique where the characters break the fifth wall and talk to the audience. Very, very nice, you think and try not to be distracted by the gleam in Akshaye Khanna’s eyes and his knowing smirk and his natty clothes. He changes his suits so many times, you begin to wonder if any work got done in the Prime Minister’s Office. The only awful thing about clothes was to see Suzanne Bernert who looks and acts quite like Sonia Gandhi wear inexpensive sarees. In reality, she wears really beautiful expensive sarees.
If you have not read the book, you will watch events unfold on the screen (that include really poor quality real life news footage from the past) and see how Dr. Singh learn to speak with the right pauses and emphasis and so on. The credit is taken by Sanjaya Baru of course. We see political machinations not reach the poor, unsuspecting, trusting Prime Minister, thanks to who? Sanjaya Baru of course! We see the Prime Minister rely on the advice of his Sanjaya as if he arrived in the Prime Minister’s office without any credentials.
The film talks of a nuclear deal with the United States, it shows the tape scam, it shows how Dr. Manmohan Singh’s wife made tea, how all the secretaries and bureaucrats made deals within deals and dealt with journalists and those who haven’t read the book will exclaim how much the film covers. But it’s just froth. Even if you have not read the book (and that should not be a criteria to appreciate the film) you, the audience will know that deals between countries are made after much planning and negotiations. Here the film makes the whole thing look like fluff despite the opposition creating trouble for the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s office looks like a throwback of some old palace of the Maharajas rather than the highest office of power. The giant artificial flowers don’t help in adding credibility to the setting at all.
What is the worst part of the whole thing? It is election year now in India, and the film shows the then callow leader of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi (under whose leadership the Congress has won three states from the ruling BJP) in very poor light. Arjun Mathur plays Rahul as if he were completely inarticulate and is shown to be ridiculous. That smacks of propaganda, if nothing else.
Anupam Kher is a good actor, but is this mimicry as I suspect, or good acting? The film will perhaps bring about a political dialog in the country or maybe it will be relegated to the files of ‘What was that?!’
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)