In one of the scenes of "The Accidental Prime Minister", Dr Manmohan Singh played by Anupam Kher tells his media advisor Sanjaya Baru played by Akshaye Khanna that he misses him in the Prime Minister Office when he visits him after a while . The film reaches its peak here as one feels the emotional connect between Baru and Singh who essentially leads this story. The rest of the film is confused and poorly produced. The film which is based on the bestselling book by Baru of the same name is a lost cause of sorts.
This post is aimed at reviewing the film "The Accidental Prime Minister" which is directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte and stars Anupam Kher as Dr Manmohan Singh, Suzanne Bernert as Sonia Gandhi, Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi and Akshaye Khanna as Sanjaya Baru.
The Plot of TAPM
The film chronicles the two terms of UPA-1 and UPA-2 from 2004 to 2014 when Dr Manmohan Singh was India's Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi was UPA Chairperson. The story talks about the relationship between Baru and Dr Singh. The film also chronicles several important events in India's history such as The Civil Nuclear Deal, The various scams under the UPA, coalition politics between Congress and its various allies, The Gandhi family's influence comprising Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka with their trusted lieutenant, Ahmed Patel. The story also provides passing mentions around pivotal figures such as LK Advani, AB Vajpayee, Abdul Kalam and a host of the other political luminaries. TAPM spends a lot of time talking about how badly Dr Singh was treated when he was in the PMO by Sonia Gandhi and her team. Special effort is made at making Rahul Gandhi visible for no specific reason. The film ends with Narendra Modi being elected as India's next Prime Minister in 2014.
A Perspective or Propaganda ?
TAPM very comfortably brushes out the nuances of effective storytelling. The film does pick up several real incidents in which Congress is seen as a lethargic, senseless group of cronies. This is fine but what the film wants to avoid is to talk about the intelligence, skills and capabilities of these politicians who have amassed massive support across the country from its people. For example, there is no mention of Dr Singh's phenomenal capability as a negotiator in tough situations such as managing the internal opposition of the Congress and balancing the mess with allies like the Left parties. Also Dr Singh's legendary grasp over the economy of the country is hardly shown. I mean for 10 years the Indian state which grew at 8% or 7% at old base year assumptions had no policies approved or set by the then Prime Minister. But enough focus is put on his walk, his dressing, the way he puts his files, the way he makes gaffes in behaving in difficult times. The filmmaker is confused whether to show Dr Singh as a fool, a statesman , a subservient minnow or as a lovable folk.
The film shows that he became the Prime Minister by accident (which is true) but it does not focus on Singh's leadership skills and his prowess amongst the Indian citizenry. He is shown as a man with less authority and loyalty to Gandhi family but then it’s clearly mentioned in the movie that The UPA won its second term due to the credibility of Dr Singh. Will the country vote a reluctant, obedient minnow to power? For a man who shaped India's economic liberalisation policy since 1991, does he need a Media advisor to be his bouncing board on how to run India? These gaffes clearly show that Gutte who is a first time filmmaker does not want to make a nuanced film with real people. There are consistent efforts to make the film stay away from reality as much possible.
Be it the shabby production design, be it the horrible casting , be it the West Delhi Banquet halls masquerading as President's House, be it the misplaced Western Classical background music which erupts every 2 seconds, Gutte gives his political film an inspired "Fairy Tale Look". The Indian PMO's office is shown submerged in gaudy red/magenta curtains, tapestries featuring Mahatma Gandhi, plush landscaped hills which never look like India. A film which talks about how India is managed without a single created shot of the common Indians, farmers, labourers who form the vote bank of politicians. In addition, the crew just camped at some castle in London to shoot 70% of the scenes with Dr Singh and Baru. In fact, the film at times looks like a Jane Austen inspired world in which Singh and Baru are managing India. There are many more gaffes which one can easily mention but nothing can substitute bad and horrible writing. The irony is that the film is also poorly produced.
Anupam Kher as Dr Singh is below average. He makes an additional effort to copy and caricature Singh rather than to play him. He at best does more of a stand up comedy in a lot of scenes. He has got the look right, but messed up on the mannerisms and the wit of Dr Singh. This was bound to happen as Kher never researched, never met, never discussed this role with Dr Manmohan Singh. Apparently even Sanjaya Baru was not involved in the film making. Kher actually 'YouTubed' and 'watched' to do this role. At best Kher has done a hatchet job which is poor in several ways. This is a missed chance as India's first portrayal of one of its Prime Minister has started on a really bad note!
Bernert has done a decent job as Sonia Gandhi with her near perfect diction of Italian Hindi. Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi looks more like stand up comic. Khanna as Baru does the best job in this mess and he gets the maximum screen time as well.
Its a bad film with an agenda to malign a certain political school of thought. There is absolutely no substance, no content and no storytelling. By the way don’t miss the senseless Modi insertion at the end....You can avoid watching this film if you can. I give this film a 3 out of 10.