Director: Omung Kumar
Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Zarina Wahab, Boman Irani
Vivek Oberoi, in Omung Kumar’s PM Narendra Modi, comes with a glint in his eyes. Nothing fazes this man we see on screen, it seems to suggest. He meets triumph and disaster much the same way as colonial relics once proclaimed. The eyes flash as if behind them they hold secrets of divine power or maybe secret powers of some other kind. That’s what Omung Kumar and the film in general wants you to take home after. This man is divinity himself and you better believe it. He’s not like you, me or us. He is here for a reason and nothing can stop him. He was matured beyond his age, he used to make and sell tea while also going to school. In a hilariously unwieldy scene, two young men are discussing how Nehru is refusing to listen to Patel regarding the China war. That was the least surprising part of this film – a blot on Nehru was thrown with Patel as the vantage point and school going Modi doesn’t even have a moustache. Hit the ground running. And this is where one of Modi’s several tag lines open – ‘Chai pe Charcha’. Apparently used back then to do business and it continues to lend a hand today in the business of India.
When the film was announced for an April 12 release, everyone – this writer included – called out the blatant disregard for election commission’s code of conduct in releasing what is a blatant propaganda video right in the middle of elections. A desired solution was found but now with the film releasing a day after BJP’s …sorry, Narendra Modi’s thumping victory, the film has come to be a victory dance. There’s probably nothing quite like it in political or electoral history. Win an election, a rousing sanction of the incumbent and have his face and story plastered across film theatres the day after. It may not be cheapest, but it is surely the most efficient party to throw. Get people together in a darkened room with lots of food, whistles and merry? Why not. No alcohol but that’s banned in Gujarat modal anyway.
Talking of Gujarat, the first half focuses on Modi’s rise from his RSS days to his eventual seat – Gujarat Chief Minister. Of course, we don’t really get enough or truthful focus with any of these. They jump between events and Modi grows a stubble, later a beard that turns from black to white. L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee aren’t named but shown to be the men Modi had to gently dust away. The 1990 Ram Rath Yatra is mentioned as Advani’s idea with Modi as the executor-in-chief standing around everywhere from on top of vehicles and on podiums. There are hagiographies and then there are sweeping fictionalised accounts. At one point, Modi as the RSS kar sevak is shown calling for the Nav Nirman Andolan in Gujarat, protesting corruption (the buzz word began that long ago apparently!) and when this reaches Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, she orders his arrest and declares Emergency. This is some Forrest Gumpification of Narendra Modi. Place him in every epoch of Independent India and the straight line would lead us to the “development” era of today. Or so we are told. Jayaprakash Narayanan is probably turning in his grave. Even for the Ekta Yatra of 1992, the film places Modi at the centre and not Murli Manohar Joshi who presided over it.
But the most egregious and obvious whitewashing is still to come. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002. A whitewashing program that is still on in various forms, about seventeen years running. In the film, Modi is shown to be helpless, trying to stop everything at all costs, neighbouring states refusing to come for help. The film has Modi visiting camps and doing all kinds of work. The blame is squarely placed on corrupt businessmen (whom Modi had scorned soon after coming to power because corruption is unwelcome in his state) collaborating with opposition to overthrow the government. There is even a cringe inducing Hindu-Muslim montage with everyone holding hands. There is also a Manmohan Singh caricature, painted as a mute who needs the help of his personal assistant to give replies.
While at it, Vivek Oberoi comes up with all the buzz words – chowkidhar, chaiwala, corruption, Gujarat model etc. He is also made to give a couple of ultimatums to Pakistan. Omung Kumar’s film is not only highly imaginative fiction, it is also smug and self-congratulatory beyond belief. It wants to replace the idea of India (as undefinable as it is) with the idea of Modi. Modi, according to this film, is synonymous with the history of India. The term ‘Akhand Bharat’ is thrown about several times. At every historic point in India, there seems to have been Modi’s hand, Omung Kumar suggests, which is why we come back to that divinity aspect of the characterisation. A man as God. Not a man with a God complex. This would have been nauseous in 2002 and it is extra nauseous now, a day after the country elected a terrorist to the parliament. The things we do for hate.
The PM Narendra Modi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.