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'The Accidental Prime Minister' review: Why every Indian should watch it

Ambica Sachin
Filed on January 11, 2019 | Last updated on January 11, 2019 at 06.43 am

The true hero of the movie is Baru, played with affable charm by the talented Akshaye Khanna.

Is 'The Accidental Prime Minister' merely a propaganda film? Our answer would have to be no. While the Vijay Ratnakar Gutte directed 'biopic' can at worst be described as slightly caricaturish in nature with Dr Manmohan Singh's mannerisms (in particular his style of walking and his voice modulation) lending itself to a humorous take on the big screen, and despite the timing of the movie's release, what stands out ultimately is the tale of a man who is catapulted into a political whirlwind and manages to hold on to his integrity despite provocations from every end.

Based on the 2014 memoir by policy analyst Sanjaya Baru on the tenure of Dr Manmohan Singh as the prime minister of India, the political drama starring Anupam Kher in the central role, has been mired in controversy ever since its trailer was first released, with cases filed against the people associated with the movie, including Kher, for 'defamation' of Singh as well as the constitutional position of the Prime Minister of India.

But we'd say Singh has nothing to worry about because the movie more or less portrays him as he is widely perceived - na´ve, at times bewildered by the political shenanigans of his colleagues, but always earnest - a man thrust into a position of power, that he never aspired for. The Accidental Prime Minister, in fact, takes great pains to portray Singh akin to Bhishma from the Mahabharata, as the wise old man with no evil, who is only beset by family drama. Could this be termed whitewashing? Is Manmohan Singh getting off lightly for the misdoings of his party, and for the fact that despite being the prime minister, he had absolutely no control over his people and let himself be used as a puppet by the high command? Though Baru at one point refers to Singh as "spineless", 'The Accidental Prime Minister' showcases him as a morally upright 'politician', not a leader though, with a good sense of humour; a technocrat whose sole focus was the welfare of his country.

Does the Congress have to worry about the portrayal of the Gandhi family in the movie? There are no shock revelations about the Congress party or the Gandhi family in the film, whether it be Sonia Gandhi's (played by German actress Suzanne Bernert who bears an uncanny, though slightly waxen, resemblance to Mrs Gandhi) behind-the-scenes attempts to promote her son as a prime ministerial candidate, or Rahul Gandhi's act of tearing up a government ordinance during a press conference. The intersplicing of the 'fictional' movie with actual footage of political rallies and speeches by politicians, tends to jar a bit. When you are paying someone to play Rahul Gandhi (Arjun Mathur) on screen, why bother to show footage of the actual Gandhi scion at a political rally?

The true hero of the movie turns out to be Baru, played with affable charm by the talented Akshaye Khanna and the movie's narrative style of having him talk directly to the audience (perhaps borrowed from 'House of Cards'?) works well. He brings levity to the movie and eventually 'The Accidental Prime Minister' holds you in its sway cause of Khanna's charisma.

Our only grouse would be that the movie might be a bit tedious for those with no political know-how of the goings on in the Congress party. But that should not stop you from watching the movie. In fact, every Indian should watch the movie, if only to find out how the game of politics is played within the four walls of a constitutional institution and as Baru cheekily comments at the beginning of the movie, 'how the fate of a country of a billion people is decided by a handful of people'. Kudos to Gutte for making a mark with his directorial debut, and keeping it to a watchable one hour and 45 minutes and to Kher in particular for the tremendous physical transformation he has undergone to play the role of a lifetime. In the hands of a lesser actor, it would have looked absurd.

Movie: The Accidental Prime Minister

Director: Vijay Ratnakar Gutte

Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshay Khanna, Suzanne Bernert

3 stars out of 5

ambica@khaleejtimes.com


 
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