Despite how desperate some news channels and websites have become on muddying the image of the movie and its cast, The Accidental Prime Minister came out as a winner for me. In terms of what it gets (as inputs from the book by Sanjaya Baru) and what it brings to us, it indeed covers events in the timeline they occurred and provides a rather unbiased opinion on the story, with a few exceptions. I’d rate it a 4 on 5.
As always, the detailed review follows…
First things first. This isn’t really a “movie”, but a documentary, a chronicle of what happened—or why. But, for the sake of the review, let us stick to “movie”. This isn’t everybody’s movie. It doesn’t have loud music, filthy dialogues, needless action sequences, exploding cars, or gory blood spurting. It is a classic plot-driven cinema meant for the all-knowing, all-mighty audiences. Do some research before you hit the nearest cinema theatre to watch it.
Like any work of fiction on non-fiction, you see the movie from the point of view of the writer—the author, in this case. The movie starts with how after Congress came into power in 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS) was chosen to become the Prime Minister, despite Congress’ common opinion. And, while all the “sacrifice” did have its effect, we know what happened next: National Advisory Council (NAC).
The basic plot of the movie—and I want you to pay attention to this one—is:
- We have a protagonist, played by Anupam Kher, who is chosen to lead the country of around a billion people. Based on the short sequence that covers the timeline of MMS, we see that even he never dreamt of it.
- He has a daunting challenge before him.
- His challenge continues to become complicated as he discovers that first, he isn’t the final decision-making authority, and later, his drafts and decisions will be crosschecked and often overruled by the NAC.
- Throughout his first and second terms, he realizes that Congress (termed as the “party”) attributes all the failures to him, while all the success, howsoever little it is, to Rahul Gandhi, who the party sees as the potential successor (heir to the throne).
This is a classic plot for any movie—or book, for that matter. A protagonist. A challenge. A bigger challenge. Helplessness. Despair. Resolution.
Let us look at what I liked:
I liked the fact that both Vijay Ratnakar Gutte (the director) and Sanjaya Baru (the author) have kept their respective work opinions neutral. Nowhere do we see anyone using any false language or even a hint of it.
The cast is spot on. Suzanne Bernert shines as Sonia Gandhi. Her acting has been at par with both Akshaye Khanna (with that salt-and-pepper hair) and Anupam Kher. The supporting cast has proportionately outshined their little share of the silver screen: Vipin Sharma as Ahmed Patel is a treat to watch. Divya Seth Shah as Gursharan Kaur (MMS’ wife) is as wifey as she needs to be—purposeful, powerful, and impactful. Her dialogues and timing have been impeccable.
The makeup team (Shrikant Desai, please take a bow) bears special mention, for it is only because of them—aside from the casting team—that I could recognize the characters they play in the movie. Anish Kuruvilla as TKA Nair, Ramesh Bhatkar as Prithviraj Chavan, Deepak Dadwal as Jaswant Singh, and roughly 150 others have been given the required screen space and looks for them to slip into their characters seamlessly. It is as if we are watching the real person speak. The attention to detail, like the hairy ears of Lalu Prasad Yadav, was achieved through the makeup, but I hardly noticed it. Kudos.
A special mention to the costume designer Abhilasha Shrivastava for designing the wardrobe for Akshaye Khanna. If indeed Sanjaya Baru wears such outfits in real life, I must say that he has a refined taste of fashion. I am sure the costume team will receive the appreciation they deserve from others as well.
I liked the one-liners and punches introduced by the author and director. MMS saying “O teri” as he gasps and gulps, if it did happen, shows MMS did speak efficiently—even though he spoke less. The introductory sequence of Sanjaya Baru is good. I like how MMS asks him to become his “Sanjay” symbolizing Sanjay of Mahabharata, who gave a visual account and live commentary to Dhritarashtra of what occurred on the battlefield.
The touchy sequence of PV Narasimha Rao’s soul not being permitted into the Raj Ghat has been covered rather subtly. The typical artists’ view, this sequence doesn’t conclude as the scene ends. You somehow carry that thought along. The sequence ends when MMS calls upon Sanjaya Baru to tell him that he must resign from the chair of the Prime Minister, to follow party’s thoughts, because he knows that he doesn’t have much time now. This symbolizes how carefully MMS chooses to say that he doesn’t want his end to be like that of the former PM, PV Narasimha Rao.
I didn’t like Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi until the sequence of the epic interview with Arnab Goswami of 2014. Arjun has successfully reproduced the exact cluelessness with utter ease.
Before I close my thoughts, a cautionary note from me: I have seen a lot of hue and cry over this movie being false propaganda to malign the image of Congress. If the movie does anything, it only strengthens the image of MMS. It shares an additional perspective on what he did or wanted to do. It helps us see through what until now was laid undercover. A lot of file footages are inserted (hopefully from the same timeline) to support authenticity. The movie in no way malign anyone’s image, it is an account of what happened. I must say that my review is about the movie, not about the thoughts that drove it. However, if you leave the theatre with an afterthought, blame no one else but yourselves.
It is for the first time I see both an uproar and appreciation for a documentary; perhaps because work of art is shot with both great dedication and caution. The end of the era of MMS brings Narendra Modi on the screen and public opinion on the surface. Every time Rahul Gandhi came on the screen, the audiences began laughing even though his dialogues didn’t demand so. But, applause followed the sequence where MMS gives way to Narendra Modi. No one said a word; a lot was still said.
That’s the verdict.