To be or not to be. That is indeed the question. The United Progressive Alliance has just trounced the NDA in the 2004 general elections, and “kaun banega agla Pradhan Mantri”is the question on many overzealous news anchors’ lips. On the other side of the divide, the word “Madam” is bandied about in party circles, for there has never really been a foreseeable alternative. “Mahabharat mein do families thi. India mein toh ek hi hai,”we are reminded, but the matriarch, after much deliberation, is seemingly of a different bent of mind. “Andar se aawaaz aa rahi hai,”she says before finally going on to proclaim her choice for the job.
Soon enough, we see one of the nation’s finest academic don his trademark crisp white kurta pyjama, button up his sadri — aptly also called the Nehru vest —, admire himself in the mirror — looking quite the complete man —, before leaving for the presidential palace to cement a family’s dream in ink. The swearing-in ceremony proceeds amidst much fanfare. This is a sequence which ends with the erstwhile Congress president awkwardly mooning at him (keh do na: who is this Sonia?) instead of the looking at him with admiration and respect, as should have been intended. L.K. Advani decides enough is enough and suddenly breaks into a pout.
The Accidental Prime Minister is a farce of monumental proportions, one that constantly beggars belief. Based on Sanjaya Baru’s voluminous tome about an economic messiah accused of administrative nonchalance, the treatment here is more along the lines of a spoofy, poorly conceived sitcom, and the film would have significantly benefitted from a laugh track of its own. Director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte keeps flitting back and forth between actual footage of what transpired during Singh’s tenure in office, and his own infantile retelling of the same. The the film feels so jerky, so spliced together that it may well have been made by a committee.
There is no dearth of cameos here. Everyone in Indian political circles — from Chidambaram to Shourie to Vajpayee to the poor old Missile Man himself — shows up in one hideous wig after another. It’s what Deewangi from Om Shanti Om might have looked like if it were to be shot on Race Course Road. Even the Father of the Nation looks almost flabbergasted in his portrait, mouth half agape, as if silently contemplating what the makers of this propaganda piece might have been smoking. It is the only noteworthy performance in this film.
Anupam Kher isn’t bad per se: he is awful. It takes more than a wheezy, mousy voice or a quivering gait to accurately portray one of the most enigmatic public figures of our time. The film’s consistently puerile dialogue doesn’t really help further this cause as well. “Mera brief hai Madam ko brief karna,”he tells Akshaye Khanna’s Sanjaya Baru, and that sure as hell would make for one killer resume headline. “PMO means business,” we learn later on, and his media advisor — a man who should presumably know a thing or two when it comes to delivering a well-crafted line — replies with this priceless remark: “Nah nah nah. Dr Singh means business.”
The rest is history: Baru Ban Gaya Gentleman. As for the prime minister himself — well, silent though he might have been, he never really was one for mollycoddling. It is the Oxford and Cambridge educated professor economics who has the last word: “Main koi doodh peene waala bachcha nahi hoon.”Point taken. There shall be no feeding bottles for him.
My favourite moment, however, is when we finally come face to face with the man who gave us Republic TV. Arnab, played in an absolutely outlandish manner, makes an appearance so random that he ought to have been called Arbit Goswami. He tears the heir apparent apart in an interview that catapulted one career and destroyed another. However, since this is as close to a mockumentary as a film can get, Rahul takes a moment to stare at the camera and flash a sheepish grin. Later on, when Singh is told that the Gandhi scion would like to meet him with a youth delegation, he looks understandably concerned: it might well be the film’s solitary moment of honesty.
Back in 2008, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act stood out as one among the more prominent legislations passed by Singh’s government. The citation, incidentally, proclaims that this is a law intended “to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for matters connected therewith”. Making this film must rank among those.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.