It’s been a good week for the 14th Prime Minister of India (besides Bran the Broken, of course), though things weren’t quite the same for him back in 2002. Director Omung Kumar uses a montage of kerosene-induced butchery to underline the point: Gujarat is in flames, hundreds are being callously butchered, and Vivek Oberoi’s Modi is trying his best (and failing) to cry. In what is easily intended to be the most pivotal scene in the film, the actor’s eyes well up with fake shock as he surveys the unfolding carnage, taking a long pause to steady himself before telling us what we already know: “Mera Gujarat jal raha hai”. His hands, interestingly, remain outstretched throughout this duration—a pose that unwittingly reminded me of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil (and, closer to home, Shah Rukh Khan himself).
Modi goes on to visit relief camps that very night, visiting afflicted families one by one in an attempt to stem the flow of both tears and blood, and a character even remarks that the riots have been successfully suppressed within a span of 24 hours. That’s when the truth becomes most glaringly apparent: this garish, tasteless film is not an attempt to revisit history—it is an attempt to revise it.
It’s also a film that loftily claims to be the story of a billion people when it really is, above else, the story of one man. “Modi ek insaan nahi. Ek soch hai,” the man from Vadnagar declares in one of his many election campaigns, while his political peers—both from the present and the past—are straddled with predictably pedestrian characterisation. Indira Gandhi sprays scent onto flowers before making the most momentous decision of her career (“Giraftaar karoongi! Kal se emergency,” she says, sounding more like a genial headmistress who has just declared a holiday at school), Manmohan Singh remains predictably incapable of stringing two words together, Sonia Gandhi stares out of a window (when not watching Modi on an LCD TV with the entire cabinet in a conference room), and Amit Shah delivers newspapers. On the other side of the border, a Hafiz Saeed-lookalike spends his waking hours eating tandoori chicken. These are caricature-ish marionettes strung up by a woefully talentless puppeteer—one whose initials, ironically enough, happen to be O.K. A de-Om-anisation of Bollywood might well be the need of the hour.
Modi, of course, remains immune to any such debasement. The word chaiwaala is flung at him as invective, but he characteristically wields it like a badge of honour, going on to literally give us a lesson or two in the art of making tea (add a little adrak here, add a little elaichi there), taking care to ensure we see Amul’s logo in the process. “My Gujarat is not for sale,” he lambasts a corrupt businessman, with an electric guitar playing in the background (this guy rocks, in case you didn’t get it), and Mahatma Gandhi looking flabbergasted in his portrait, as if silently contemplating what the makers of this film were smoking. “Yeh party mera parivaar hai,” Modi declares at another point. We get it – it’s party all night (and all day) for him. It doesn’t help matters that Vivek Oberoi frequently keeps smirking as if trying to suppress a grin (then again, he can’t be blamed—for this film would have us believe that an SMS costing one rupee made Gujarat what it is today). He even gets his own Mhysa moment à la Daenerys Targaryen, with scores and scores of onlookers vying with each other to touch a part of him. I’m doggedly apolitical myself, but all I can say for now is this: chowkidar bore hai.
On the plus side, Modi does have an uninhibited penchant for speaking in rhymes. “Empowerment through employment,” he tells Ratan Tata&mdashplayed by Boman Irani, of all people—in what must be the niftiest crash-course on socioeconomics in a post-Friedman world. The Prime Minister, of course, is reputed to be something of a poet, having penned down as many as 67 Gujarati poems (now available in the form of an anthology named “A Journey: Poems by Narendra Modi”). In keeping with that iambic spirit, bhaiyon aur behnon, let me offer up a couplet or two of my own:
His was reportedly a 56-inch chest
With talk of nationalism, fervour and all the rest
This film, however, is nothing short of an unintentional parody fest
A shamelessly shoddy enterprise – probably made at a political outfit’s behest.
(Sigh – I wish I was saying this completely in jest.)
Rating: 1 out of 5
Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.