The Accidental Prime Minister: Congress, BJP engage in war of words over alleged distortion of facts

The trailer of The Accidental Prime Minister, based on the book of the same name by Sanjaya Baru, has sparked a row over alleged distortion of facts, the Congress party has said.

The trailer of The Accidental Prime Minister, based on the book of the same name by Sanjaya Baru, has sparked a row over alleged distortion of facts, the Congress party has said.

The trailer shows former prime minister Manmohan Singh as the victim of internal politics of the Congress ahead of 2014 general elections, which the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) lost.

Objecting to the “incorrect presentation of the facts”, Maharashtra Youth Congress, on Thursday, demanded a prior screening of the movie. The party’s wing also announced that they would not allow the movie to be screened anywhere if their demand was not met.

Satyajeet Tambe Patil, president of the Maharashtra Youth Congress, wrote in the letter, “If the said movie is released without prior screening for our office bearers and without making necessary changes recommended by us that we find out after viewing the movie it will be understood that you are doing this deliberately and we have other options open to stop the screening of the same across India.”

The movie’s trailer has led to a war of words between the BJP and the Congress. After the trailer was released, the BJP also tweeted the trailer and described the movie as a “riveting tale of how a family held the country to ransom for 10 long years”.

Congress party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala slammed the BJP, calling it fake propaganda and an attempt at diversion tactics.

“Such fake propaganda by BJP won’t desist @INCIndia from questioning the Modi Govt on – Rural Distress, Rampant Unemployment, Demonetisation Disaster, Flawed GST, Failed Modinomics, All pervading Corruption!,” Surjewala said in a tweet.

Reports also emerged that the movie could be banned in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh. However, Surjewala said there is no truth to such reports. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath also clarified that he had no intention of banning any movie. “I don’t have any intent to impose a ban or any prohibition on any movie,” Nath was quoted as saying by ANI.

The Uttar Pradesh Congress workers have vowed to not let the film release in the state. Congress workers have put up posters that claim Manmohan Singh has been projected in a bad light in the movie.

“Modi ji, people will vote for you based on your achievements in the last five years and not because you malign someone’s image. We will not let this movie release as it gives out a negative image of the Congress ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” read the posters that were put up at prominent junctions across Lucknow.

How has Anupam Kher responded?

When asked whether a special screening would be held for the Maharashtra Youth Congress, Anupam Kher said, “Why should I screen it for anyone? We have shown it to the CBFC. That’s enough. If Dr Manmohan Singh asks us, we will show him for sure,” as per an Indian Express report. Kher plays the role of Manmohan Singh in the movie.

Kher added that they have not taken undue cinematic liberties in the film and said, “The book is written by Sanjaya Baru. He was in the PMO. If anybody had issues with the film, they should have spoken about it then. Our film is totally based on the book. We have not fictionalised it,” as per the Indian Express.  

What is the movie about?

The Accidental Prime Minister is a political drama based on the book of the same name, which has been written by Sanjaya Baru who served as the media advisor of the former prime minister from 2004 to 2008. Akshaye Khanna essays the role of Baru in the movie, while Aahana Kumra will be seen as Priyanka Gandhi in the film.

Baru’s book alleges that Singh was never fully in control of his cabinet and then Congress president Sonia Gandhi wielded significant power. Baru also alleges that Singh was subservient to her.

Film based entirely on book: Director Vijay Gutte

In an interview with Scroll.in, the movie’s director Vijay Gutte said, “Leaving the politics aside, the story is fascinating.”

When asked as to how close the screenplay replicates the book, Gutte said, “The film is based entirely on the book. Mr Sanjay Baru has written a fantastic book that is based on the 10 years of Mr Manmohan Singh’s tenure.

“There were so many chapters that it was difficult for us to choose. We have selected the chapters that people will enjoy, and the chapters that are close to Mr Manmohan ji. It was not easy for us to depict Mr Singh’s tenure of 10 years in a two-hour movie.”

Gutte added, “I could have picked so many incidents. The process of writing the screenplay involved understanding the chapters and dramatising them in our own way.”

What’s the fuss about?

Bollywood, politics, and cinema certainly constitute a heady cocktail. The controversy surrounding The Accidental Prime Minister seems to be similar to that which engulfed Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavati earlier in 2018.

The BJP’s IT Cell chief Amit Malvia also took a dig at Congress, telling them to “stand up for artistic freedom”. However, during Padmaavati, the BJP maintained complete silence on “artistic freedom”. During that time, Madhya Pradesh chief minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chauhan had said that Padmaavati will not be released in the state even if it was passed by the Censor Board.

The Congress has also had a history of banning films. The party has banned films that have the slightest relation to the Gandhi family. The Grand Old Party had banned Sanjeev Kumar-starrer Aandhi as they felt that the film was allegedly based on Indira Gandhi’s life. It was released in 1977 after a change of government.

It seems that political parties have no qualms to spar over any issue they can come up with. With general elections looming, the BJP and the Congress might be looking to make mountains out of molehills.


Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

Accidental Prime MinisterAnupam Khermanmohan singh