Omung Kumar’s biopic of the honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi is many things, but it’s not dishonest about its intentions. From the very first scene, it’s clear that the sole purpose of this movie is to build the perception of a ‘superhuman’. So much so that the film seems like a love letter from the BJP IT Cell. Despite the makers’ best attempts, never does this ‘biopic’ seem to look at its subject with curiosity. Narendra Modi is already on a pedestal, and an ideal to strive for.
When he’s a kid selling tea, even his own father tells him – “sometimes I wonder if I’m his father, or he is mine?” Naru, as he’s fondly called by his friends and relatives, equates folding hands in a temple with saluting the tri-colour. While all the other kids in the house are being their entitled selves, Naru calls his mother out of the kitchen to feed her a few morsels of food from his own plate. He even helps his mother out by washing the utensils. In short, he’s an angel. No, please don’t roll your eyes. It *could* be true.
Both Gautam Buddha and Dev Anand’s Guide leave a lasting impression on a 20-something Narendra Damodardas Modi, compelling him to reject matrimony only to go on to live like a ‘fakir’. Remember a certain Prasoon Joshi?
The film assumes a few, for a lack of better term, diktats, and if you surrender to them, maybe the watching experience won’t be that difficult for you. Godhra wasn’t his fault and he did everything within his power to stop the rioting in his state, we’re told. He personally directed the NSG commandos around the Akshardham attack, and stood there all night as the evacuation took place. He makes the most ‘brilliant’ sales pitch to Ratan Tata (played by Boman Irani) to set-up the Tata NANO plant in Gujarat. By his supreme oratory skills alone, Modi convinces people to lay down their weapons (Muslims lay down their swords, of course). When Oberoi’s character is heard saying “make sure that the Bhakts are safe”, it’s impossible not to chuckle. Things get to a point where Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju begins to look like a fact-based documentary in comparison to this ‘biopic’.
Even if we ignore the film’s attempts to propagate an ‘image’ of the honourable Prime Minister, the director’s disinterest in fleshing out the other characters of the film is just lazy filmmaking. Indira Gandhi is a snooty high-born, almost unmindful as she orders Modi’s arrest… while gardening. According to this film, she even announced the infamous Emergency in 1976 like an after-thought. Much like The Accidental Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi is a caricature from the underworld. Manmohan Singh’s character literally doesn’t speak during his two and a half scenes in the film, something which will probably be circulated on WhatsApp and draw hearty laughs.
Omung Kumar pushes the envelope when it comes to filmmaking while depicting the Godhra riots. The famous real-life interview with Karan Thapar, where (then CM) Narendra Modi chose to answer only a few questions, before uttering (the now famous line) dosti bani rahe and leaving the spot, is viewed through a new lens. In the film, Vivek Oberoi’s Modi records some of the most clap-inducing, applause-worthy sound bytes on live TV. He ends the interview abruptly again, but now there are guitars blazing in the background, in place of awkward silence. It’s a stunning attempt at redemption, but only if it weren’t so full of ‘creative liberty’.
To be very frank, Vivek Oberoi should take as much credit for this stunning piece of filmmaking as Omung Kumar. It’s almost as if Oberoi decided to surrender to the greatness of his character like a five-year-old wearing a white dhoti and a bald cap surrenders to Mahatma Gandhi for a school play. You don’t have to prepare for your role when you play someone so larger-than-life.
His ‘greatness’ is communicated to us through a bunch of scenes that end in the same manner. “X is an impossible task. Who can we trust to finish this?” “Only one person can do this…” *camera zooms into Oberoi’s Modi*
Mr Hirani, you have nothing on this film. PM Narendra Modi throws its subject’s life story into a washing machine, sets the control button to extreme, irons it meticulously and then places it on the altar with a potpourri pouch on it .
ALL characters seem to be utter the name of ‘Narendra Modi’ with either reverence, fear or just wide-eyed wonder. Did someone say Narendra Damodardas Modi or Amarendra Baahubali? For Omung Kumar, it’s one and the same.