Towards the end of Vijay Ratnakar Gutte’s The Accidental Prime Minister, Akshaye Khanna’s character (based on Sanjaya Baru) tells Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Anupam Kher), that he will write a book about his time spent within the PMO. Kher’s Manmohan Singh goes full meta by asking Akshaye Khanna if he will also write about ‘this meeting’ referring to the very scene taking place.
There are only two kinds of meta scenes in the film world – the brilliant and the diabolical. Goes without saying, that the scene from The Accidental Prime Minister is diabolical. It even becomes unintentionally funny when the reel Manmohan Singh squeaks ‘I’ll miss you’ to Baru… according to Baru’s own book.
The Accidental Prime Minister victimises PM Manmohan Singh, and paints the Gandhi family as villains. Let’s just say, it is no accident that the film has released just five months before the general elections.
In trying to replicate the embellishments that make the former prime minister, Anupam Kher plays the character like a caricature. Never even daring to get into the psyche of the veteran politician, or presenting his perspective. It is ironical that they give Kher’s Manmohan Singh a scene where he refuses to be coached for a press conference, declaring he isn’t a ‘doodh-peeta’ infant, when the film in fact ends up nanny-ing the character.
German-born actor Suzanne Bernert essays the part of Sonia Gandhi with an accent so terrible, you wonder if it is deliberate. This version of Sonia Gandhi has no identity, or agency of her own. The film shows her as a mom too busy laying down the velvet carpet for her son’s entry into politics. And Bernert chooses to play Sonia like a creature belonging to the undead, intent on sucking every last unit of life out of Manmohan Singh, as he holds the door for the shahzada (prince) of Congress.
The film has even slipped in an actual video of Narendra Modi’s campaign from the 2014 elections, showing him referring to Rahul Gandhi as ‘Congress ke shahzade…’.
Arjun Mathur as Rahul seems committed to studying the much-publicised press conferences of the Gandhi scion, and the awkward pauses that made him (in)famous. But like ALL other characters in this film, Mathur’s Rahul Gandhi is such a broad interpretation of his real-life counterpart, that his scenes are reminiscent of the conveniently edited troll videos. All of them hell-bent on dubbing Rahul Gandhi as “Pappu”.
This leaves only our perpetually-grinning sutradhaar (narrator), Akshaye Khanna as Sanjaya Baru. Khanna relishes his role to such an extent, that it makes you question if he’s seeing himself in an expertly-crafted satire from a parallel universe. Khanna breaks the fourth wall in a way that would make Ryan Reynolds proud, and generally looks more comfortable than Kher does in the entire film. Unfortunately, an actor of Khanna’s calibre is wasted in a role that only requires him to tell the audience what to think: That Manmohan Singh is weak and Sonia Gandhi is bad.
Some sequences are so tacky and unconvincing (including one featuring a fake Arnab Goswami), that it’s hard not to look beyond the mean-spiritedness of the filmmakers. BJP may promote this film on all its social media handles, but this propaganda isn’t flying.
Let’s just say that at this point, Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti looks like a more ‘authentic’ portrayal of the Gandhi family than caricature-ish The Accidental Prime Minister.