Omung Kumar’s hagiography on the Hindu nationalist leader makes you wonder if life is a parody of this film
Omung Kumar’s PM Narendra Modi is tailored for an election campaign but works equally well as (56-inch) chest-thumping now that the BJP has regained power. The obsequious biopic has faithfully incorporated every rhetoric, slogan and claims Modi has made in his rallies and “interviews”. From his chaiwala to Prime Minister narrative, calling himself a chowkidaar, dissing Jawaharlal Nehru, stoking nationalism incessantly to discrediting the liberal and international media (a channel called BCB) — you have heard and seen it all before. PM Narendra Modi is so in awe of its subject, even alluding him to Gandhi, that it makes you wonder if life is a parody of this film.
There’s so much ironic humour with ludicrous lines like “Aapka kaam bahar aana chahiye, peth nahi (Your work should show, not your stomach)” and “Abh tak hamare gaon main, paani sirf aurto ki aank se aata tha (So far the only water we had was women’s tears)”. There’s absolutely no pretending that the film is not a hagiography. The makers’ adulation for the political leader, almost as if he is a divine gift to India, is on display throughout. There’s no requirement of cinematic language to showcase their admiration, for the film literally keeps telling you how sincere, hardworking, fair and honest Modi is.
- Director: Omung Kumar
- Cast: Vivek Anand Oberoi, Manoj Joshi, Boman Irani, Zarina Wahab, Rajendra Gupta
- Storyline: The life of Narendra Modi from chaiwala to Prime Minister
The problem with PM Narendra Modi (beyond Vivek Anand Oberoi’s caricaturish performance) is not that it exalts a living political leader but that it equates him to the story of India. Questioning and criticising Modi is like mud-slinging the country. The biopic begins with a warning: “the intent of this film is to inspire patriotism and nationalism among the youth”. That’s followed by the narrator saying, “Yeh kahaani kisi insaan ki nahi par desh ki hai (this story is not of a person but a nation). From vilifying Indira Gandhi (who looks more like Cruella de Vil) to the birth of BJP to Gujarat riots to the toppling of the Congress government in 2014, the film contrasts the rise of Modi with India. Like a scripted interview, the film doesn’t shy away from addressing uncomfortable topics but has answers ready. It absolves Modi of all guilt and places the blame on “vipaksh ki chaal” (the scheming opposition), the Centre (when he’s the Chief Minister of Gujarat) and Pakistanis (shown to be either drinking or binging on meat). His association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is often raised as a matter of concern, is justified as an act of rebellion against the corrupt Congress government. His partnership with (a comical looking and sounding) Amit Shah (Manoj Joshi) is described as “Jai aur Veeru ki jodi”.
But the most uncomfortable depiction is of Gujarat riots, where the Hindu nationalist leader, is shown personally lifting the injured as Gandhi’s bhajan, ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’, is played in the background. The film repeatedly makes it a point to convey that Modi wants inclusivity and Muslims are by his side. After the riots, when a “BCB” journalist asks a Muslim man whether he feels safe under the Modi government, a mob of people attack him and chant, “Modiii Modiiiii!” You can’t question authority, even in the cinema.
The film works as a good indicator for what lies ahead if Modi’s (unverified) past is anything to go by. After shown walking barefoot on the snow-capped Himalayas as a sanyasi (monk) the politician goes to Kashmir and advocates the removal of Article 370, citing “Akhand Bharat” (undivided India). During an interview, he blames Nehru for the creation of Pakistan and promotes Hinduism as a way of life. The only aspect of the current Lok Sabha polls the film missed out on is the election of terrorism-accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. Perhaps that’s for another hagiography.