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Movie Review: The Accidental Prime Minister

Banners: Rudra Production Ltd (UK), Bohra Bros, Pen Studios, Bloom Arts Pte Ltd

Producers: Sunil Bohra, Dhawal Jayantilal Gada

Director: Vijay Ratnakar Gutte

Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna, Suzanne Bernert, Vipin Sharma, ArjunMathur, Aahana Kumra, Divya Seth Shah

Writers: Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, Mayank Tewari, Karl Dunne (UK), Aditya Sinha

Music: Sudip Roy (UK), Sadhu Tiwari

In one scene in this film, Akshaye Khanna as Sanjaya Baru hurls a rather snarky remark, ‘Kaisa Mahabharat hai yeh Bharatiya raajneeti!’ This is the crux of the film, The Accidental Prime Minister. Debutant director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte’s film encapsulates the political turmoil in the life of Dr Manmohan Singh, who served as the Prime Minister of India between 2004 and 2014.

For those who came in late, The Accidental Prime Minister is based on the eponymous book penned by Sanjaya Baru, former editor of The Financial Express who became Dr Singh’s media advisor. Translating a book onto celluloid is one of the toughest creative challenges a screenwriter faces. Much like the book, the film is successful as far as evoking empathy for ex-Prime Minister is concerned. But the writing falters big time.

There are too many loopholes in the screenplay. There are so many events that take place one after the other that there appear to be too many seams on the surface. It also gets quite difficult to keep track of the cascading events. The characters who form an important part of the narrative are not fleshed out well. Devoting ample time to establishing them could have helped the film.

The film chiefly revolves around the nuclear deal between India and the United States of America, and the simmering tension over it. The film also mentions the issue of carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh; the 2G, the 3G and the coal scams that plagued Indian polity during the reign of the Congress; and the protest launched by Anna Hazare to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill.

In one scene, Rahul Gandhi, played by Arjun Mathur, is seen tearing apart the ordinance to protect convicted politicians. The makers have surprisingly and thankfully not shied away from taking names and creating replicas of eminent politicians such as P Chidambaram, Naveen Patnaik, Amar Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav and Natwar Singh, among others.

Much like Hansal Mehta’s Omerta that released last year, this film (creatively produced by Mehta) is interspersed with raw footages of important political events. Lok Sabha meetings, speeches by political leaders and Anna Hazare’s protests in the national capital are a few of them. In fact, the film begins with footage of the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2004.

Seamless editing by Praveen KL would have helped the film. A few minutes into it, it seems like the narrative only keeps shifting back and forth between inside-the-PMO scenes and pan shots of the greenery surrounding the PMO. The ‘PM versus Party’ dialogue also gets too repetitive. It is rightly said that action speaks louder than words. What also works against the film is its background score. It gives us an indication to the impending drama in the beginning, but it eventually ends up overpowering some major exchange of lines between the characters.

What looked like a serious and hard-hitting drama from its trailer is laced with truckloads of sharp and clever humour. This is where the writing picks up. The film is peppered with scenes where Baru is seen breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the camera. His wisecracks are sure to crack you up. The makers also give us a sneak peek into the bitter world of power, politics and possible scapegoating, where a person who in 1991 economically opened up India for the West is reduced to a mere pawn. 

To make it convenient for apolitical audiences, key politicians and office-bearers are introduced by Baru through freeze frames and captions. However, detailed writing and an adequate build-up would have helped audiences to keep tabs on the events and the subjects involved in them.

Performance-wise, Anupam Kher as the passive and compliant Dr Manmohan Singh fits the bill perfectly. He adopts and executes the mannerisms and the body language, especially the trademark gait, with aplomb. His deadpan expressions in the lightly humourous scenes are praiseworthy.

But it is Akshaye Khanna who steals the show. Most of the one-liners belong to him. He has a terrific screen presence and owns the film. German actress Suzanne Bernert as Sonia Gandhi pulls off an amazing performance. She lives and breathes her character with utmost diligence. Arjun Mathur essays the role of Rahul Gandhi well. Aahana Kumra as Priyanka Gandhi and Divya Seth Shah as Dr Singh’s wife have limited screen time. Vipin Sharma as Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s aide, is decent.

Verdict: Worth a dekho!


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