From grassroot interactions, political wall-writings, posters and banners to using social media and other digital platforms or radio programmes that walked in hand with PM Modi’s ‘Digital India’, election campaigns in India have come a long way and with the most recent addition being movies as a mode to reach the voters. Be it the freshly released trailer of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ or ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ or movies like Indu Sarkar that is set during one of the darkest periods of the country i.e. the emergency period between 1975 to 1977 declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the incumbent government in all manner of ways has made efforts to utilise the entertainment industry in its favour before the elections.
While the film ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ is based on the 2016 Indian Army’s surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan as a retaliation for the Uri attack that claimed the lives of 17 army personnel, the few minutes of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ as its trailer caught fire on social media in no time getting attacked for demeaning the former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and its party.
The controversy around the trailer of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ has become the talk of the town with its propaganda to uplift the BJP while demeaning the former government. The trailer of the film starring veteran Anupam Kher as the former prime minister was launched in the last week of December 2018 where it showed scenes in which the soft-spoken former prime minister Dr. Singh appeared to be under pressure from his party, especially the then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son and successor to the post, Rahul Gandhi. It shows Sonia Gandhi interfering in the former prime minister’s decisions while safeguarding her son’s interest who is apparently the heir to the throne. Anupam Kher plays the former PM as Suzanne Bernert plays Sonia Gandhi, Akshaye Khanna as Sanjaya Baru and Ahana Kumra and Arjun Mathur as Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively. The film is based on a book by Sanjaya Baru’s book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister—The making and unmaking of Manmohan Singh’.
The political propaganda didn’t even stop there as the saffron party’s official Twitter handle pitched that people should watch the trailer to know if Dr. Singh “was just a regent who was holding on to the PM’s chair till the time heir was ready?” This provoked heavy bashing for the party and netizens even prompted jokes calling BJP a promotional partner of the film.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala took to Twitter and wrote, “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!#ChowkidaarHiChorHai”.
Reacting on the ongoing controversies around the Anupam Kher starrer, BJP MP Amar Sable asserted, “This is the digital age and social media platforms are there to connect people and not to create controversies. Before creating any controversy, the film should be first seen and then decided whether it has shown anything controversial. If there’s something that the former PM has really done and it is portrayed (in the film), then the audience will accept it; otherwise, it should be protested against.”
Challenging what Sable said, senior Congress leader Madhu Chavan expressed, “Those politicians, who have lost their minds, can do anything for publicity. The name — ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ — itself is questionable. How can a person who administered and piloted India through the economic crisis the world was facing during his regime, and also a person who has been the most knowledgeable economist Finance Minister in the world be named in such a way? We will protest against the film if it shows the former PM in a bad light. We will protest in such a way that it doesn’t get publicity from the controversies. We won’t let the film run if such a case arises.”
‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, which is going to release on January 11, is the latest inclusion in a line of politically motivated films that aim to propagate a specific ideology while diminishing the other. Another such example being “Indu Sarkar” (2017) set in the background of the ‘Emergency’ period between 1975 to 1977 by Madhur Bhandarkar showing the struggle of a housewife holding on to her morals, fighting to expose the government where her husband works. The meticulously titled “Indu Sarkar” (read Indu=Indira) points clearly to the prevailing government during the emergency.
“Uri”, that is scheduled to release on the same day, talks about one of the Modi governments highly publicised achievements — the 2016 surgical strikes. Helmed by Aditya Dhar and starring Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, and Kirti Kulhari, the trailer speaks of a “Naya Hindustan” – a New India that won’t tolerate violence and will strike back resonating the current Prime Minister’s vows.
Political parties have always resorted to different kinds of political campaigns to reach the voters before elections. As the country moved towards globalisation, the arrival of the internet changed the topography of political campaigning with political trolls, memes, and cartoons being hurled at each other with the social media turning into a battleground. Now, it seems that the movie directors who are supporters of Narendra Modi are hell-bent on making movies which can support BJP in its election prospects before general elections this year. While the fanfare doesn’t seem to die down anytime soon, with films in the picture, it will be interesting to see whether such politically motivated movies will make any successful and widespread impact to bring the upcoming poll mandate in the favour of Modi-led government!
Actor-director Dr. Milind Inamdar commented, “These controversial films are made with the sole interest to create confusion among people and earn profits. There have been so many films made on social topics with little effect on society. Within some days, the film ‘Thackeray’ is also going to be released just like ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’. However, I don’t think this will have any impact on the voters. People will only choose the people who work for them. In other countries, controversial films are made even on the working Prime Ministers or the Supremoes, but they don’t create an issue with that. In our country, such films create issues just to rip the financial benefits.”
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