Just a puppet on a string

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jan 2019 10:05:51

FILM REVIEW

The Accidental Prime minister

By Aasawari Shenolikar

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. And if the power comes without any authority, the unease can take on gargantuan proportions. Dr Manmohan Singh, the second person in the history of India to occupy the PM’s chair for two consecutive terms, was a leader who more often than not was considered only a titular head with the real voice being that of someone else from the party that ‘chose’ him to sit in that coveted chair.

The Accidental Prime Minister, directed by Vijay Gutte, brings to light these facts on the big screen that corroborates the fact that it was The Family that controlled the PMO. Adapted from Sanjaya Baru's book of the same name, The Accidental Prime Minister with Anupam Kher as the lead protagonist, traces how people in power play the dirty game of politics. Dr Singh, the economist at heart, who always worked for economic reforms for upliftment of the nation, accidentally found himself thrust upon the highest seat of power. Refusing to cow down to the diktats of the party, he often voiced his opinion. This, of course, did not gel well with the thinking of UPA, and Dr Singh found his voice being throttled time and again. Lauded internationally for his forward thinking with a clear vision that took the future of the nation into consideration, back home he never came across as a confident and convincing personality. So much so that he was time and again not even given a chance to voice his opinion in the Parliament.
The Accidental Prime Minister, replete with authentic clippings, starts with UPA's win in 2004. The Party wants Sonia Gandhi to become the Prime Minister, but when her nationality, among other things is questioned, she takes a step backwards and picks up Dr Manmohan Singh to hold the post of PM. His ascension to the post is also questioned - ‘Politics is not Economics, will he be able to play politics?’ is the question that is on everyone’s lips. Bureaucracy is a turf war, and Dr Singh is caught between his own principles and opinion and those of the Party, which are often opposite to his. Surrounded by people who are the Party’s ‘Yes Men’, Dr Singh asks Sanjaya Baru, the then Chief Editor of Business Standard to be his media advisor. The astute journalist guides the PM, stressing upon those who want to take advantage of the PM that he is ‘neither a rubber stamp nor a paper tiger.’ Dr Singh lends credence to Baru’s wisdom and ticks off people who try to ‘insult his intelligence.’

During his first tenure as PM, Dr Singh tackled many issues, of which the movie deals indepth with only the nuclear deal. His firm stand on the deal probably shook the core of The Family. Subtle threats, open criticism did not work and Dr Singh did not waver from his firm resolution that the deal he had worked out with USA was for the country’s good. The situation becomes grim when the strife takes on a ‘Party Vs PM’ colour.

Baru stands by him through thick and thin, but one day resigns from his post. He, however, returns to advise Dr Singh to take on the Party during the next elections and contest from the Lok Sabha. “You are PM not of the Congress but all the eleven allies’, quotes Baru, trying to reinstate confidence in Dr Singh’s ability to lead the nation. Initially reluctant, Dr Singh later agrees and finds himself as leader of the nation again.

During this tenure, corruptions and scams taint the functioning of the government and when DR Singh wishes to resign from the office as he ‘cannot function under such circumstances where he has to take the blame for the mistakes of others’, he is discouraged to do so. Madam cites, “Rahul Gandhi cannot become the PM when the country is riddled with corruption and inflation. You will have to carry on.”

Dr Singh is frustrated, but his hands are tied because he feels that the Party is supreme. Reduced to being a mere puppet, Dr Singh completes his second term before stepping down.

Baru, who acts as the narrator, in a candid moment, shakes his head and calls him ‘weak.’ Dr Singh, truly, was an accidental Prime Minister, who was a genius, but ‘weak at playing political games.’

Anupam Kher as Dr Manmohan Singh, walks the talk and talks the talk. He does full justice to his character and what could have been a caricaturish assignment turns out to be one where you relate to him as the soft spoken Prime Minister. Akshaye Khanna as Sanjaya Baru, who often smirks, who at times is smug, remains strong to the role that he is playing in PMO, is brilliant.

Gutte successfully brings the games being played in the corridors of power on the big screen and one of the highlights of the film is that he hasn't shied from giving real footage and real references with real names. Barring a beeping of ‘The Family’ a couple of times, Gutte should get a pat on the back for not hiding the people who played a pivotal role then. Thank God we did not get to see pixilated pictures. One could give a name to each character on the screen, so real were they in their get up.

We all know how political games are played - Gutte brings them on the screen. Kudos to him for sticking to authentic facts. A pat on the back for showing reality.

The Hitavada Rating : O O O