PM Modi’s biopic hits the silver screen amidst BJP’s landslide victory
The Vivek Oberoi starrer makes sure that it is, in every moment, properly in awe of its subject, man and boy, as it tracks Narendra Damadordas Modi’s astonishing trajectory from a ‘chai-wala’s (Gupta) son, to a ‘pracharak’ of the RSS, to his rise and rise, in Gujarat, and then on the national stage, ending with his taking the oath in 2014.
Those who have swallowed the myth-making whole will watch the film as a reaffirmation of their faith. And who cares for the disbelievers, as they collect their jaws from the floor as the film goes from one white-wash to another: that as a young man, Modi walked out of a potential marital alliance and went to the Himalayas to do ‘tapasya’; that the post-Godhra riots couldn’t be controlled because the ‘neighbouring states’ didn’t ‘help’; that messiah Modi was a ‘secular’ helper during the earthquake relief operations; and so, and on.
After a point you stop counting. The film is not a mere bio-pic, it is a full-fledged, unabashed, unapologetic hagiography. What else could it be?
It takes its cautionary note (which unspools in the opening credits) about taking creative liberties very seriously indeed. Those who’ve lived through the times that ‘Jai’ Modi was growing up, and creating a space for himself in the political firmament, with the help of his ‘Veeru’, Amit Shah (Joshi; this ‘Jai-Veeru’ coupling comes up as a special mention in the film, I kid you not) may wonder if there is an alternative universe that he inhabits.
In keeping with its tone and tenor, it is completely reverential towards its subject, projecting him as noble and sacrificial and wise beyond his years even when very young, whose love for his own ‘ba’ (Wahab) is never more than the love he has for Bharat Mata. The Opposition is shown as weak and venal (Manmohan Singh doesn’t have a single speaking moment, only keeping ‘maun’); a corrupt businessman (Narayanan) is shown in cahoots with a complicit journalist (Kumar) as they plot Modi’s downfall; Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and their cohorts come off as ineffective hand-wringers.
The film offers up no debatable points, no what-ifs, no grey areas. There’s no mention of ‘hindutva’, only ‘Hinduism’ which is also, as he helpfully points out, a ‘soch’. As a bio-pic, it inhabits muddled, post-truth territory. As a hagiography though, genuflecting at the altar of the man, it’s perfect. It’s uncritical, unquestioning, high on rhetoric. And there’s nothing accidental about it.
Review Inputs from The Indian Express.