In his promotional interviews, Anupam Kher had kept insisting that The Accidental Prime Minister is not made with an agenda in mind and people should watch it before making such an opinion. Considering that the movie, made about a former Prime Minister's controversial tenure, is releasing in the same year as the elections, it is hard to keep those accusations at bay. Yet, for Kher saab's sake, I wanted to give The Accidental Prime Minister a chance to convince me otherwise. The result I got was the experience of watching a very weird film. Delhi High Court Turns Down Plea Seeking Ban on ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ Trailer.
To give you some context, The Accidental Prime Minister is based on a book written about Dr Manmohan Singh's two-time Prime Ministerial tenure, written by his former Press Secretary, Sanjay Baru. Both Singh, played by Anupam Kher, and Baru, played by Akshaye Khanna, are the main characters here, as The Accidental Prime Minister chronicles Singh's unexpected appointment as the PM, after Sonia Gandhi passes on the opportunity, to his resignation in 2014.
In between, we see how Manmohan Singh's many decisions get stifled by the 'family', while Baru and the PMO team get him out of a couple of tight spots. The Accidental Prime Minister is also a tale of friendship between both the leads, who bond over speeches and Italian phrases, that ends when one felt that he was betrayed by the other.
The reason why I called The Accidental Prime Minister weird is that the movie offers you two perspectives on how to watch the film. The first perspective is seeing it as a realistic political satire. In that aspect, the movie works in surprising ways.
Now, there is no doubt that the party who had ruled over the previous government were no saints. We all know how Manmohan Singh's regime was under the strict scrutiny of Sonia Gandhi. So the scenes that portray the simmering tensions between Gandhi and Singh are watchable drama. The fracas over Narasimha Rao's demise and the whole nuclear deal with the USA are two standout sequences.
There are many entertaining sequences, especially in the first half. The political machinations involved in keeping Singh under the thumb of the NSA that owes allegiance to Madamji and MMS's hesitancy to do so are interesting. Especially funny are the scenes that show how petty ego issues, like whether the PM placed a file or threw it on a table, manage to create big ripples in the machinery. The Accidental Prime Minister: Muzaffarpur Local Court Orders FIR to Be Registered Against Anupam Kher, 13 Others Involved in the Movie.
The Accidental Prime Minister also has the smart advantage of having Akshaye Khanna's Baru break the fourth wall a la House of Cards, and offers some scathing commentary on how politics are run in the country. There are also some influences of the late Farooque Shaikh's underrated political satire series, Ji Mantriji.
That said, the satire sometimes also dips to farce, when the movie doesn't understand how best to poke fun of its subjects. Also, to best understand the film, you really need to know about all the political issues that happened in the last decade. Akshaye Khanna's narration sometimes helps, but at times, discussions about an ordinance and political affiliations may go over the head. You also feel the director's inexperience in how he handles some scenes. Like the sequence at the post-swearing-in banquet near the start, where he smartly uses tracking shots to establish the status quo of the party, only to ruin it by fast-forwarding a character's movements in an attempt to create a comical effect.
Now let's talk about the second perspective, which is the worst part of The Accidental Prime Minister. It is a propaganda movie, no doubt, no matter what the makers claim. It may not directly promote the ruling BJP party (that Kher is closely associated with), but serves their purpose by putting down the opposition just during the election year.
The pretence of trying to give a neutral viewpoint is completely dropped in the second half, as the film goes on an all-out attack against the Gandhis. While Sonia is shown making a scapegoat of Manmohan Singh so that her son can be the next PM, Rahul Gandhi (played by Arjun Mathur) is the one who is worst trolled. In a sly way, the movie pokes fun at his persona. A wide view of a banner has his face in an awkward pose while Singh and Sonia's faces are embellished there in a decent manner. Towards the end, the makers have also recreated that infamous interview of Arnab Goswami and Rahul. Since it is Rahul Gandhi who is leading the electoral campaign against PM Narendra Modi (who arrives at the end, shown through real footage of his political rallies and being the film's perception of the Knight in Shining Armour), we can deduce what we want here.
At the same time, the BJP party is left off the tenterhooks. They are even seen aligning with Manmohan Singh over the nuclear deal, when his own party had a cold stand. This may have happened, but the movie refuses to show the then opposition's bad side.
Like, the scene where Sonia passes over the PM mantle to MMS, because her kids didn't want her to end up like her husband and mother-in-law. Again, this could be true, but it was also true of how BJP party members insulted Sonia Gandhi over her Italian lineage, which was another factor for her not choosing the post. Also ignored is the slandering that the BJP party leaders did on Singh in the assembly for his silence. But then, you can't show everything in a movie, right?
While it is right to use cinema as a medium to criticise the political powers, it cannot be a tool to further an agenda. A movie like The Accidental Prime Minister sets a very dangerous precedent for how Bollywood is becoming a sycophantic pawn in a political war. Peeps, if you want to call it 'freedom of speech', then why is Oscar-nominated Ashvin Kumar's film No Fathers in Kashmir still stuck at the Censors?
The saddest crime of the movie is in how Manmohan Singh's character itself is depicted. The Accidental Prime Minister wants us to believe that we are seeing Singh's persona through Baru's eyes, when in fact, it feels like an opposition member's PoV. There is a clear intention to show Singh as a victim of family politics here, but the fact that he is shown so spineless, gives no scope for the viewer to understand his whole state of mind. Even by the end of the film, we never get the reasons for his silences and his inaction over the various scams that happened in his rule.
Even MMS' friendship subplot with Baru gets an awkward deal. It starts off on a great note. A flashback sequence where Singh fires Baru over an article is too good (one of the very rare scenes in the film where we see MMS's gumption). Also, the scene where MMS is nonplussed over Baru's use of a popular Italian phrase in adorable.
While these sequences did establish that these two share mutual respect, the movie later makes them behave like chuddy buddies which feel suddenly out of place. To make things even awkward, they even put in a Kal Ho Naa Ho-like BG theme in a couple of dramatic sequences between them.
On a positive note, the movie's runtime is short, a little below two hours. The cinematography (Sachin Krishn) is decent. The production values, however, are at times good and at times, shoddy. While the interior shots make a fine impression on screen, there are some exterior scenes that feel like they are lifted from a television serial.
Watch the Trailer of The Accidental Prime Minister here-
Anupam Kher's performance in the film is a strange but magnetic deal. In trying to imitate MMS's mannerisms and voice, it feels he is doing a mimicry act, particularly in the way he walks. Curiously, this does work out when the movie is in satire mode. Kher, however, is far more effective when the camera focuses on his eyes and expressions and that's where the actor in him delivers.
Casting Akshaye Khanna in Baru's role was a masterstroke. Though his frequent smirks get annoying after some time, his screen presence and his dialogue delivery are just too good. He also gets most of the best lines. Suzanne Bernert makes for a convincing Sonia Gandhi. The rest of the cast is okay.
- Akshaye Khanna
- Anupam Kher (sort of)
- The Satire
- Clearly Made With a Political Agenda
- Inconsistent Direction and Writing
- Can't Maintain A Tone
The Accidental Prime Minister is watchable for Akshaye Khanna and Anupam Kher's acts and some satirical digs. While the makers want us to watch the film for 'entertainment' purposes, we can't help but admit that there is a clear agenda in play. Here's where The Accidental Prime Minister loses points! Big ones at that!