When the trailer of the Vijay Ratnakar-directed The Accidental Prime Minister, based on Sanjaya Baru’s book on former prime minister Manmohan Singh, was released on YouTube in December 2018, the BJP lost no time sharing it on its official Twitter handle. That enthusiasm seems to be missing for the Narendra Modi biopic,
PM Narendra Modi, the trailer
for which T Series released on its YouTube page on March 20. That perhaps explains the muted response-a modest 20 million views compared to the
72 million for Anupam Kher’s Manmohan act.
Not only that, the Modi biopic has courted controversy, with lyricists Javed Akhtar and Sameer tweeting that they hadn’t written the songs for the film after seeing their names in the poster credits. To which producer Sandip Ssingh clarified that he had bought their songs from existing films. Soon after, an April 2018 news report on how Ssingh had been accused of sexually assaulting a minor boy at a beach resort in Mauritius resurfaced on social media.
The timing of the Modi film release-April 5-has also come under scrutiny. With the official poster unveiled on January 28 in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, many are surprised at how filmmaker Omung Kumar B. managed to complete the film in time for a release just a week before the general election. The film is billed as the “story of a billion people”. The Congress wrote to the Election Commission calling its release a violation of the model code of conduct. “Its purpose is purely political,” Kapil Sibal told a news agency. “Three producers and the actor belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The director [Kumar B.] is involved in Vibrant Gujarat campaign.” Satish Gaikwad, president of the Republican Party of India, too, filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court, calling the film “surrogate advertising” that “may influence innocent voters” and asked that its release be deferred till the final phase of voting on May 19.
With dialogues such as “Hindustan aatank se nahin, aatank Hindustan se darega” and “Jo decision ek minute mein nahin hota, woh decision hi nahin hota”, the two-and-a-half minute trailer offers a glorified portrait of the prime minister. Vivek Oberoi, who plays Narendra Modi, also gets a screenwriting credit. It now emerges that Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer has issued notices questioning the promotion of the film, casting its scheduled release in doubt. Meanwhile, those so inclined can also binge-watch Modi: Journey of a Common Man, Eros Now’s 10-part original series that also premieres in April. There is no lawsuit against it yet.