Based on the book The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh by political commentator and policy analyst Sanjaya Baru (Akshaye Khanna), this film is a fictionalised adaptation of Baru’s time in the Prime Minister’s Office, during the first term of Dr Manmohan Singh (Anupam Kher) as the PM of the Congress-led UPA Government. The ‘tell-all’ account is his observation as Media Advisor and Chief Spokesperson of Dr Singh from May 2004 to August 2008. It also touches upon issues like the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Coalition Politics and the 2G, 3G, CWG (Commonwealth Games) and Coal-gate scams to name a few.
Review: For those of us who have actively followed the regime of Dr Manmohan Singh, one of the most honest Prime Ministers India, this movie serves up as a reminder of how “unhappy” this financial and economic whiz was in his chair as the leader of a nation with a 100-crore population. Despite sitting on the most-powerful chair in India, Dr Singh’s throne was strewn with thorns. The main thorn in his aside being Sonia Gandhi, the then Congress President and of course heir-to-be Rahul Gandhi. Rahul is shown as a political novice but his mother, who is blinded by her love for him, is far-too-ambitious for him. Sadly, the genius of Dr Singh was reduced to him being a puppet on a string; a string that was constantly pulled by the power-crazed Gandhis.
The narrative of the film doesn’t leave you cinematically satiated because the style and pace at which things unfold is uneven. There are a few highs punctuated with clever lines but there’s also a drab quality to some of the screen-proceedings amounting to this being just a documentary. The background score rankles and disturbs especially in the first 15-minutes but eventually, it does settle down to be effective.
However, TAPM could be termed an important watch because it gives us a vantage-view of the dynasty politics, played by the new-age Gandhis and their sycophants for whom self often came before the nation.
The film is also likely to be perceived as a timely arrow pulled out of the ruling party’s bow because it clearly shows you the apathy of the family that ruled India forgenerations without actually bothering to hatao garibi (eradicate poverty) or bringing in any noteworthy reforms.
For cinema-lovers, the takeaway is the proficiency of the two key performers. Anupam Kher who plays Dr Singh gets his walk (slightly effeminate), meek-mannered talk and even his incredulous voice modulation pat. The actor who must have definitely done a ‘good’ study of watching newsreels featuring the country’s most-celebrated Sikh at one point has you convinced that you are actually sitting across the ex-PM himself. As for Akshaye Khanna, who plays Baru, the narrator in this case, well he is a complete delight. Often talking direct to the camera, Khanna has you listening intently to the way things played out behind the closed doors of the PMO at a politically-vulnerable stage in Indian politics. German import, Suzanne Bernert also gets her Sonia-act correct. The Italian who had the Indians panting is shown as Machiavellian and though there isn’t that much spelt out, still a slight shudder goes up your spine.
Debutant director and co-writer Vijay Ratnakar Gutte will win accolades for choosing to do a political drama that can be referenced because of the usage of real names and situations pieced together with archival material from the newsrooms. However, as I pointed out at the start, Gutte’s cinema shows he is a novice because he is not able to sway the viewer into total submission. On one level, the film is as cold as Sonia’s or should we stick to saying Suzanne Bernert’s glassy stare.
If you’re into current affairs this one will pique your interest. Be warned: this is not ‘entertaining’ by any stretch of the imagination.