As India awoke to her independence in 1947, the Congress Party took control over the colonial government left by Lord Mountbatten and thereafter, for nearly thirty years, the party governed the Indian Parliament. The Nehru-Gandhi family giving directions down the line, the party lately sustained itself since 1998 when Sonia Gandhi took to the administration as the party leader, with its driving force being “follow the leader” sentiment. In 2004, the Congress had an appointed apolitical prime minister- the distinguished economist Dr. Manmohan Singh. His ministry emphatically brings to the forefront issues regarding the mass welfare, strengthening of personal positions and revival of the party. It also posed a consequential query regarding the future of the Congress Party in India after the Modi government was sworn in 2014.
Considering the political potentiality of the Gandhi family, despite Sonia Gandhi’s inexperience in parliamentary affairs, the country was haunted by the specter of her invisible political rise. As her right to becoming the Indian Prime Minister was being challenged since 1999 due to her foreign origins, Gandhi nominated Manmohan Singh as her choice for the position in 2004. Her deed though was being compared to the Indian tradition of renunciation by her party followers, yet it did constitute of a serious impact on the term of the prime minister.
Biopics undoubtedly have been a staple of narrative films and have proved influential in shaping audiences’ notions of public history and societal changes. Director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte’s film The Accidental Prime Minister (2019) is a befitting rendition of how despite being the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s role was to taken to be “subservient” in comparison to Sonia Gandhi who wielded considerable control over his functioning. The biopic bases itself on the 2004 memoir The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh by the Indian policy analyst Sanjay Baru who also served as the PM’s media advisor for a couple of years. With the leading cast as Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna and Suzanne Bernert in the respective roles of Manmohan Singh, Sanjay Baru and Sonia Gandhi, it should be mentioned that the actors have brought life to the characters and have performed remarkably well in bringing out how Singh “has become an object of ridicule, not admiration” – as stated by Sanjay Baru to The Indian Express.
According to The Indian Express, the film is being appraised as a “propaganda” film, thus depicting the former PM as a “weak, spineless man, a puppet whose strings were controlled by The Family”. The viewers can be prepared to get the glimpse of a subjective view of life, which clearly departs from the extensive changes that the UPA years resulted in during which Manmohan Singh was heading the ministerial position, is what the daily newspaper claimed.
Just as the fictional account speaks about the “positive” sides of the PM, so does its adaptation. Anupam Kher has commendably portrayed the role of an extremely honorable figure who was upright and held his office with dedicated righteousness but was hushed in voicing the corruption that was being indulged in disgracefully by his party colleagues. He thus is reduced to a speechless caricature, a blind spectator who despite having knowledge about social violations, had his power curtailed and couldn’t govern effectively as the party supported him only in name and not in action. With no major deviations or digressions from its original source, the film does successfully display the nuclear deal along with the actual scene outside the Congress Party headquarters. It reveals to us on what conspiring circumstances the coalition government rose to power and how Singh falls as a gullible victim “accidentally’ climbing to the country’s foremost stand.
The film does have a tendency to appeal to a specific political hue more but is undoubtedly an innocuous watch as it narrates about a significant phase of Indian political history. To those, who are seeking for some answers as to why such an intelligent mind with his soft demeanor allowed himself to be manipulated at critical junctures of his term- for them the film serves no deep insight into the actual stances or circumstances and can be labelled as vapid? The approximate 2 hours watch can also leave you pondering about whether the happenings are coloured by Baru’s own version of some versioned truth.
By Debashrita Dey