The Accidental Prime Minister movie review: A bad accident

Updated: 12 January, 2019 19:57 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

Do we know how Singh felt through it all? That's for another film. There's enough to laugh about in this offering, but the joke here is that while Hollywood continues to make great content, we are still nitpicking and name-calling

The Accidental Prime Minister
The Accidental Prime Minister

The Accidental Prime Minister
U: Biography, drama
Dir: Vijay Gutte
Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna

Given the imagery in the trailer, it is impossible to walk into The Accidental Prime Minister anticipating anything. The intent of its makers is evident: its strategic release, months prior to the election, solidifies its positioning as a propaganda film. Films are meant to have fodder for debate and discussion. And the topic of discussion here, I propose, is how Mayank Tewari, the writer of Newton (one of India’s most balanced political films) and Hansal Mehta (Shahid) came up with something as abhorrent as this.

Probably hoping to pitch this as India’s answer to House Of Cards (HOC), the film’s narrative is too incoherent to make a political statement, let alone start a dialogue. HOC, of course, made with tremendous gumption, never has a political bias. It merely mirrors the goings-on behind the closed doors of the White House. Based on the book by Sanjaya Baru, this movie attempts to make sense of power games in the corridors of the coveted bungalow No. 7, Race Course Road (the official residence of PMO). But there’s no escaping the fact that it can only pass as a run-down, Made In China version of HOC.

If at all the idea was to shame and embarrass the Congress party, the writing here lacks the desired punch. The onus of shaping the material lies in the hands of the director, and Vijay Gutte is visibly inept. Of course, the lofty and on-point casting of Akshaye Khanna as Baru and Anupam Kher as PM Dr Manmohan Singh, salvages the situation considerably, but there’s no saving the film from shoddy direction.

Baru’s book walks the tightrope carefully, making ground-breaking political revelations, but never reducing Dr Singh to a laughable figure. Even his worst critics would agree, Singh was a man of poise. On Gutte’s insistence (or so I would like to believe) Kher turns Singh into a mute cartoon, who deserves to be pitied. It almost feels like the makers want to mock Singh — mimic his voice, slouch his gait. Baru had carefully carved Singh as a fiercely loyal man, standing strong on his ideals; one who is manipulated by the Gandhis (Sonia and Rahul). Gutte never focuses on the vulnerable equations between Singh and the Gandhi family.

He, in fact, allows Khanna to get disturbingly Frank Underwood-ish, turning up the dark humour in every third sentence. Khanna is great at what he does, but he makes Baru seem more like a saffron loyalist, not a Congress insider. Gutte takes us through the hallmarks of the Congress government, from the nuclear deal to the 2G scam, in a news bulletin, decade roundup-sort of a fashion, creating the build up for the film’s Singham (PM Modi). Do we know how Singh felt through it all? That’s for another film. There’s enough to laugh about in this offering, but the joke here is that while Hollywood continues to make great content, we are still nitpicking and name-calling.

Watch The Accidental Prime Minister Trailer

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First Published: 12 January, 2019 18:05 IST

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