Vivek Oberoi on Modi biopic: The Election Commission's decision stemmed from fear
Allowed to promote his film 'PM Narendra Modi' after the polls, leading man Vivek Oberoi indicates Election Commission 'clamped down on free speech' by stalling the film's release last month
Excited to begin promotions for PM Narendra Modi anew, Vivek Oberoi opens the conversation with, "On May 23, Modi ji comes back [as the Prime Minister] and the next day, Modi ji is back in theatres." One would assume he is pleased with the timing of the release of the biopic. However, Oberoi - whose film's release during the seven-phase polling in India was stalled by the Election Commission (EC) as it violated the Model Code of Conduct - says the past few weeks have been testing. "It was a major setback. The film was releasing in 40 countries. Distributors in America and UK were confused."
He minces no words as he says that he saw little sense in the EC's decision. "It was stemming from fear. There are commercials on Congress as well. By that logic, editorial columns should stop. The Election Commission should have put a blanket ban on news material because that can influence voters, too. Clamping down on free speech [marks a] downward slope for a healthy democracy," philosophises Oberoi, the irony seemingly lost on him.
A still from the film
Ever since the trailer dropped online, many have criticised the film for being a propaganda movie. "I have been accused of making Modi into a hero. The very fact that we are making a movie on him is because he is already a hero."
Quiz him if the Omung Kumar-directed film conveniently leaves out the grey areas of the leader's career, and pat comes his reply, "Unlike documentaries that are factual, biopics are emotional. We stuck to the emotional weave of the narrative." To make a stronger case for himself, Oberoi cites Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982). "Even that was panned because reviewers thought it was deifying Gandhi."
A recent article on Modi in an international magazine drew the ire of his supporters. Ask Oberoi for his take, and he calmly replies, "Time magazine's cover is someone's perspective on the country and its political system. This film will be received the same way - some will love it, others will hate it. The essence of democracy is to have an opinion. People will review it for ideological reasons rather than for the film it is."
Fresh trouble for Vivek
Once controversy's favourite child, Vivek Oberoi courted trouble again on Monday as he shared a meme that compared the different stages of election polls to rumoured former girlfriend Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The actor posted a viral image that labelled photos of Rai with Salman Khan, Oberoi and husband Abhishek Bachchan as 'opinion poll', 'exit poll' and 'result' respectively. The National Commission for Women (NCW) demanded a "satisfactory explanation" from the actor for his "misogynistic" tweet. It stated that the post made was "offensive, unethical and shows disrespect towards the dignity and respect of women in general".
The Maharashtra State Women's Commission (MSWC) too found the post "disrespectful" to the dignity of women. "We have studied the tweet and it is prima facie found to be objectionable. We shall serve him notice on Tuesday to explain himself," said MSWC Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar. Sonam K Ahuja too called it "disgusting and classless".
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