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PM Narendra Modi movie review: Vivek Oberoi film deifies the PM

PM Narendra Modi movie review: Vivek Oberoi stars in Omung Kumar’s latest biopic. The film, PM Narendra Modi, isn’t mere tribute but actual deification.

bollywood Updated: May 24, 2019 16:41 IST
Raja Sen
Raja Sen
Hindustan Times
PM Narendra Modi,PM Narendra Modi Review,PM Narendra Modi Movie Review
PM Narendra Modi movie review: Vivek Oberoi’s film finally sees the light of day.

PM Narendra Modi
Director - Omung Kumar B
Cast - Vivek Oberoi, Manoj Joshi, Boman Irani, Zarina Wahab
Rating - 1/5

In 1975, Narendra Damodardas Modi was 25 years old. According to the film PM Narendra Modi, he had already made an impact seismic enough to make the power centres shiver. The on-screen Indira Gandhi is so threatened by the meteoric rise of this young leader that she feels the need for desperate measures. ‘Throw him in prison,’ she instructs, ‘and declare an Emergency.’

Perhaps this is the most appropriate biopic for an India where facts don’t matter. Written by Sandip Ssingh and directed by Omung Kumar B, PM Narendra Modi isn’t mere tribute but actual deification. It plays out less like a feature and more like old mythological films viewers used to watch after taking their shoes off. I’m surprised Ssingh and Kumar B didn’t call their film Jai Santoshi Modi. This film actually states that the only reason Narendra Modi does not walk on water is because he chose otherwise.

Watch the PM Narendra Modi trailer here:

This is filmmaking via montage, the screenplay made from bullet-points showcasing the virtues of the Modi character, primarily through 20-second scenes. In one, his mother feeds the family while Modi feeds his mother. In another, his father declares how he considers his son his own baap. Modi is depicted not only as a man of honour and valour, but the sole hero in the history of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a leading man eager to show off his manhood: “One day a real mard will sit on Delhi’s throne,” a soldier says, and Modi, played by Vivek Oberoi, smiles.

WATCH | PM Narendra Modi biopic: Vivek Oberoi serves tea at premiere

To his credit, Oberoi doesn’t mimic the Prime Minister in speech or style, instead playing him with a sanctimonious calmness — which is aided by a servile script that renders the character omnipotent. His Modi knows all, sees all, causes all, and thinks several steps ahead: an attempt on his life, for instance, is foiled by holograms so good that assassins mistake them for the real thing. In another scene, he teaches politicians how to make tea — metaphors of togetherness and inclusivity, plus a lingering pack-shot of the milk brand to give the sponsors their due.

PM Narendra Modi is filmmaking via montage, the screenplay made from bullet-points showcasing the virtues of the Modi character.

Made at breakneck speed, the film is expansively budgeted — it looks better than The Accidental Prime Minister, but not as slick as Thackeray — and while it features a few decent actors, Kumar B doesn’t challenge them. At 135 minutes, it’s shorter than expected but, thanks to inconsistent pacing and relentless flattery, feels tedious.

When Oberoi’s Modi meets Amit Shah (Manoj Joshi) the two are described as a Tendulkar-Sehwag combination. This could either be a childish boast — the way neighbourhood kids playing 5-over games dub themselves Kohli and Malinga — but may even be a parallel to the men mentioned, one of whom is reckless on Twitter and the other supposedly ineffective in parliament.

PM Narendra Modi opens with a voiceover saying it has been made to inspire the youth of India.

Is it possible to take the film seriously?

Much of the film is so preposterous, so blatantly absurd that one can only laugh at the utter disregard for truth. Then again, that is the very reason it should be feared, the fact that it is openly and callously cheerleading a fictitious narrative and shoving it down our throats. A film that highlighted Modi’s many actual achievements may have been compelling, but this is far more insidious. This is the cinematic equivalent of a Whatsapp forward, something that will find believers regardless of what the truth has to say.

Depth appears not to matter when the chest can swell wide enough. Here is the girth of a nation. The film opens with a voiceover saying it has been made to inspire the youth of India, and how it isn’t the story of a man, but of a country. At one point, Oberoi’s Modi grandly declares that Hinduism is a state of mind — “Hinduism ek soch hai” — but, by the end of the film, he has pivoted to “Modi ek soch hai.”

This is a monumental ode to hubris. The film, PM Narendra Modi, is an embarrassment, and even if every scene were true, the smugness is cringeworthy. The Constitution of India does not begin with the words ‘I, the person of India…’.

At least not yet.

(The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. They do not reflect the views of Hindustan Times.)

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First Published: May 24, 2019 12:08 IST