The unhappy genius and puppet prime minister
Mumbai: Based on the book The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh by political commentator and policy analyst Sanjaya Baru (played by Akshaye Khanna), the film is a fictionalised adaptation of Baru’s time in the Prime Minister’s Office. He was posted there during Dr Manmohan Singh’s (Anupam Kher) first term as the PM of the Congress-led UPA Government.
The ‘tell-all’ account is based on his observations as Media Advisor and Dr Singh’s chief spokesperson from May 2004 to August 2008. It also touches upon issues such as the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Coalition Politics and the 2G, 3G, CWG (Commonwealth Games) and Coal-gate scams.
For those of us who have actively followed Dr Singh’s regime, one of India’s most honest Prime Ministers, this movie serves up a reminder of how “unhappy” this financial and economic whiz was in his chair as the leader of the nation. Dr Singh’s throne was strewn with thorns — the main one 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, blinded by maternal love, is far too ambitious for him. This the genius is reduced to a puppet on a string; a string constantly pulled by the power-crazed Gandhis.
Film’s narrative doesn’t leave you satiated because its pace is uneven. There are a few highs, but there’s also a drabness to some of the proceedings. The background score rankles in the first 15 minutes, but eventually settles down to be effective.
But TAPM is an important watch because it gives us a vantage-view of dynastic politics, played out by the new-age Gandhis and their sycophants for whom self often came before the nation. The film is likely to be perceived as a timely arrow pulled out of the ruling party’s bow because it shows you the apathy of the family that ruled India for generations, without actually bothering to ‘hatao garibi’ (eradicate poverty) or bringing any noteworthy reforms.
For cinema-lovers, the takeaway is the proficiency of the two key performers: Anupam Kher gets Dr Singh’s (slightly effeminate) walk, meek-mannered talk and even his incredulous voice modulation, down pat. The actor, who must have definitely studied hours of newsreels featuring the country’s most-celebrated Sikh, convinces you that you are actually sitting across the ex-PM himself.
Khanna, as the narrator, is a complete delight. Often talking directly 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. German import, Suzanne Bernert also gets her Soniaact correct.