Akshaye Khanna is brilliant but Anupam Kher falters in this familiar political drama
As the title suggests, the film is based on the book of the same name written by Sanjaya Baru, the journalist who became the media advisor to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2004. The film wastes no time and takes us immediately into the heart of the political scenario prevalent in our country right after the UPA government wins the 2004 elections with a thumping majority.
The narrative seems to have been put together by some of the incidents taken from the book and clearly pinpoints as to where the true power lay during this government’s reign. Much of what is shown is already known to the general public but the timing of releasing the movie just before the upcoming elections is clearly to refresh the memories of voters and maybe bias their views at least to a certain extent.
In this respect the movie offers nothing new and does not add anything by way of a gripping plot or a brilliant screenplay but definitely familiarizes us with the powers lurking in the corridors of the highest authorities and how they play their subtle games to get things done. The film thus reiterates how and why Dr Manmohan Singh came to be referred to as the accidental PM.
There are only two main protagonists in the film- The Prime Minister played by veteran actor Anupam Kher and his advisor (and author of the book) played by Akshaye Khanna.
As always I feel a biopic can be brought to life only if the actor playing the main character is able to imbibe and convey the spirit of the character. Though Anupam Kher gets full marks for clinching the looks, the same cannot be said about his performance. He has concentrated so much on modelling himself on the external appearance of Dr Manmohan Singh that he forgot to feel like the character. His high-pitched voice was quite irritating and that walk he tries to copy was bordering on the ludicrous. He fails to capture the humility, dignity and intelligence of our ex-Prime Minister and ends up being more of a caricature.
On the other hand, it is Akshaye Khanna who makes the film worth watching. He is the heart and soul of the film and keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end with his breezy presence, natural dialogue delivery and an innate charisma which is endearing. The novel technique used in the film whereby Akshaye addresses the audience directly is highly entertaining and is the USP of the film. He establishes a direct connect with the audience and so it is through his eyes the audience also views Dr. Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the PM of this country, his thoughts, his actions and the problems he faced and how he deals with them.
There is a warm friendship between the two which comes across very nicely and their fallout is also shown which is unexpected. The film does comes to life when these two stalwarts are there together but we really have to make an effort to tolerate Anupam’s voice modulation. Maybe a less familiar actor would have looked more convincing in the role. Anupam Kher is too well-known a face and everyone knows his real voice also; so the voice modulation ends up making the whole get-up quite artificial.
The actress playing Sonia Gandhi looks like her wax statue and her character comes across as a cold-blooded conniving politician. The actor playing Rahul looks lost and Priyanka has hardly any screen time.
What works for the film
-The political content: Any film dealing with politics is like an elixir for Indians and with the kind of drama we have in our country such films will always be welcomed and enjoyed. So it is safe to say the movie is entertaining and it is good to know the reality of the people we vote for. It is always good to watch and then interpret in our own way how much of what is shown could be the absolute truth and how much is fabricated.
-Akshaye Khanna’s superlative performance: He is easily one of the most talented yet underrated actors of our industry and here he lifts the film several notches higher with his convincing portrayal of the author of this political drama.
-Anupam Kher’s physical transformation: Kher has definitely worked hard to look the part physically.
What does not work for the film
-The one-sided linear approach of the script. Nowhere in the film is any interaction shown between the PM and any of his ministers. The sole concentration is to show his problem with the PMO’s office which made it look like Dr Singh never did anything except the nuclear deal and in the second term was surrounded by scams.
– Anupam Kher’s unnecessary voice modulation and that nonsensical walk which made the PM look like a physically and mentally challenged individual.
-The wig and trousers of the actor playing President APJ Abdul Kalam!
-The real footage in the end where Naraendra Modi claims that the era of mother and son is over was a direct hit at the opposition for the 2019 elections.
For our film industry the movie though tackily shot is quite a bold attempt as a political film. It is probably the first of its kind as all names of the ministers are retained as such. Most of the actors chosen are also look-alikes so that there is no confusion in the viewer’s mind.
If you are in a mood to just enjoy what unfolds on the screen without being too judgemental then don’t miss it…