A season of political biopics

Published at January 10, 2019 01:16 AM 0Comment(s)2472views

Umar Farooq Khan Amiri

A season of political biopics

With the general elections approaching in India, BJP stalwart and the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to give shape to his action plans, some of which (plans) seem to be quite novel. Closely following BJP, is Indian National Congress, a party that was decimated in previous election and was anticipated not to get back on feet in at least 15 years. In the last few contests the two parties have worked primarily on two strategies. One is that since they have been engaged in bitter rivalry the opposing party instead of setting its own agenda tries to mobilize opinion on the shortcomings and failures of the party in power. Last time, BJP was continuously after Congress on corruption allegations like 2G Spectrum scam, nepotism and Vadra case, etc. Today, it is Congress that is after BJP on Rafale deal. The idea is simple – to expose the failure of the government. The second strategy is to come up with carefully devised agendas that are usually built around either mass support or major voter base of the party.   

In the novel and creative way, BJP and Congress have taken the political war to mass media including Bollywood. Through popular entertainment movies political messages are conveyed to masses in India. On the big screen, BJP may succeed in swinging the popular perception in its favour with the release of “Accidental Prime Minister”. In the movie, one of the known supporters of BJP and Hindutva, Anupam Kher is cast as the prime minister. The movie is a biopic and tries to portray former prime minister and Oxford educated economist Manmohan Singh. The Congress leaders have objected to its screening and release but the movie is set to do its propaganda bit.      

Upon the release of the trailer of “Accidental Prime Minister”, the Congress party’s Maharashtra youth-wing in a letter to the producers of the films raised objections to the “incorrect presentation of the facts” and demanded a special screening of the film. They later withdrew the order, intending not to publicize the movie.

On January 2, 2019, lead actor Anupam Kher tweeted that people were reporting that the film's trailer was not seen as a top search result while being directly searched for on Youtube. India Today that conducted its own search, confirmed Kher's allegations, noting that only after the following day was the trailer returned to its position as a top search result. This led to speculation that the trailer had initially been removed intentionally as part of an anti-propaganda campaign.

On January 8, 2019, a local court in Bihar ordered registering FIR against Anupam Kher and thirteen others who have worked in the film for defaming top Indian political leaders.

Same thing was in observed in “PK”, a 2014 Indian satirical comedy-drama film directed by Rajkumar Hirani. The film follows an alien who comes to earth on a research mission, but loses his remote to a thief, who later sells it to a godman. He befriends a television journalist and in his quest to retrieve the remote, questions religious dogmas and superstitions. The film starring Aamir Khan in the lead role with Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shukla and Sanjay Dutt in pivotal roles was noted to expose the exploitation by godmen in India.

PK was released on 19 December 2014. It received generally positive reviews from critics. The criticism however was also focused on alleged anti-Hindu sentiment.

Activists of pro-Hindu organizations Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal protested against certain scenes in the film, which they considered to be hurtful to the religious sentiments of the Hindu community. Subsequently, some theatres were vandalized by those activists who demanded a ban on the movie and a Public Interest Litigation was filed against PK for the same. Amish Tripathi of Hindustan Times and Madhu Kishwar of Firstpost took issue with the film for mocking idolatry, which they believed in part was intended as a criticism of Hinduism, along with other faiths. Government officials, such as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and the then chief minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi exempted the film from entertainment tax to encourage wider viewership.

Another biopic that has caused internet to explode with hilarious to outrageous reactions is on Narendra Modi, which is said to be played by Vivek Oberoi.

Other than biopics, many Bollywood movies including the ones in the ‘masala’ flick have been observed to possess content ranging from entertainment to subtle political messages. But for the first time the season of biopics, perhaps to take full advantage of political propaganda, has taken over the large screen.  

Besides movies and Bollywood, social media is also seen as trendsetter in the elections. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, Youtube are also not less laced with power to influence voters. There are many stand-up comedians who are discussing political gimmicks like ache din, jumla bazi, tabdeeli.

These are some of the out-of-box trends but important as far as success rate is concerned. The real technique that only a politician in real setting can display remains the first and foremost skill.



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