Anupam Kher’s forthcoming film The Accidental Prime Minister has been stirring controversy ever since the trailer was released on 27 December. Based on a book of the same name by Sanjaya Baru, the film is purportedly a behind-the-scenes look at the UPA administration and the dynamics between former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — essayed by Kher — and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Kher addressed the media at a press conference in Mumbai on 28 December, in light of the allegations of the film being propaganda of the BJP, whom he is known to be close to.
Calling The Accidental Prime Minister “a revolutionary film”, Kher described the controversies it has brought up as “unfortunate” and pointed out that when Ben Kingsely and Meryl Streep played Mahatma Gandhi and former UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, respectively, the actors were awarded with Oscars for their performances.
He said, We talk about freedom of expression. When we get a chance to exercise it, we’re stopped. Cinema has to move on. Show maturity and allow people to make such films. We are in the world of biopics. If we can use Milkha Singh and [Bal] Thackeray’s name, why can’t we make a film about politics? This is what we have done.
Anupam Kher on The Accidental Prime Minister
Wife and BJP MP Kirror Kher echoed him the next day on 29 December when she urged the Congress to practise what it preaches. According to news agency ANI, Kirron said:
“It’s a pathbreaking film. People who speak of freedom of speech i.e Rahul Gandhi, must now practise what he preaches. Anupam told me people will fall in love with Manmohan Singh ji. It should be India’s official entry to the Oscars.”
From the trailer, the film appears to highlight Dr Singh’s alleged conflicts with his party and especially former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who seems to be constantly pushing for her son, Rahul, even as Singh grapples with one complicated political crisis after another.
The Congress has slammed the BJP which issued praised for the trailer on its official Facebook and Twitter handles.
The Maharashtra Youth Congress has announced that they will not allow the film to be screened if their demand of a prior screening is not met. ANI has reported that the Congress has written to the makers of the film that if some scenes are not found to be factual, they should be deleted.
When asked whether the makers would comply with a special screening, Kher opposed the demand saying,
No, why should we have a special screening for the Congress? What’s the point of the censor board then? The only person I’d do it for is Manmohan Singh. He was not just the Congress Prime Minster but the Prime Minster of the whole country. They should encourage everyone to watch the film.
When questioned whether the film’s release, which is scheduled just ahead of the 2019 elections, was a political move, Kher maintained that this was pure speculation.
Why not release it during elections? Don’t you release patriotic films on 26 January and 15 August? A film which is made with the background of politics should be released during election season.
Earlier, Anupam Kher has said that the film has been based on “facts” that can’t be changed. Speaking to ANI, he said, “If we make a film on the issue of Jallianwala Bagh or Holocaust, we can’t change the history or the facts. That’s what we have done here.”
“The book has been in the public domain since 2014, but no one ever said anything. Why is there hue and cry now when a film has been on it.? The book is written by a man who was very close to the prime minister at that time,” he added.
The Accidental Prime Minister features Anupam Kher as Manmohan Singh, German actor Suzanne Bernert as former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Ahana Kumra as Priyanka Gandhi, Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi and Akshaye Khanna in the role of Sanjaya Baru. The film is set to release on 11 January 2019.