Indore: “The Accidental Prime Minister”, a film based on Manmohan Singh’s tenure as India’s prime minister from 2004 to 2014, has become the epicentre of political slugfest, with the Congress alleging it was the “BJP’s propaganda” against their party.
The Madhya Pradesh unit of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), student wing of the Congress, has warned theatre owners that they will be responsible for the consequences if they screened the film.
The warning by state NSUI chief Vipin Wankhede came even as the Congress-led government in Madhya Pradesh said earlier Friday that the film has not been banned in the state, contrary to some reports.
“If theatres screen this film which has falsehoods, their owners will be responsible for the damage,” Wankhede said in a veiled threat on Facebook.
Reacting to Wankhede’s warning, BJP spokesperson Umesh Sharma demanded that Chief Minister Kamal Nath order police protection for all theatres where the Anupam Kher-starrer film will be screened.
Lauding the trailer of the film, released in Mumbai on Friday, the BJP tweeted it and said, “Riveting tale of how a family held the country to ransom for 10 long years. Was Dr Singh just a regent who was holding on to the PM’s chair till the time heir was ready? Watch the official trailer of ‘TheAccidentalPrimeMinister’, based on an insider’s account, releasing on 11 January”.
The Congress termed the film as “BJP’s propaganda” against their party, even as the former prime minister evaded comments on the growing controversy over the film on him.
The Congress leaders maintained that such propaganda against the party would not work and the truth shall prevail.
Actor Anupam Kher, who essays Singh’s role in the film, called “The Accidental Prime Minister” his “life’s best performance”. He also said the film should be seen as a creative endeavour and not an attempt to support a political party.
The film’s trailer shows Singh as a victim of the Congress’ internal politics ahead of the 2014 general elections.
Responding to the row, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, “Such fake propaganda by the party would not stop it from asking the Modi government questions on rural distress, rampant unemployment, demonetisation disaster, flawed GST, failed Modinomics, all pervading corruption”.
Asked by journalists at the Congress’ foundation day function at the party headquarters here Friday to comment on the film, Singh walked away.
Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the truth shall prevail.
His colleague and party leader P L Punia accused the saffron party of evading answers on its “mis-governance”.
“This is the handiwork of the BJP. They know that time has come to give answers after completion of five years and they are now trying to divert attention by raising such issues and evading answering to the public after its government failed on all fronts,” he said.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Can’t wait for when they make The Insensitive Prime Minister. So much worse than being the accidental one”.
Kher said in Mumbai that playing former prime minister Manmohan Singh was the most challenging role of his career and he was initially reluctant to take up the project as he was aware it would land into controversies.
“I felt that it is a very powerful story of modern India’s political decade and I am getting a chance to be a part of it as an actor. I am someone who has always reinvented himself as an actor,” he said at a press conference, which he had called after the Maharashtra Youth Congress asked for a screening of the film prior to its release, a demand they later withdrew.
On the Maharashtra Youth Congress having withdrawn its demand, Kher said, “It is good if they have changed the thought process. It is fantastic. It is a great sign of maturity”.
The 63-year-old actor also dismissed that the film was his way of supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). His wife, Kirron Kher, is a BJP MP from Chandigarh.
“I have done 515 films, there are not even as many political parties. If I have to support a party I can do it on any platform. I will not try to make a film for that,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Kher tweeted that he was not going to “back off” due to the controversy.
“I am not going to back off. This is my life’s best performance. Dr Manmohan Singh will agree after seeing the film that it is a 100 per cent accurate depiction,” he tweeted.
Amid reports of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh banning the film, Chief Minister Kamal Nath said he did not have any intent to impose a ban on any movie.
On the BJP tweeting the trailer of the film, Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore asked whether his party did not have the freedom to extend wishes to a film.
Directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, the film stars Kher as Manmohan Singh and Akshaye Khanna as Baru. It is slated for release on January 11.
(With PTI inputs)