The Congress party has been up in arms about Anupam Kher’s latest movie, The Accidental Prime Minister. In an interview to OpIndia, veteran actor Anupam Kher spoke about the movie, based on Sanjaya Baru’s book, Congress criticism, BJP sharing the trailer of the movie and the process that helped him prepare for a role, that he calls, the most difficult role of his life.
How did the idea of this movie evolve and how did you decide to be a part of it? Considering you knew there would be controversies surrounding this movie.
When the movie came to me and the producers were introduced to me through Ashok Pandit, I immediately said no because of the same reason you are saying. I anyway keep talking about nationalism and with this movie, I thought people would say I have done this movie to further tarnish the image of Manmohan Singh and till that time, I had not read the book. After a few days, I saw Dr Manmohan Singh on television and out of my artistic curiosity, I tried to walk like him. When I tried to walk like him, I was a total disaster. And hence, purely from that point of view, I asked for the script. I wanted to take this up as a challenge. I asked the producers to give me 6 months to prepare. I watched hours of footage on Dr Manmohan Singh. The most difficult part was the voice modulation. I also understood that I was on razor’s edge. The difference between caricature and believability is very thin in this case. I was very conscious of the 35-year long baggage of acting career and that I had to do justice to it.
Playing Dr Manmohan Singh was also difficult because he doesn’t express much. We have never seen a picture of him laughing hysterically or making gestures. He expresses anger, hurt, disgust, happiness etc in the same expression. But as an actor, it was important for me to maintain that and yet express all the emotions that are required. That is why I call it the most difficult role in my career.
During the screening of the film, were there any threats?
None. There were no threats or objections during the shooting. That is what is so surprising. This movie has been in the public domain for the last 4 years. We took the rights from Sanjaya Baru. If Congress had objections, they should have spoken up before. In fact, why did Congress not approach the courts when the book was released. When the book was released, Congress said it was for political mileage and that Manmohan Singh has been presented badly, but actually, nobody took any action. It is only when the trailer came out that people started raising objections.
Why do you think that is? They took no action against Sanjaya Baru but have been so vocal after the trailer release?
When people want to do something, they convince themselves that whatever they are thinking is genuine. It has nothing to do with logic. Maybe they felt that the visual representation had more impact. Perhaps they thought the casting of the film was pro-BJP. I keep praising PM Narendra Modi and my wife is a member of parliament. Akshay Khanna is also the son of a BJP member of parliament. And to add to that, BJP also tweeted the trailer of the film, perhaps they thought that BJP got together to make the movie. People forget that if I have to say something in favour of anybody I don’t need to act in a movie and put my whole life’s work at risk. If they think I would put 35 years of work at stake to please somebody, they are illiterates.
Now, after all the screaming, they are saying it will probably be a “badly made film”. I can only say that those who don’t know the flavour can only talk in this manner.
It is a tragedy that instead of appreciating the performances, they are criticising the movie.
I am not an Accidental Actor. I am going to be playing an Accidental Prime Minister. These people have every right to talk about my intentions, but if they say the movie will be bad then they end up looking stupid.
In 2004, when Congress came back to power, they forced you to resign from the Censor Board. What did Congress have against you in 2004?
Nothing. They thought a change of regime means a change of people. Haven’t they done the same thing the moment they came into power in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh? Within 24 hours they transferred and changed everyone. They don’t trust people for their ability but for their affinity. Any political party for that matter. I got a call from Naveen Chawla and he asked me to resign. They, in fact, put the entire onus on the Left. The Left parties said that I was an RSS man and he should not be on the Censor Board. D Raja went to the I&B Minister and they wanted me to resign. I said I haven’t been hired for this job because of my political preference. That time, Kirron was not in BJP either. They just presumed that since I was appointed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, they wanted me to leave.
Considering what happened in 2004, what do you think of your prospects if Congress comes back to power in 2019 since there have been threats now as well?
“Bheega hua aadmi baarish se nahi darta” (A drenched man doesn’t fear the rains). Only people who have something to hide are scared, I have nothing to hide. I stay in a rented house. I did a play called “Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai”, where I have spoken of everything that went wrong in my life. I can’t turn today’s truth into a lie just because I might have to be scared in the future.
Some people have been saying this movie would perhaps project a softer side of Manmohan Singh and glance over the fact that he was complicit during all the scams during the UPA era
How can they comment without seeing the film? Besides, they should read the book. The Book, “The Accidental Prime Minister” hasn’t been written by some jeweller in Karol Bagh. The book has been written by Dr Manmohan Singh’s own media advisor. Let’s not become blind about what happened between 2004 and 2014. We knew who was controlling what. The whole world knows that. There is no surprise element. When you see the movie, one realises that there is an interpretation to it.
People have also said that BJP should not have shared the trailer of the film because it might have undermined the movie
I don’t think one can expect a political party to not do politics. I think its a masterstroke by BJP to share the trailer. I am not defending anybody but during the Punjab elections when BJP and Akali Dal were in power there, didn’t every single politician including Rahul Gandhi share (information/promotion) of Udta Punjab movie? Didn’t they use the movie to say the government in Punjab is useless? We all have our favourite politicians but don’t expect politicians to follow a certain type of nature. It is silly to say that “why BJP has done this, I am angry”. They tweeted the movie trailer to say this is a good movie and based on it, this is how the Congress government was being run. Nothing wrong with it. In politics, one must know how to take mileage out of situations.
The Supreme Court itself delivered a verdict giving Rafale a clean chit, but yet, Rahul Gandhi has been at it challenging the authority of even the SC. Then why are people annoyed that BJP has shared a mere movie trailer?
Politics means taken mileage out of a particular situation.
So you personally don’t have an issue with it? Many are saying it might have undermined the film
But everyday Arvind Kejriwal keeps sharing movies and its reviews. I have shown so many movies to Atal Bihar Vajpayee ji also. Films are not untouchable things. Even before this movie, Prime Minister Modi had spoken about the book by Sanjaya Baru. When Udta Punjab was released then Congress spoke about it. After Sacred Games, Rahul Gandhi had written a long tweet about freedom of expression. So what is the harm? Congress should refer to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet. I am sure Rahul must have told Congress to keep quiet since it is a freedom of expression issue.
I am happy that the film is being talked about. When a controversy surrounds the movie and if then the movie turns out to be bad, then it is an embarrassment. But if after the controversy, the movie turns out to be good, the sky is the limit. See what happened with Padmaavat. I am sure about this product.
There were rumours that the film might be banned in Madhya Pradesh. Though later Kamal Nath said there was no such decision. Are you privy to any information of any state contemplating a ban?
“Behte hue dariya ko koi nahi rok sakta”. Some people are even saying that this film should be “ignored” and “should not be noticed”. Well, a priest told my mother to not think about the colour black on Saturdays and all her problems would be solved. But lo behold, she could think about nothing else other than the colour black on Saturdays. This is exactly the same. If Congress says they should ignore this film, it’s hilarious. ‘sardar ji ki pagdi’ can be seen everywhere. The best compliment came from my mother when she didn’t recognise me in a clip and thought it was the real Dr Manmohan Singh.
Do you feel bad about the fact that amidst this political controversy, one of your best roles is getting lost somewhere?
If it’s the might of a full moon, we shouldn’t assume that just because Delhi is covered in clouds, the rest of the country cannot see the moon. I did feel bad for a moment, but I know once the movie is released, it would prevail.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017