It is finally acche din for Vivek Oberoi: Why EC stalling Modi biopic is a win-win situation for the actor

Sandip Roy

Apr 11, 2019 13:13:11 IST

It is finally acche din for Vivek Oberoi. His promising Bollywood career has never lived up to its great potential. But this Modi biopic was a master stroke.  He should not worry about the Election Commission. It’s a paper tiger. In the long run how can it ever stop the lion of Gujarat?

Look at it this way. If his Modi bio-pic had caught fire at the box office before the elections, he could have preened in its afterglow. He could have even claimed, humbly of course, that his “little” film did its bit to create the second Modi wave. A Padma award, at least, was guaranteed.

But now that the Election Commission has decided to delay its release till after the polls, he can go around donning the mantle of victimhood, the brave artistic David fighting the Goliaths arrayed against him. Why should only the liberal Anand Patwardhan and Amol Palekar types get to be freedom of expression martyrs? He can be the new poster boy in the censorship whataboutery debates.

It is finally acche din for Vivek Oberoi: Why EC stalling Modi biopic is a win-win situation for the actor

Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi in upcoming biopic. Image from Twitter

This is win-win for Vivek Oberoi.

Of course we know no one censored PM Narendra Modi. Who has that himmat to be a chowkidar to the chowkidar-in-chief? Its release has merely been delayed till after the polls. But if Narendra Modi (the real one) wins, the biopic can be released as part of the victory lap. If he does not, Oberoi can say that was the secret ingredient, the X-factor that was missing in the campaign. After all Modi-ji has everything else. As stand-up comic Vir Das tweeted, “So the PM has a movie, a radio show, a web series, a live tour, a TV channel. If he does a Tik Tok video… we’re our of mediums.” The film was the last medium pending.

If the film is a blockbuster hit when it releases Oberoi can take all the credit, of course after dutifully sharing it with the great man himself. The PM might even come to the premiere. If it tanks like the Accidental Prime Minister, Oberoi can blame the Election Commission whereas Anupam Kher had no one to blame but himself.

Vivek Oberoi should not let the haters detract him from his mahaan mission. Haters will hate and the tukde tukde gang will tear everything patriotic into pieces. Some are even calling it propaganda. But how smilingly he deflected those charges in that interview on #ToughTalk on Quint, never wavering in that unflappable smile. But that does not make him a propaganda-maker. It just makes him the thinking man’s Vivek Agnihotri, suave, smiling albeit a little smug.  But then why should smugness be the monopoly of liberals?

Propaganda, after all, is just a point of view, it’s not necessarily a slur. Was Leni Riefenstahl not an acclaimed filmmaker just because she made a few propaganda film about the Nazis? Her 1934 Triumph of the Will about the party rally in Nuremberg is even considered the greatest propaganda film ever made.

As Oberoi has rightly pointed out some even call an Oscar-winning film like Gandhi propaganda.  It certainly shows then PM Indira Gandhi’s father in a glowing light. Attenborough’s take on Jinnah was much reviled in Pakistan. But no one calls Richard Attenborough a propagandaist. The things white men can get away with!  Of course, Attenborough was not appointed as star campaigner for the Congress while Oberoi apparently has that honour for the BJP and has released a letter exhorting his deshwaasiyon to vote for Modi. Attenborough also admitted  there were many  problematic aspects of Gandhi he omitted from the film for example his views on celibacy. Oberoi, on the other hand, sees inspiration and only inspiration in the Modi story. Even the anguished “My Gujarat is burning” clip during the 2002 riots from the trailer of his film seems to suggest a man more sinned against than ever sinning.

Actually that is what makes Oberoi the ideal person  to helm the Modi bio-pic. He get the core of the man. He too has been more sinned against than sinning in his Bollywood career. Ever since he lambasted Salman Khan in that famous 2003 press conference , he said doors were shut in his face. He has fought against powerful entrenched forces of entitled Bollywood. There is a new cartoon going around from Manjul of a DTH operator sitting in front of a bank of television screens all showing the PM. The cop in the cartoon tells the DTH operator “We’ve received a complaint! Which one is the NAMO TV?” And yet we routinely hear from Modi-ji’s fans that the media is arrayed against him just as Oberoi complains to Huffington Post about “systematic pressure trying to choke you down”.

Vivek Oberoi (left) and Narendra Modi. Images via Twitter

Vivek Oberoi (left) and Narendra Modi. Images via Twitter

Once films seen as critical of the powers-that-be, mocking the government of the day were blocked. Like that Bengali film Bhobishyoter Bhoot. It is truly a sad day when a humble hagiography for the current prime minister is being choked. What kind of aandhi has descended on this nation? There is something rotten about that. We all know Oberoi made this film to inspire us because he is “divine destiny’s child”. Foolish people don’t understand that an inspirational film is not a documentary. So what if he has played fast and loose with a few facts, made Modi the hero of certain events like the Ekta Yatra (actually led by Dr Murli Manohar Joshi) but history exists to be rewritten anyway. Even that Bohemian Rhapsody tweaked the timeline for some dramatic effect. These “nattering nabobs of negativism” don’t notice this film says “Based on a true story” . It does not pretend to be “a true story”.

A Nawazuddin Siddiqui might say an actor should have no ideology as he plays both Manto and Thackeray.  But I am glad Vivek Oberoi is happy to wear his ideology on his sleeve. Since when is deshbhakti an ideology anyway? Millions are looking forward to seeing his film as soon as it releases. The trailer looks spectacular – National Geographic meets Ten Commandments with camels, Rajasthani belles, starry-eyed children and balidaan and badla. I just hope that they have included that famous incident about Bal Narendra and the crocodile but Oberoi should not be fooled by the crocodile tears because whatever happens on 23 May, this is the second coming of Vivek Oberoi.

In Krrish 3 he said “Darr ka business is the best business.” But patriotism that sucks up to the powerful might be even better.

Updated Date: Apr 11, 2019 13:30:32 IST

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