After “Accidental” Protest, Congress Do-Over On Manmohan Singh Film

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The movie is based on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's life (File)

New Delhi:

As "The Accidental Prime Minister",a film on former prime minister Manmohan Singh, stirred strong political reactions in the election season, the Congress today changed its strategy hours after a few of its leaders talked about previewing, censoring or banning the film that appears to take a critical view of the leadership.

In Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress took power last week ending the BJP's 15-year rule, talk of a ban was quickly rubbished by the party. "The film is so lowdown that we don't even want to discuss it. We don't want to give any unnecessary publicity to this film by protesting against it," said the party's Narendra Saluja, effectively shutting down Congress leaders like Syed Zafar, who had said the film would not be allowed in the state.

On cue, a leader in Maharashtra withdrew his demand for a preview of the movie that features internal party politics at the time from the perspective of journalist Sanjaya Baru, who was Manmohan Singh's media advisor in 2004-8.

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"As BJP has tweeted trailer of #TheAccidentalPrimeMinister movie from their official Twitter handle… it is now evident that it is BJP's propaganda / campaign movie … hence we don't even want to see this campaign movie of BJP and we withdraw our demand of special screening," tweeted Maharashtra Youth Congress leader Satyajeet Tambe Patil.

Satyajeet Tambe Patil had written to the producers of the Anupam Kher-starrer asking for a special screening before the movie's launch on January 11. He wrote that from the trailer it appeared "facts have been played with and presented in incorrect manner with regards to the ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress party to malign the image of the party."

The ruling BJP gave its endorsement to the trailer by tweeting it along with a glowing review.

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 Jan!

— BJP (@BJP4India) December 27, 2018

The trailer shows veteran actor Anupam Kher in a very realistic portrayal of the 86-year-old who ruled India for 10 years until the Congress was voted out of power in 2014.

There are glimpses of difficult episodes in his tenure, mostly internal churnings in the Congress. In one scene, Manmohan Singh is shown as saying he wants to resign. To which, then Congress president Sonia Gandhi says: "There is one corruption scandal after another. In this situation, how can Rahul (Gandhi) take over?"

Among those who had criticised the Maharashtra Congress leader for his demand was former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.

"As much (sic) as the Congress, its branches/off-shoots and other well wishers of Dr Manmohan Singh may find the movie disagreeable, we can't talk about intolerance and then threaten to stop all screenings. Dr Singh's record & legacy won't be the product of one single movie or book," he tweeted.

Anupam Kher, whose wife Kirron Kher is a BJP lawmaker, calls the film a game-changer in political biopics.

Asked during the trailer launch if the BJP, which lost three state elections recently to the Congress, could use the film to its advantage in the campaign for the 2019 national election due by May, the actor said, "If I would have been in politics I would have definitely told them to do so. But I am an actor, they will decide."

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