Just ahead of election season, Odisha jumped onto the bandwagon of films on politicians, with the recent release of Nimki – Nimpur Ru Naveen Nivas. Another such movie, Biju Babu, will hit theatres in April.
Though not biopics on Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik or his late father Biju Patnaik, posters of the two movies prominently feature the two leaders.
Nimki revolves around a village girl, who is inspired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, and her struggle as she overcomes hurdles to travel from her Nimpur village to Naveen Niwas, the Chief Minister’s residence in Bhubaneswar, to solve problems being faced by residents of her village. Barsha Priyadarshini, who played the titular role in the film, was seen on the silver screen after a year’s gap.
It is no coincidence that Barsha is the wife of Odia actor and sitting BJD MP Anubhav Mohanty, who will play the lead in Biju Babu, which will highlight important aspects from the legendary leader’s life.
Films inspired by politics are not a new genre in the Indian film industry. Our memory goes back to Aandhi, made in 1975, which had stellar performances by Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar and flawless direction by Gulzar. It drew parallels with Indira Gandhi’s life. Then there were Main Azaad Hoon, Kissa Kursi Ka, Aaj Ka MLA Ram Avtar, Inquilaab, Garam Hawa, Hu Tu Tu and, somewhat recently, Rajneeti and Indu Sarkar.
All these political dramas were dark, hard-hitting and intense but none as stark as movies such as Accidental Prime Minister and Thackeray, released in the recent past. There are others such as Uri, Padman, Toilet Ek Prem Katha etc. that were inspired by political agendas and achievements and ended up either propagating or eulogising them. Uri glorified the surgical strike while Padman and Toilet centred around the Clean India campaign.
Cinema-inspired politics is a far-fetched reality but politics-inspired cinema is not. Bollywood has made such movies before but this time around the timing of release left nothing to imagination. Some of them were clearly a round-up of a political term and laid the groundwork for the upcoming election. There was certainly no subtle attempt to allude to political agendas. It was all in your face. What made it worse, say in movies like An Accidental Prime Minister, was crass caricature, poor prosthetics and below-average acting. Clearly, the intent was not to entertain but to depict and inform, a job that should be left to documentary filmmakers. Small wonder that detractors, both from the world of politics and the ‘Aam Admi’, called it politically motivated.
Thackeray ended up portraying the leader as a larger than life persona whose writ ruled in Maharashtra. It unquestioningly and unabashedly justified and celebrated every action of the leader, whose word was law.
Earlier this year, representatives of the film industry, i.e. directors and actors, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express their desire to contribute towards nation-building and be a transformative force. The meeting resulted in the reduction of GST on movie tickets. Other results never became public.
Filmmakers would do well to stick to the realm of entertainment rather than indulge in “I scratch your back you scratch mine”. By all means, make inspirational movies and biopics, but not “accidental” movies please.