Even as the supporters of BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were basking in the glory of a historic mandate received by the saffron party, the biopic of PM Modi finally saw the light of the day. The movie traces the journey of Modi from his childhood days and culminates with his elevation to the post of prime minister. The director of the movie, Omung Kumar, talks to Dhrithi Sudhakar Gulvadi about his film, the controversy surrounding it and more.
What motivated you to translate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s life into the big screen?
To be honest, it fell on my lap. It was Sandeep (producer Sandip Ssingh) who had, since the last two years thought of making it, and while I was judging India’s Best Dramebaaz with Vivek Oberoi, it so happened that Sandip asked me ‘What do you think of Vivek Oberoi as Modi?’ I said 'good' and we met at the lunch hour with Vivek, and in 30 seconds Vivek said 'yes'. We had five other directors, but he said that I should be the director. I didn’t want to be the director of the film because I am zero in politics. But then I said I will be making my type of film and not a politically inclined film because I don’t understand politics. I said I am making an inspiring story of a young chaiwala, who becomes the prime minister, because that is a zero to hero story and that is what inspires me. If everybody agrees with that, then I will make it. Yes, of course, that is what it is. So that’s how we went on board and did the film. Vivek is a fantastic actor and I need actors who can transform and mould into any character that I want. I can change anyone and anything by the means of makeup and prosthetics, but first he has to be a fantastic actor. That is what Vivek is.
Was it a deliberate campaign for Modi through cinema?
Not at all, not at all, because the film has been in the making for two years...I am the last person to do something like that, and for me, it is the producer who is putting in money. Has he written an inspiring story for me? Yes, he has. Is he (Modi) larger than life as a person? Yes, he is. That is how the film was made. Yes, the timing was meant to happen, but we started in last July when I was judging India’s Best Dramebaaz. But, the inception, story writing, and makeup, everything took time. Yes, we wanted to release in April but we didn’t know the date of the elections. However, we announced it during elections because the environment during elections is good and politically inclined, so people might go and watch the film. Who knew that the film would be called for a ban? And people would claim it as a propaganda film. We were not doing it that way, but it just went out of hand...I know my producer has invested his money in it, I know he has gone through loss due to ban. We were sad as the film was banned a day before its release. Who bans a film a day before its release? Everyone knew about it and one day before the release, nobody can ban (the movie). But everything happened for the best and this was the right time to release.
Have you gotten any chance to show the biopic to PM Modi?
I have nothing to say about that.
Would you like to, if given a chance?
I would want to show the movie to everyone who want to watch it. I want to show it to Rahulji and everyone possible. It is a movie that everybody should watch.
With reference to Vivek Oberoi’s recent meme on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, do you think people have become too sensitive to plain humour?
(The) meme was not so funny. It was a mistake that it went viral. People have too much time to troll someone without even knowing what he (Vivek Oberoi) has done in life for other people. He has done countless things for other people. This small meme becomes a chaos. The person who is on it is not saying anything about it. The other people are reacting as if they are the saviour of women. This is wrong. Yes, it had happened and it shouldn’t have happened. It was not funny. This is my opinion.
What is your take on people’s reaction and critics’ reaction towards the film?
Well, the audience loves it. Critics are always critics, so they have to criticise and they do it. There are 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars and somewhere there is 1 star as well. But, I don’t care about that. People liked it because it is a people’s film. If you don’t like it, then it’s okay. It is a film and not a documentary. It is larger than life. I made an honest film, which I liked it as well.
With the advent of biopics in Bollywood, do you think biopics have become the tool of propaganda than inspiration?
Biopics are the new way of storytelling. Love stories have been running for many years and everybody has seen it. Previously, the idea of biopics never worked, but now, the audience have grown, they are accepting it and that’s why the storytelling technique has changed. There are good stories. How many love stories can you keep making? Stories happen in day-to-day life and that’s why biographies are famous. These days it has opened avenues, and it has been accepted by the people. That’s why lots of people are making biopics because only inspiring stories are meant to be told. In future, there will be films based on small incidents.
What challenges did you undergo while filming PM Narendra Modi biopic?
There are lots of challenges that we have undergone. The harshness of different locations and going to actual locations to shoot was very challenging. It was strenuous to shoot in unfriendly locations. Handling the crowd in every shot was very difficult. I didn’t want a caricature. I wanted a person with whom one can grow and start liking him. Hence, when Vivek plays young Modiji in the film, he doesn’t look like Modiji but suddenly he starts looking like Modiji because we’ve seen Modiji in a salt and pepper look now, therefore we can relate to him. The film opens up slowly; Modiji is Vivek and Vivek is Modiji. This happened in Mary Kom as well, when I announced Priyanka Chopra in it, everybody told me that she doesn’t look like Mary Kom. But, now everybody says, ‘what fantastic work Priyanka Chopra has done in the film Mary Kom! She is Mary Kom and Mary Kom is Priyanka.’ So, that’s how it became a cult later. We had not much of a problem while making the movie (PM Narendra Modi) but we had problems while releasing it.
What is that one thing that inspired you from the biopic?
I don’t take any feedback on Modi. People have their own thoughts about it, but I didn’t make a movie based on other people’s thoughts. The thing is that I believe in working with honesty and whether people will or not accept it, it’s their prerogative. For me, I have done my best and that’s how Modi also worked and that’s how he has won. Do your work and let your work do the talking...If a chaiwala can become India’s Prime Minister then anyone can become one. This is the bottom line of my film.
What’s next on your cards?
What next? The moment I come to know, I won’t tell (chuckles). Because whenever I talk about it my movie goes for a toss and some other movie comes on board. Whatever I announce never happens. This time I am not going to announce. I already announced five movies, but they never happened. Something else comes on board and I start making it.