‘The Accidental Prime Minister’: A Minefield of Slippery Facts
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
In politics, as in cinema, facts are often sacrificed at the altar of entertainment and drama.
The Accidental Prime Minister, releasing today, is a potent cocktail of both.
While the trailer did provide a glimpse of the liberties taken with the book, the question is, how does the film fare in terms of staying true to Baru’s memoir as well as other historical facts?
By the time the second half commenced, one got the feeling that the film itself was annoyed at being tethered to the book it was adapted from. At several points, the film chose to not only to part ways with the Sanjaya Baru memoir, but also with factual accuracies.
Here’s an example to illustrate how the film bends facts to suit its ends:
The film, for example, could have played such a GIF and claim it to be of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi speaking to the press after watching The Accidental Prime Minister.
Is this a press conference? Yes.
But are they talking about the film? No.
And that’s the kind of distortion they do.
Vajpayee at Manmohan’s Swearing-in
This statement, attributed to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, finds no mention in the book. There is no evidence to suggest that Vajpayee had made this remark about the Congress’ decision to pick Manmohan Singh.
Baru On Rahul’s Campaign for UPA-II
This line, uttered by Baru’s character played by Akshaye Khanna, was said in the context of Congress’ 2009 campaign for a second term. It appears to have been written purely to play to the galleries, as it does not exist in the book.
A Scheming Ahmed Patel
In the film, Sonia Gandhi’s trusted aide, Ahmed Patel’s character gets considerably more screen time than his boss. As an emissary of Sonia Gandhi, the film almost always portrays him as being shrewd and scheming. There is, however, no such portrayal of him in the book.
Manmohan as a ‘Liability’ to Congress
While there is one mention in the book of Manmohan Singh being perceived as a liability, it is not in the manner as depicted in the film, and certainly not in the heroic way in which Baru swears to save the former PM from this slander.
Manmohan as The Fall Guy
While there is no evidence to suggest that he said this in front of Sonia Gandhi as shown in the film, Baru did express something quite similar as his opinion on Singh’s second term. The film also shows Baru’s character saying this on television.
Seeking Manmohan’s Permission For The Book
On the contrary, Baru makes it clear in the introduction itself that Singh wasn’t in the loop about the book. This episode in the film has been entirely dramatised, it seems, to make it appear as if the book had the former PM’s approval.
On Manmohan Loving the Book
There is no mention of a conversation like this in the book. Quite likely that this exchange between Manmohan Singh’s wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur ,and Sanjaya Baru never occurred.
Rahul Tearing Up Ordinance
A scene in the film as well as the trailer shows Rahul Gandhi tearing apart an ordinance. This was an ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet which sought to prevent the disqualification of MPs and MLAs if convicted and sentenced to jail. In reality, Rahul Gandhi had said that ‘the ordinance should be torn up and thrown away.’ He never actually tore it up.
Second Resignation Offer
This scene in the film shows Manmohan Singh offering to resign in 2013 during the UPA-II regime. While it has been reported that Manmohan Singh offered to resign during the first UPA regime, there is no evidence to suggest he did so during his second term.
Also, Sonia Gandhi’s response to that offer appears nowhere in the book. Baru has written that he was not present at the meeting when Singh had offered to resign and heard about it from other reliable sources.
The Radia Tapes
While the Nira Radia tapes erupted in controversy and rattled the corridors of power in 2010, they find no mention in Baru’s memoir. This gets considerable play in the film as Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders and the public are shown to be huddling around radios across the country, listening to the tapes.
In conclusion, the film appears to be more Anupam Kher and less Manmohan Singh. In between them lies the entire spectrum of factual accuracy.