An apolitical movie about a very political decade. "My movie will be denuded of any political agenda and bereft of any political leanings. It will be a true reflection of what has been authored by Mr Baru in his book." That's the stated intent of producer Sunil Bohra, who's just acquired the rights to The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, a 2014 book authored by the latter's former media adviser Sanjaya Baru.
The book was released last year ahead of the general elections that swept Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party to power — and consigned Singh to history. Baru's book did no favoursto his former boss or the Congress-led government, mortally wounded as they already were by a series of corruption scandals — 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games and coal block allocations among others. The movie will attempt to tell the story of the alliances, deals, intrigues, betrayals and machinations that led to the economist-turned-politician becoming the prime minister of the country in 2004 to the surprise of many Indians, tracing the arc of that rise and the eventual defeat. Making an apolitical movie out of such material won't be just difficult, it's almost impossible, according to the pundits.
But Bohra says that's what he plans to do. "My sole intention is to make a movie covering the 10 most crucial years (from 2004 to 2014), which changed the political spectrum of our country and fortunes of India's oldest political party - the Congress," Bohra told ET.
Baru, a former journalist who has also worked at this paper, had highlighted Singh's relations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, apart from his association with other party seniors and bureaucrats. It was also about the scams that took place under Singh's leadership and eventually led to the defeat of the government after two terms.
In his book, Baru suggested that Singh was not entirely in control of his Cabinet, or even the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), and that he deferred on all important matters to Sonia Gandhi. This fed into the narrative that Modi pitched in his speeches about the control that the Gandhis had over the government and why it needed to be defeated.
Baru also said the former prime minister's "general attitude towards corruption in public life" was "active morality for himself and passive morality with respect to others."
By the time the film is made — it's expected to be released at the end of 2018 - it could well have an impact on the next general election in 2019, when Modi is due to seek re-election. BohraBros. Productions Pvt. has about 140 films to its credit, including awardwinning productions such as Chittagong and Shahid and blockbusters like Gangs of Wasseypur.
It's been made clear in the contract that the producer will "not add" anything to the script. Bohra said he was drawn to the book because it provided an intimate glimpse into the corridors of power. "I was highly intrigued when I read the book, which has gone on to become one of India's bestsellers," he said. "Never have I come across a book which gives you an inside view of the room of none other than the prime minister and that too by his advisor. I find it a very interesting and significant story to narrate."
Baru, who was Singh's media advisor from 2004 to 2008, said he was convinced to sell the rights after speaking to Bohra. "Mr Sunil Bohra said that he felt my book lends itself well to dramaticpicturisation," Sanjaya Baru told ET. "He wanted my permission to make a movie based on it. I have agreed."
The production team hasn't yet settled on the format, with some members suggesting a documentary similar in style to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which critically examined the US role in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bohra declined to elaborate on the treatment, although he seems to favour a feature rather than a documentary. "All I can reveal at this moment is that the final outcome will be grand and tailored for Indian and foreign audience," he said. As for who will play the various characters in a feature, auditions will be conducted online through Bombaycasting.com, Bohra said. Pre-production has already begun and research will soon kick off on the project as the banner puts the team together, he said.