By Aasawari Shenolikar:
“Everyone loves a rags to riches story - be it reel life or real life, the journey of such a person is always fascinating. And if it’s a contemporary tale of a man, whose journey begins from a very remote, small town to becoming a leader whom the magazines around the world feature as one of the greatest leaders of present times, then that is a very inspirational tale that the world must know,” says the dapper Vivek Oberoi, while conversing with The Hitavada.
Oberoi, who plays the charismatic leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the eponymous film, was in the city not only to promote the film, but also to take blessings from his elders, who have played a part in this journey. Reams have been written on how the movie was a rushed affair to coincide with the elections, a propaganda for the ruling party. But Oberoi begs to differ. Refuting these allegations, he states, “ We definitely were not promoting the ruling party. In fact, work on the movie had begun a couple of years ago, we finished the shooting in flat 38 days, and that speaks of not urgency, but our efficiency. But I can say that there was a propaganda to stall it, and there were many who tried level best.” The Election Commission, in all its fairness, prohibited the movie from being screened when the Moral Code of Conduct was in force. But, this move, feels Oberoi, will bode good for the movie.
“On the 23rd of May, Modji will win hands down and when on the 24th the movie releases, the celebrations around the country will ensure a good number of footfalls - many will want to watch the inspirational story of Modiji.” Oberoi, who has closely followed the present PM since the time he held the post of CM of Gujarat, lovingly and with great conviction talks of why he revers the leader. “Let’s go back in time. You are travelling on a train and at a small station in Vadanagar in Gujarat, a small boy rushes to serve you tea in a kulhad and I tell you that a few years down the line, this boy will become not only the leader of our great nation, but he will become an international figure, will you believe me?
He will shake hands with mightiest, warmly hug international leaders, and with no legacy, no known surname attached to his name, he will change economic status of the country and make India a country that the world will look up to with new eyes, would you have believed me? But this happened, this concept was unimaginable, brilliant, one would say fictional, but it is real. And that is what fascinated me about the script.” Oberoi then goes on to heap more paeans on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modiji, he states, grew up in utter poverty. While the mother eked out a living washing utensils in peoples homes, the little boy sold tea. But he never chased money. Being a Gujarati, dhando should have been in his blood, but since the time he became a responsible person, he worked only for the society and dedicated his life for the country.
That a lot of research went into making of the film is a known fact. But did the writers add drama and fictionalise bits and parts or have they stayed true to the written word? “See documentaries are dry and factual. They do not necessarily make an entertaining watch. But films are about drama, they are about emotions and we wanted to etch out Modiji’s emotional journey. So even if it’s not fictionalised, there is a lot of emotional drama in the film.” He also is very candid that this is a positive, motivational tale, that doesn’t touch upon any negatives. To drive home the point, he gives the example of Richard Attenborough’s epic Gandhi. When he was criticised for showing only the good, Attenborough explained that he focused on the inspiration that Gandhi was known for.
“I wanted to focus on the facts that made him the father of the nation, not on facts that might have reflected on the downfalls in his personal life,” said Attenborough. Oberoi was trolled heavily when he chose to play the lead. To those who called him all kinds of names, including being a BJP stooge, Oberoi has only two words. “Challenge accepted.” He smiles and says, “Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna.” He says his work will speak for him. Riddled by many controversies, the film PM Narendra Modi was caught in the midst of a storm, right before the elections. But not one person stood up for Oberoi or even consoled him in his hour of need. He greatly rues this fact and laments that unity is lacking in the industry.
“So many times, if any adverse situation crops up, the industry must stand united. We need to take lessons from our peers down South who are disciplined, dedicated and join hands in adversity. Look how they completely killed piracy with their Goonda Act.” The talented actor hasn’t been in action since 2013. Does he think that this will resurrect his acting career? Or probably encourage him to join politics? “Main retired abhineta se reel life neta bana hoon,” and laughingly adds that he does not see himself playing any role in the political arena in the near future.
As for resurrection of his career, the actor, who compensated his unconventional looks with his talent, will find himself under the microscope on Friday when the movie releases. His role, that of playing the most popular leader of the nation, will be analysed in great detail - not only by the critics but by the aam janata too. And as we mentioned earlier, people will be curious to see their leader on the big screen and if it ticks at the box office, who knows Oberoi might find himself in demand once again. For after all, time and again, this actor, who does a lot of social work, has proved that he is not afraid of anyone - of speaking his mind or doing a role that doesn’t reek of being ‘pure hero material’. Just like his kirdaar Chandru in his debut vehicle Company, where he stands tall in front of Malik and mouths, “Main kisi se nahin darta.” This attitude has kept him ticking...