PM Narendra Modi actor Vivek Oberoi is finally happy that his movie will see the light of day on May 24, a day after the announcement of Lok Sabha Election 2019 results. “On May 23, Narendra Modi will come (hinting at Modi coming to power again) and on May 24, PM Narendra Modi (his biopic) will come,” said Vivek.
Recently, while Vivek was in the national capital for the promotion of Omung Kumar’s biopic on Narendra Modi, the actor sat down for a tell-all interview with indianexpress.com. He shared how he and his team were shattered when the film’s release was stalled at the last minute and the worst part was he wasn’t even allowed to promote the movie.
What were your thoughts after the film’s release got stalled at the last moment?
It was the worst feeling in the world. It was like a movie’s anti-climax. The prints were sent globally and we were releasing the film on April 11. But on the night of April 10, we got a notice from the Election Commission which had a whole new stance. They suddenly took a really strong stance against us. It was really painful to see the disappointment on the faces of the youngsters who worked so hard for the film.
As a filmmaker, it makes you feel very vulnerable in India. You start feeling that how can somebody have this kind of extreme rights and how can they damage you just one night before the release. We fought in four High Courts and the Election Commission was a party to it all. Despite that, they waited till the last minute and attacked us.
We incurred all the expenses. We booked the theatres and spent money on promotions. Crores and crores were spent, but I have no recourse and that’s what is painful. Where do I go to recover my money?
Do you think the delay in the release will affect your film?
I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I am a positive kind of a person and I believe whatever happens it is for the good. I believe I am a destiny’s child. I believe there’s some divinity that loves me and protects me. So, now hopefully, on May 23, PM Narendra Modi will come (hinting at the Lok Sabha Elections result) and on May 24 also PM Narendra Modi will come. (The movie PM Narendra Modi releases on May 24.)
Did you expect support from your colleagues in the film industry?
Yes, but it was sad to see that our industry is quite fractured. There was no support. The basic fundamental support on the fact that this should not happen to film and the freedom of speech was missing. None of your ‘Award Vapasi’ brigade came out and supported us. Whether we believe in the film or not, it was a fundamental issue of freedom of speech. The EC stopped us and nobody stood for us. Not just my fraternity, the great artists, the great writers, great intellectuals and great journalists, nobody came forward. This made me realise that we don’t have that sense of unity.
When you planned the release of the film, weren’t you aware of the Lok Sabha Elections?
I specifically figured out that the Modal Code of Conduct nowhere says anything about the release of a film. It says you cannot advertise and a film is not an advertisement. Despite that, they put it under the whole advertisement perspective. The legal take on this was when they are not stopping any autobiographies, why would they object to our film. Even during the court case in Mumbai or Delhi High Court, the EC was present and there was an oral submission that they are fine and they have told CBFC to follow the Modal Code of Conduct guidelines and release the film. So, we thought everything was fine but they changed their stance at the last minute.
In 2014, you said you busted myths about Modi. Does your movie do that as well?
It will. There is a whole constant projection that Narendra Modi is a very arrogant man and I think it is a designed projection by his opponents, maybe giving them some political benefit. Otherwise, his story is such a brilliant story. The general tendency of people is to grow up and chase money, but imagine having no money and yet not chasing money, committing yourself to the nation and building the country. To me that’s incredible. No matter if you are a Modi fan or not a Modi fan, this film is all about the spirit of patriotism. This is a patriotic film. It’s an inspirational take on what’s possible in this amazing country.
So it doesn’t touch upon the controversies?
It does touch upon the controversies because controversies are also challenges and overcoming those challenges is what makes a man. Does the film have a representation of his critics? It does. Does it have a representation of people who have a different ideology? It does. Does it have a representation of people who dislike him for multiple reasons? It does. Our film focuses on how to rise above all of this and how a tea selling boy at a railway station became the PM.
How do you defend your film when it is called a propaganda film? Don’t you think, biopics in Bollywood are inclined towards whitewashing a person’s public image instead of showing his/her life as it is?
The thing about cinema is that it is all about perspective. There is no right and wrong in a perspective. Anything that is creative has a perspective. It is not a documentary. It is not bland stating of facts. It is cinematic. The idea is that it is an emotional journey. It is intended to inspire and there is a perspective to it. I am sure there are a lot of film critics who are anti-Modi in their political ideologies and I know that in their reviews they will reflect that. They won’t separate their personal beliefs and their job. They will say that since it is a Modi movie, I will hammer these guys and this is something I have accepted from day one. I know he (Modi) does divide people. There are people who are scared of him and there are people who believe he is the only solution and the saviour of this nation.
Akshay Kumar after working in 2.0 said that South stars are far more disciplined and punctual than Bollywood actors. How has been your experience working in the South film industry?
I worked with Ram Charan in Vinaya Vidheya Rama, with Mohanlal in Lucifer, Surya in Rakhtcharitra and Ajith in Vivegam. I have had a chance to work with the superstars of all the languages. My experience definitely says that our work culture is extremely disciplined. They come on time. They are extremely punctual. You don’t have to wait for any actor. If it is 6 am, it means 6 am. I am someone who has genuinely spent a lot of time waiting for my senior actors and there is nothing more frustrating than that. Just because someone is a senior star and he doesn’t turn up, I don’t think that is right.