We aren’t yet done pondering the influence of social media on elections, and we already have to come to terms with a new device for swaying voters: Traditional moving pictures. The biopic on Narendra Modi, which was slated for a release coinciding with the first phase of polling, has been shelved by the producers following concerns about violation of the model code of conduct. The trailer is out, though, and, on February 12, another film about a once and future chowkidar released on YouTube, and has garnered 4 million views. Set in the fictional village of “Bharatpur”, which is beset by the residents of neighbouring “Khanpur”, it depicts a chowkidar who is brought in from “Gurjarpur” by “Armyman”, the village headman, to set things right. It’s a transparent parable.
Made in western UP on a tiny budget, that was a handicraft product compared to the NaMo channel, now available on all TV carriers, which is running a serial biopic of its own, depicting a boy with a tea kettle on the platform of a railway station, encouraging lower caste children to go to school. The ticker at the bottom of the screen reprises the prime minister’s slogans and his observations about Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee, who are attacking him in the course of the election campaign.
Even as some film professionals appeal to the public to oppose the BJP, other lesser-known non-state actors are using moving pictures to improve the chances of the ruling party. The gig is being performed at arm’s length by private entities, leaving the beneficiary untouched by contagion. And unlike the stock market, where talking-up is curbed by regulators, the response in the political marketplace has been patchy. It’s playing by the script, and by the time the model code of conduct catches up, the election could well be over.