Why doesn’t India make prez movies?
India doesn’t have a Presidential form of government. Censor Board of Film Certification will not clear a film about our President that’s even remotely controversial.
Indian Presidents have largely led uneventful lives that haven’t interested our directors enough to make movies on that.
The above are just three of the many reasons often put forward when asked about the conspicuous absence of any movies made on the President of our country. The only cinematic indulgence with a rashtrapati has been in the form of Kunaal Roy Kapoor’s “The President is Coming“ starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Shernaz Patel and Subhash Kapoor’s “Phas Gaye Re Obama” starring Rajat Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Amole Gupte. Unless, of course, one includes Mallika Sherawat’s “Politics of Love” on the unexpected romance that develops between an Indian-American, Democratic campaign worker Aretha Gupta ( Mallika Sherawat) who falls for an African-American Republican Kyle Franklin ( Brian White) before the 2008 US Presidential Election.
While Indian cinema finecombs reality to find drama in real life, those surrounding the President’s life, scandals and controversies have never been a fodder for celluloid. Forget biographical movies, we haven’t even seen any attempts like “Wag The Dog” (about how a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join to “fabricate” a war in order to cover-up a presidential sex scandal), “In The Line of Fire” (about a disillusioned and obsessed former CIA agent who attempts to assassinate the President of the United States and the Secret Service agent who tracks him) or “Vantage Point” (about how the attempted assassination of the American President is told and re-told from several different perspectives). Speculations are rife that Hollywood is making ” Reagan“ on the man who once co-starred with a chimp and went on to become the head of the country.
Though it’s not completely incorrect to say that Indian Presidents have largely led uneventful lives, Pranab Mukherjee nomination has been quite engaging. The will-she-won’t-she tension over Mamata Banerjee’s support, her facebook campaign for APJ Abdul Kalam and EC rejecting Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s vote in the presidential election — all that ensured that this year’s presidential poll vaults have entered drawing room conversations. Once in drawing room conversations, has the plot of making of India’s 13th President lent itself to cinema?
Says Anuvab Pal, the script writer of “The President is Coming”, “I don’t think there is anything more to add in fiction that hasn’t already been done in the press about Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature. I would be interested in penning a script on Pranab Mukherjee’s difficulty as a finance minister. I generally like political stories. My new play, “The Bureaucrat”, is getting packed houses because we love to make fun of politics. People stay away from it because they feel if a politician, or party, thinks it’s a mockery of them, they might get into trouble. So, people self-censor.” Pal thinks it would be interesting to write a film on the Indira Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh relationship. “The difficulty would be to make it engaging for the youth today,” he says.
Shyam Benegal, who made a biopic on Netaji, sees no point in India aspiring to make movies on presidents simply because the West has been doing them. “We have a different form of government. Why should we ape the West? We are a nation with work in progress. If I were to make any film, it would be about the political system. If the President gets featured, it would be incidental.”
But for Goutam Ghose, who has made a documentary on Jyoti Basu, a feature film on Pranab Mukherjee is an exciting proposition. “Saying that the Censor Board will create problems or that we don’t have a Presidential form of government is just an alibi. In India Win’s Freedom, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has argued that India wouldn’t have been divided had our country adhered to a truly federal structure. Lord Mountbatten’s mission messed up the whole thing and partition became a reality. We keep on saying that our President doesn’t have much power. But the Constitution does guarantee our President a lot of power. I’d be interested in making a movie that examines how Pranab babu, rises above the problems between the Centre and state, to truly use his power and ensure that India becomes a federal nation. A plot on how a person, who has served so many portfolios, handles power to address issues of the subaltern classes in India interests me as a director,” Ghose says.