The Election Commission (EC) has stopped Bollywood biopic PM NARENDRA MODI from releasing on April 11, when the Lok Sabha election begins, but a web series on the Prime Minister – released just over a week ahead of the polls – has been playing on. The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking a stay on the film's release over concerns it may tilt the balance during the elections, and put the ball in the EC's court. And the poll panel on Wednesday ruled that any material, which disturbs a level playing field, should not be displayed, stalling the film's release until the elections end.
PM NARENDRA MODI, directed by Omung Kumar B, stars Vivek Anand Oberoi as Modi. The film, granted a 'U' certificate for unrestricted exhibition by the Censor Board, narrates the story of Modi from his humble beginnings to becoming the Prime Minister.
The trajectory of Eros Now's Original Series "Modi: Journey Of A Common Man", helmed by OMG – OH MY GOD! famed director Umesh Shukla, is also similar.
It quietly made its way to the OTT space, but there has hardly been any brouhaha over its content or timing, save its mention in a letter penned by 66 ex-bureaucrats to President Ram Nath Kovind raising questions on how the EC did nothing besides seeking more details on the series.
But Shukla made light of it. "The content of my series is not such that there will be complaints to the EC unnecessarily. It's a normal human's story. Maybe it has to do with the medium of Internet. Maybe the code of conduct is different… I don't know the rules, but if there was something (a complaint), we would have heard about it," Shukla said.
Five episodes out of 10 went live on April 3, just over a week before the first phase of polling begins. It tells the story of Modi's life from when he was all of 12, and traverses through his youth to becoming the Prime Minister.
Defending the timing of the show's release, Shukla said, "It was not planned this way. It is a coincidence. I was working on it since 11 to 12 months. It could have come out one month earlier as well, but it got delayed owing to some technical glitches."
"And it doesn't make a difference to me if people say it is coming at this time, because even when I came up with OH MY GOD! people said it was too controversial (as it was a film about a case against God and it was releasing around the Ganpati festival). But I don't give too much attention to all this."
"All I am saying that it's a back story of the PM. I have to say that I changed as a person when I read about him, and I always feel he is a combination between Swami Vivekananda and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The web series is my tribute to him."
"My web series is not about politics. It is more about a character and his journey." The response to the show so far, according to Shukla, is best described in one word. "Brilliant".
"It is more than I expected. People are really liking it because it is very detailed and realistic. It is relatable. It includes few stories people never knew about Modi, so the untold stories are leaving the audience surprised," Shukla said.
He said there is no "fiction or fabrication" in the show, and the remaining five episodes of which may go live later this week.
Written by Mihir Bhuta and Radhika Anand and based on Kishor Makwana's "Modi: Common Man's PM", the show stars Faisal Khan, Ashish Sharma and Mahesh Thakur depicting different phases of Modi's life.
"It took us 11-12 months to bring this show to life. The project was shot extensively in Gujarat… In his village Vadnagar, in his school, in Palanpur, Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. We shot in Uttarakhand, Kolkata and Mumbai too," he said of the 45-day shooting schedule.
As for the casting, Shukla said he never wanted to rope in actors caught in an image trap.
"I always wanted someone with good acting skills and limited exposure. I found that in Ashish, Faisal and Mahesh… I had told them we didn't want any mimicry. We wanted them to observe and adapt mannerisms as we didn't want a caricaturish portrayal."
By Radhika Bhirani