A conventional controversy
PM Narendra Modi, a biopic on the incumbent Indian Prime Minister has been at the centre of a political controversy for some time, with its release date having been postponed twice already, in view of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Earlier, 47 retired Indian civil servants and some political parties had urged the EC to defer its release until after the parliamentary election results have been announced. In a letter to the Election Commission, the retired civil servants wrote, “You [the chief election commissioner] will appreciate that such a film would create enormous electoral mileage for the Prime Minister and the party in power…It is, therefore, necessary to examine whether the release of this biopic after the announcement of elections and the coming into force of the MCC [Model Code of Conduct] is consonant with the principles of a free and fair election.”Although the film was originally slated to be released on April 5, 2019, six days before the General Elections began, its release had been postponed to April 12, with the movie’s producer Sandip Singh tweeting on April 4, “This is to confirm, our film PM Narendra Modi is not releasing on 5th April”. In the meantime, the Central Board of Film Certification in India gave the movie a ‘U certificate’, giving it the green signal, ahead of its new release date. In a similar development, the movie’s screening set for April 12 was postponed again till the end of the elections, by the Election Commission on April 10; the order reading, “Any biopic material in the nature of biography / hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of the MCC (Model Code of Conduct)”. In response, the producers moved the Indian apex court on April 12, against the stay imposed by the EC. The Indian Supreme Court, which had earlier rejected a plea by a Congress leader seeking to stop the release of the film, saying it was up to the Election Commission to decide whether the movie will tilt the balance in favor of the ruling BJP, agreed to hear the case and asked the EC to submit a detailed report after watching the movie. The EC submitted the report on Monday, and the next date of hearing was set for yesterday. With comedian and pollical novice, Volodymyr Zelensky, who played the President in a popular TV show Servant of the People, scoring a landslide victory in the Ukrainian elections held on April 21, this year, people’s concern about the ability of the media to influence voters’ choices is only understandable. Only time will tell, how much PM Narendra Modi, the film, or the controversies surrounding it have been able to influence the voters of India.