The poster launch on January 7 announcing the biopic on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a lot of furore and sent the rumour mill into a tizzy.
Starring actor Vivek Oberoi in the titular role, the film’s announcement comes months ahead of the general election. Several questions loom large, including the film’s theme, Oberoi’s casting and whether it will release before the election.
In a freewheeling chat, PM Narendra Modi’s producer Sandip Ssingh puts to rest all speculations and provides other sundry details about this highly-anticipated film.
Are you planning to release the biopic in time with the general election?
We have taken up this film with great responsibility. The poster has got a very good response and the expectations are very high. We are in no hurry to release it. All I want is to make a great film that I hope people will like. I am not concerned about the release date as long as the film is made properly. We haven’t set any timeline or deadline for this film yet.
How much of PM Narendra Modi is ready? For how long has your team been working on it?
We have been working on it since the last three years. The thought of making this film has given me several sleepless nights. Once we decided and things started rolling, I approached Vivek (Oberoi, actor) and he agreed to do it—to devote two years of his life to this film. Research took one year, scripting took another. We will now begin filming at the end of this month.
The stakes are really high when one makes a biopic on a leader as important as Narendra Modi. A lot can go wrong. What made you take this kind of risk?
Everyone looks at a politician like that. I have made Aligarh, Sarbjit, Mary Kom. I think a film is a film and a story is a story. If I start thinking that it’s a very big thing, then I won’t be able to do justice to it. It’s a story about a human, about achievement, simplicity, about a leader who inspires us, who thought that from a ‘chaiwala’ he can become the prime minister. We are telling a human story. The rest is on people how they take it.
So you’re saying the film will show Modi as the person he is underneath his larger-than-life political persona?
Yes. It’s not a political film. It’s an inspiring film. You will see a human, a brother, a son, a ‘karyakarta’, a ‘sevak’—all aspects of his life that make him who he is, will be included.
Of all the actors, why cast Vivek Oberoi as Modi?
I needed an actor who is passionate, crazy, has a good amount of experience, the calibre to pull off a responsibility as big as this and is also ready to dedicate two years of his life on just one film. Vivek is doing all of it. It takes about seven hours to do just his make-up. We have done about 15 look tests. Every day in the morning, he would get up at 2am for 9am shift, get done with seven hours of make-up and then shoot for another six hours. It is a very difficult task. Not every actor in India is ready to take that risk.
Also, he is one of India’s finest actors. He’s the only one who at the beginning of his career gave a Company and a Saathiya and got appreciated in both. He is extremely hardworking, passionate, dedicated, supportive and humble. It’s challenging for me as a producer to get the best of all these things that he brings to the table.
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For such a big personality film, you didn’t think of casting a superstar like an Aamir Khan or a Shah Rukh Khan?
In today’s time, names don’t matter much. If they did, then Race 3, Thugs of Hindostan and Zero would have worked. Last year proved that good stories work at the box office. Whether it was Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho or Stree, everything has worked on the basis of the script and the story.
What has been the most difficult aspect of making PM Narendra Modi?
Convincing people that I want to make this film on this personality. Nobody believed me initially. They joked about it. But since the poster launch, everyone’s perception has changed. Another challenge was to get the film’s look correct. That’s why we have put one of the best technical teams together. It’s a huge film, a huge responsibility. I hope we do justice to it.
Whose idea was it to make this biopic?
I thought of making this film. I love politics. Though it was very difficult to convince everyone about it, I stood my ground and now everybody is a part of it.
Sandip Ssingh with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the set of Sarbjit. (Image: Special arrangement)
Speculations are rife that the film aims to influence popular opinion in Modi’s favour ahead of the election…
He is such a big name that I don’t think he needs any film to promote him. He is already the world’s biggest brand. He doesn’t need us. We need the story. It is we who have decided the story and it is we who will make the film as we want with complete freedom. We are telling this story only to inspire the nation. It is not a propaganda film. It’s just a film on a story that has inspired me.
So you’re saying PM Narendra Modi has no political agenda?
Through this film, I want to just tell the nation that nothing is impossible or unachievable. Just go ahead and do it, the way I thought of making this film, which everyone told me not to. Similarly, everyone told Modi when he was a chaiwala that don’t think big but he still did and he is the prime minister right now. He has become who he is because of his thinking and the decisions that he took in his life. An inspiring story, the film traces his journey from his childhood till now.
Did you get a chance to speak to Modi ever since you started work on this film?
No. I am not such a big personality that I will get to speak to the biggest person in India. It was just my thought and I wanted to go ahead with it, believe in it, in myself and get people to make this film.
How have you researched for this biopic?
His life is an open book. There are books, everything is on Google. Then there are his speeches. He talks a lot about everything in his Mann Ki Baat sessions on radio. There are so many people involved in his life, we can meet them—though we haven’t reached there yet. Everyone knows where his childhood was spent, about his school, where his first CM swearing-in ceremony happened. So everyone knows everything. It was not difficult to research on him as everything was readily available.
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