Politics in action
Narendra Modi could have been an advertising czar if not the Prime Minister of India. When the whole country is going through an extremely important election season, Modi manages to spring a surprise with a strategically designed Bollywood-laced hour-long interview with none other than Akshay Kumar, a man who is a superstar in his own right and has an image as a 'hero of the masses' that fit the bill perfectly. So what if Modi has been unabashedly criticized by his opponents; so what if the screening of his biopic has been stalled by the Election Commission; so what if his party is being accused of incorporating faces who have been driven out from their former political associations? Narendra Modi, each time, manages to throttle his unkindest critics with a masterstroke. In a nutshell, this mega-interview with Akshay Kumar, though emphatically termed as 'apolitical', has brought the focus back on the Prime Minister. It doesn't match up as a primarily 'apolitical' interview because it highlights a man, who occupies the topmost political position in this country, resides in the official residence and principal workplace of the Prime Minister of India, is contesting elections from Varanasi, is the star campaigner for his party and discusses his arch rivals sending kurtas and sweets for him. At this juncture, the main issues of the elections seem to have taken a backseat and it appears as if democracy is becoming fragile and vulnerable in front of this individual who has just launched a 'surprise strike' (let's not call it surgical strike) on India, in filmi-style. The timing, the opportunism, the unpredictability, the theme, the apparent impersonalism — all conform to a unique brand building strategy with immaculate forethought for which the Prime Minister is quite famous. Known to avoid spontaneous interactions with the media, the choice of Akshay Kumar as his interviewer seemed quite obvious because then, he could steer clear through any controversy or complicated wrangle that might evolve during the freewheeling tête-à-tête. From one action hero interviewing another (not in the literal sense though), it remained restricted to mangoes, humour, way of life, his sleeplessness, his friendship with global leaders like Barack Obama, his workaholic ways and several others. But the entire episode missed real 'action'! It missed the chiselled sharpness of an intelligently aggressive 'asker' or 'questioner' who not only raises curiosity but also does justice to the given assignment. For many, this interview is definitely not 'apolitical' but part of a larger strategy of the BJP to make the general elections a referendum on Modi. Through his tacit mention of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sending him kurtas and sweets once a year that she personally selects for him, he not only challenged her stance against him publicly since she is seen as one of his fiercest critics, but also paved way for a misconstrued notion about the genuineness of her political thought process that she is so rigorously pursuing. This interview, thus, is much more than a 'decent non-political' narrative, exposing an ambush over his strongest detractors, a camouflaged political gimmick highlighting a garrulous 'dialoguebaaz' who tries to flex his muscles at the slightest opportunity, be it in front of a real-life action hero.