Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a film of inspiration, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra said in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“It’s a film about the haves and have-nots, the have-nots (in particular), a film about the low middle class and what they face in everyday life,” Mehra told thestatesman.com ahead of the release of the film.
MPPM is about an 8-year-old boy, Kanhaiya, played by Om Kanojiya, writing to the Prime Minister of India about a personal tragedy involving his mother. In the film, Sargam, played by Anjali Patil, the single mother of the 8-year-old boy, is raped when she is out to defecate.
The film also explores the lives of people belonging to the lower middle-class strata and what they face in everyday life.
Commenting on what inspired him to make the movie, Mehra said there was “no one Eureka-like moment” when the idea of Mere Pyare Prime Minister hit him.
Recalling an incident from the time when he was making Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mehra said he was deeply affected by the condition of women living in slums.
“Then I came across the UNICEF figures which revealed that 50 per cent of the rapes in the country happen when women are out to defecate. I had to now tell a story woven around this,” he said.
Mehra said that the film tells the story of how Sargam deals with her situation and how her son “takes things in his own hands and wants to change things even if he has to go to the PM of the country”.
The director was all praise for Om Kanojiya, who he said “understands the subject of rape, of violation”.
“I think once you see the film, you’ll see he has done a very sensitive performance,” Mehra said, adding, “He is very hard-working, has very good focus and is unfazed by anything. He is a natural. He is the hero.”
Om, who studies in Class V, said he enjoys school “only 50 per cent”. The child actor said he was not sure whether he would pursue an acting career but his parents had given him a free hand.
“I felt great to work with everyone but especially Rakeysh sir since he played with us and never prevented us from having fun,” he said.
“Anjali (Patil) didi is very good, too, but sometimes scolds,” Om added in a lighter vein.
Anjali, who received rave reviews for playing Malko in critically-acclaimed Newton, said watching MPPM at one of the screenings made her realise the pain of the character she essayed.
“When I won the National Award for Naa Bangaaru Talli, I dedicated it to survivors of human trafficking,” she said, adding that it was the “smallest thing” she could do.
“I can’t even understand it, like what actually happens to the victim. I can only try to go close to that. But, yes, the film medium is so strong that we can tell these stories now and they are coming in the light,” Anjali said referring to the growth in both women-oriented films as well as those that underline serious social evils.
“It is a story of ordinary people. It is the story of courage of an 8-year-old, who sees his mother not smiling especially when they used to sing and dance. He then writes to the PM and goes on an extraordinary journey of people like us,” she said about the film.
Praising her co-stars, Anjali said both Om and Niteesh are brilliant actors.
“Do method acting with everyone else but just be there in the moment (when acting with a child),” Anjali said with a smile.
Niteesh, who has previously worked as casting director for Dangal and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag as Assistant Director, makes his debut with MPPM.
“I auditioned and after a long time I got a call confirming that I had been shortlisted. That was the happiest day of my life,” he said.
When asked if he will show the film to the Prime Minister, Mehra said he has never shown his films to any PM. “That’s propaganda,” he said.
Mere Pyare Prime Minister releases on 15 March 2019. The film also stars Atul Kulkarni and Makrand Deshpande among others.