The Accidental Prime Minister has remained in news ever since the book by Sanjaya Baru was released in 2014, and a decision was taken to make a film on it. From selection of the cast to treatment of the narrative, everything has been spoken and written about. And now that the outright political film is ready for release, many are questioning the timing. Set to hit the screens in the Lok Sabha election year, the film based on the book by his media advisor Sanjaya Baru is supposed to show former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as a weak administrator. The ruling BJP is enthusiastically promoting the film and the Opposition Congress is spending tense moments anticipating the response it might get and the effect the film might have on the voters ahead of the crucial general elections.

The Youth Congress had a few days ago demanded that the film be screened for the party before it is released. Jayantilal Gada, presenter of the film, says they were in no mood to oblige.

“The Youth Congress has now withdrawn their demand for the screening. We were handed over the censor certificate, and the trailer was released after that. Making a film is risky, as so many creative people, artistes, technicians, money are invested. Our stand was clear that we will not show the film to anyone before (release)… it will be screened for everyone on January 11, 2019, worldwide,” says Gada, while speaking to The Statesman.

The producer’s stand, however, contradicts that of actor Anupam Kher, who plays the title role. The actor has said on record that he wants to arrange a special screening of The Accidental Prime Minister for Manmohan Singh and his family.

Asked about this, Gada says he is not averse to that idea.

“Anupam Kher has said this at a personal level, and I think it’s good if this happens. We don’t have any objections, and we are with Anupam. We respect Dr Manmohan Singh. Film fraternity always respected him more than the people of India do. So, if Anupam says a show has to be screened for Manmohan Singh, it would be done right away.”

A lawyer in Bihar has moved a local court against the crew of the film, saying they seek to “damage” the reputation of “top people”. Gada says their legal team is addressing the matter. He, however, admits the crew is disturbed by the “negative response”. “They think if Censor Board has given the certificate, this should not happen. I think it is not good to disturb the crew of the film at this level.”

The trailer launched on 27 December had hit more than 45 million views on YouTube till the time of writing. However, it ran into a sort of trouble as viewers complained the video was not showing up on search. “I did hear something like this, after the trailer had received so many views. Maybe it was a technical fault… But it lasted for only some time. It is now showing on YouTube,” says Gada.

About the allegation that the release of The Accidental Prime Minister has been timed keeping in mind the election year, Gada claims it’s just a “coincidence”. “It’s all coincidence. We got the censor board approval three months ago. And the state elections happened in the month of December. We could have easily released the trailer before that.”

Denying allegiance to any party, Gada adds, “It wasn’t our motive to disturb any political party or support any of them. Nor are we against any of them. They (the Opposition) should take it in a positive way that we released the trailer after the state election results came out. So many people and money are involved in the making of a film. It is tough to maintain a flow. So, it (the timing) is just a coincidence and nothing else.”

Talking about making of the film, Gada says casting proved a major challenge. Anupam Kher took six months to give his nod. “I heard from director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte and producer Sunil Bohra that they struggled in casting all the actors — not only Anupam Kher, but everyone. But for Manmohan Singh’s role, we wanted someone who would do everything as Singh does — from how he speaks to his body language. And I think Anupam thought of all this before he said yes. And he is also associated with the BJP, so I think he must have had many questions in his mind. After six months, he said yes.”

The Accidental Prime Minister also stars Akshaye Khanna, who plays the role of Sanjaya Baru. Divya Seth plays Gursharan Kaur and Suzanne Bernert plays Sonia Gandhi, while Aahana Kumra will be seen in the role of Priyanka Gandhi and Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi. Directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, the film is slated to release on 11 January, 2019.