Web series

Meet a prime minister whose Facebook friends are ‘Mitron’ and who loves to take selfies

‘Princess Diaries’ meets ‘Legally Blonde’ in the AltBalaji show ‘PM Selfiewalli’.

Female heads of state are a rare sight in international politics. Alt Balaji’s PM Selfiewallie imagines an India where two women rule the show.

When incumbent Prime Minister Priyamvada Thakur (Beena Banerjee) finds her reign threatened by corruption scandals, her aide advises her to install such a terrible replacement that the country will beg to go back to scam-tainted normalcy. The accidental prime minister in this case is 25-year-old Tanya Thakur, a fashionista who knows more about Prada than politics but ends up with the responsibility of 1.3 billion people. What makes her the right choice for the post is not just her absolute lack of qualifications but also the fact that she’s is Priyamvada’s grand-daughter. The veteran politician’s estranged son is Tanya’s father.

Priyamvada is certain that Tanya will sabotage herself – and at the start, that seems inevitable. After all, according to Tanya, the External Affairs Minister is someone who looks at Bollywood’s romantic relationships and the chance to meet a terrorist is “OMG Amazeballs”. And if you thought Prime Minister Narendra Modi was social media savvy, wait till you see this one. She posts duck face selfies for every occasion, from inter-state meetings to election campaigns, and communicates through hashtags and status updates.

However, the 25-year-old political newbie ends up having an uncanny ability to land on her feet after every debacle and unwittingly pushes through change in a slow-moving political system.

The first season of PM Selfiewallie was streamed on AltBalaji last week. It stars newcomer Nityaami Shirke as the prime minister alongside Beena Banerjee, Ramakant Dayama, Pranay Pachauri, Anjali Sivaraman, Paaras Zutshi and others.

PM Selfiewallie. Credit: AltBalaji.
PM Selfiewallie. Credit: AltBalaji.

Though it has an interesting premise, the show fails to cash in on its strong concept and opts for broad farce instead of sharp wit to elicit laughter. Shirke’s Tanya Thakur could have reversed the stereotype of the superficial fashion diva, but any hidden depths in her personality stay out of sight. For the most part, her successes are more a result of dumb luck than skill. As a result, this cross between Princess Diaries meets Legally Blonde lacks the charm of either.

Tanya is accompanied in her shenanigans through the world of politics by her equally clueless best friends – whom she nominates as her “very very personal secretaries” . Together, they make for an often cringe-inducing trio, shrieking and hashtagging their way through every momentous occasion.

Still, PM Selfiewallie deserves points for daring to take digs at politicians and parties. While it stays clear of direct name calling, there are plenty of references to contemporary politics. Apart from the threat of scam allegations bringing down a regime and the idea of a puppet prime minister harking back to the United Progressive Alliance, there are sly references to the absence of “Acche Din” (the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2014 catchphrase) and Mitron (what Tanya calls her Facebook friends after she becomes prime minister).

There’s also an Aam Insaan Party and an Arnab Goswami lookalike (called Arunav Oswamy) who regularly harangues at everyone in his sight. The introduction of an openly gay politician and Tanya’s attempts to revoke the Indian Penal Code Section 377 that criminalises homsexuality also shows her taking India to more progressive realms than its political climate has thus far allowed. The series also puts youth at the front and centre of politics, not only through the unlikely prime minister and her coterie but also in the form of her skilled Opposition leader, the Aam Insaan Party’s Sachin Ghatge. In its reimagining of India’s political landscape, PM Selfiewallie teases some interesting possibilities that a second season, if there is one, would do well to explore.

PM Selfiewallie.
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