When the trailer of Omung Kumar’s Narendra Modi biopic was released on YouTube early on Thursday morning, one line was missing from the version that had been screened for the media in Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon: “Aap ne ab tak Godhra ke liye apologise kyun nahi kiya?” Why haven’t you apologised for Godhra so far?
The trailer was released on the internet many hours after the press launch, on early Thursday morning
In the version shown to the press, the line was said by a television journalist, played by Darshan Kumar, and possibly refers to the communal riots that ravaged Gujarat in 2002 during Modi’s tenure as chief minister, leaving an estimated 2,000 people dead. Several leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its Hindutva ally, the Bajrang Dal, were convicted for killing Muslims in the riots.
The violence followed the deaths of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a fire the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on February 27, 2002. They were returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, after a ceremony at the site where BJP supporters in 1992 had demolished the Babri Masjid. In February 2011, a court convicted 31 Muslim men for setting the train afire.
Though the final trailer of PM Narendra Modi, which stars Vivek Anand Oberoi, does not have the Godha mention, other references to the riots in Gujarat have been retained. “My Gujarat is burning,” an anguished-looking Modi says in the trailer. He is also shown as personally supervising the response to the attack on the Akshardham temple in September 2002. “I will not leave this place until all my people are safe,” he says.
Also missing from the final trailer is a shot of Modi being married off as a child, and his tearful farewell to his wife, Jasodhaben (played by Barkha Bisht). In the bit that has been retained, Modi tells his mother, Hiraben (Zarina Wahab), “I want to be a sanyasi.”
Sandip Ssingh, who has produced the movie along with Suresh Oberoi and Anand Pandit, told Scroll.in that he did not know why the line about Godhra wasn’t there in the final trailer. “We are in Varansi right now for a two-day shoot for the film,” Ssingh said. “I have not checked the trailer today.”
The film will be released on April 5, a few days before the multi-phase General Election on April 11. Modi’s party is seeking a second term, and the timing of the release has raised eyebrows. The biopic was announced in late January at an event in Mumbai attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP member Devendra Fadnavis. The film was originally slated to be released on April 12, a day after the first phase of the General Elections. This would have meant that the theatrical run would have overlapped with other phases polling, which continues until May 19.
At the media event on Wednesday, Ssingh commented on the timing of the release: “You journalists can decide whether it is propaganda. We are focusing on bringing an honest story to the audiences.”
Ssingh told Scroll.in that the biopic will be aiming for as wide a release as possible in Indian and foreign territories.
“We are definitely not looking at who is coming with us, and are going to give the film a wide release,” Ssingh said. “This is a biopic that everybody wants to see and get inspired by.”
The producers have already applied for a censor certificate even though the film has not yet been completed, Ssingh added. It usually takes a few weeks for the Central Board of Film Certification to issue the certificate, without which movies cannot be screened in cinemas.
“We applied a long time ago,” Ssingh said. “We have been editing the film since day one. We are not break any laws for the release. We will follow the rules.”
The cast of the biopic includes Manoj Joshi as BJP president Amit Shah, Boman Irani as industrialist Ratan Tata, and Kishori Shahane as Indira Gandhi.