“Modi! Modi!” The characteristic chant of the Narendra Modi personality cult, which has echoed through election rallies and Madison Square Garden, yields a rare funny moment in the very worshipful and very dull web series Modi – CM to PM. A government official is finding it hard to keep up with Modi’s workaholic ways. As a new batch of files is dumped on his desk, the official grimaces, mockingly says “Modi! Modi!” and reluctantly gets to work.
Modi – CM to PM continues the journey of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh worker who went on to become the prime minister of India. The seven-episode first season, titled Modi – Journey Of A Common Man , was streamed on Eros Now in 2019. Three more episodes have now emerged on the platform as a pre-Diwali offering.
The admiring chronicle of Narendra Damodardas Modi’s rise and rise through the ranks of the RSS and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is based on Kishore Makwana’s 2015 hagiography Common Man’s PM – Narendra Modi. Umesh Shukla is the director, while Mihir Bhuta and Radhika Anand serve as the show’s two-headed amanuensis.
The first season hewed closely to the party-approved portrait of Modi as a humble tea seller who was moulded by the RSS into a selfless, incorruptible and visionary leader. In the seventh episode, Modi was revealed to have been the driving force of the rath yatra campaign in the early 1990s to demand that a Ram temple be built in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This is a people’s movement, not a show of power or an election campaign, Modi declares in the series.
The fallout of the rath yatra – the destruction of the mosque by Hindutva mobs on December 6, 1992, which led to communal riots across India – is shielded from viewers. The latest lovefest cuts directly to Modi’s stint as the chief minister of Gujarat. Ashish Sharma, who played Modi in the first batch of episodes, makes way for Mahesh Thakur. The reign is glorious, of course, and serves as a launchpad for prime ministership. It includes a moment in which Modi is showed brewing his own tea.
But the question of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat has to be resolved. In keeping with its overall cloying tone, the series presents Modi’s side of the story in the episode titled “Everyone deserves happiness”.
Modi is giving a public speech when he is told about the burning of the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra. He immediately gets to work, personally directing the crackdown on rioters and spending every waking minute agonising about his state’s residents. When Modi visits the charred remains of the train compartment – 59 kar sewaks who were returning from Ayodhya died in what was described as a deliberate act of violence – he weeps.
Modi channels his inner Mahatma Gandhi, refusing to eat his meals and instead hurrying to a relief camp to meet riot victims. He berates minister Anandiben Patel, who justifies the carnage by stating that Hindus are outraged by the Godhra tragedy. A mob mentality makes even intelligent people lose their minds, the unifier of faiths lectures Patel.
This benign Modi avatar clasps Muslim riot victims to his chest and declares that killers have no religion. When the situation seems to be spinning out of control, Modi begs the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states for help, but they refuse. Undeterred, he marshals the state’s resources and seeks the help of the Army to restore order.
His competence is called into question, and he is hurt by the news that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is disappointed with him. At a Bharatiya Janata Party convention, Modi reminds party workers of his numerous sacrifices and lifelong service to the Hindutva outfit’s ideals. The listeners are so affected by Modi’s speech, tears stream down their faces. Cries of “Modi! Modi!” resound. It’s a short leap from CM to PM, with only the hurdle of a Special Investigation Team inquiring into the 2002 riots to clear.
Unlike the first season, the second season – if three episodes can be called that – has almost no characters of note apart from its leading man. The absoluteness of the Modi personality cult is reflected in the presence of Mahesh Thakur in nearly every frame. At times sounding like the prime minister and at other times like the brilliant Modi imitator Shyam Rangeela, Thakur goes through the motions. In a series that resembles an audio-visual put out by the party or the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Thakur’s only task is to be a deeply respectful mimic.