'Main Atal Hoon' tells the story of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a member of the RSS, an Indian politician, a founding member of the BJP, and the tenth Prime Minister of India.
Everyone loves a good biopic. But what makes a biopic good? Is it representation or glorification? A very good and recent example would be 'Oppenheimer'. The film credits the protagonist for his genius but isn't shy to call him out for his sins. In Indian biopics, especially the political ones, such clarity of character seems to be missing. Glorification is preferred over representation. A case in point is the recently released 'Main Atal Hoon' based on the politician and ex-Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The first scene shows Vajpayee initiating war at Kargil and saying dialogues like, "Kal ka suryoday padosi mulk ka suryast ho sakta hai." This pretty much sets the tone for the film. Main Atal Hoon starts from Vajpayee's childhood, goes through his teenage years of joining Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his editorial days, becoming a politician, and his ascent in the political world. The plot is one event after the other, from Vajpayee's life, placed subsequently. That's pretty much it.
Initially, a prosthetic-ridden Pankaj Tripathi seems very out of place as Vajpayee. The background score constantly tells you forcefully what to feel. It's as if the film doesn't believe you would understand it well. Vajpayee's loverboy days are fun to watch, a typical college romance. However, the first half remains pretty dull. The second part picks up pace but rushes through events. Vajpayee's slow demeanour and the film's fast pace seem to be against each other. Almost all actors, even someone as credible as Piyush Mishra, speak their dialogues exaggeratedly making it difficult to believe them. However, after the first half, Tripathi gets the character right. His acting starts convincing you that all that is happening on screen is the eternal truth, except it isn't. No political figure, in fact, no person is perfect, like the film portrays its protagonist to be.
Main Atal Hoon downsides seem hard to believe because the victories are more and always nearby. Like most other political films of our times, this one also indulges in Islamophobia. Muslim men appear twice, and that too with guns and swords. Congress is also shown to be the root of all evil. Jinnah is blamed for the partition. Pakistan is evil. Everyone, who disagrees with RSS, is shown to be misguided. This is why the film didn't work for me. Even though Tripathi tries very hard to convince us otherwise, unquestioned hero-worshipping is not only cliche but also dangerous. As the elections inch closer, many political films will come our way - but let's remember that films are fictionalised versions of events, not necessarily the truth. They should always be consumed with caution.
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