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Superman vs not-so-wild: Only dangerous thing Modi faces with Bear Grylls is wet underpants

In the hour-long episode of Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls, viewers get a refresher course on PM Narendra Modi’s ‘inspiring’ story about his childhood.

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New Delhi: “He’s cold. He’s drenched. But he is a hero,” tells adventurer and survival instructor Bear Grylls about Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the duo conclude their “dangerous” journey through Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park in the special episode of Man Vs Wild on the Discovery Channel Monday night. But not before saying a little prayer for the Indian leader.

“Lord, we thank you for this great man and this great country, and we pray for wisdom and strength and many blessings on him and on India,” Grylls says, eyes closed in reverence, hand resting on the shoulders of PM Modi as they finish wrapping up their chai pe charcha by the riverside.

In the hour-long episode with Modi and Grylls — which was meant to be a rigorous test of survival through India’s untamed forests — the only lesson viewers learn is that the PM used to make soap out of dewy soil, tried to adopt a baby crocodile and cannot comprehend nervousness because he has “always been positive” in his temperament.

‘Wild jokes’

Man Vs Wild with Modi was more like Superman Vs Life — carefully curating the narrative of a sympathy-inducing man who has traversed through great adversity in his childhood to emerge as a self-aware, benevolent and ascetic leader of his people. The entire show is more symbolism than survival because the only dangerous thing the PM really does is get his underpants a little wet — Grylls asks Modi at one point if his underpants were dry after crossing the river in the rain, and the PM replies: “I will survive the whole day, don’t worry!”

Meanwhile, as Grylls pushes a smiling Modi on a raft through a river and some light rain, he admits on camera that his “balls” are freezing. Modi laughs awkwardly, like all people who don’t relate to your sense of humour but are on national television and hence have to. At one point, Grylls talks about elephant dung “fresh from the anus”, and one wonders if that’s when things got truly wild on this show.

Also read: Crocodile-lover, fakir, now a man of wild for Bear Grylls – Modi and the power of makeovers

Viewers watch these two men chit-chat their way comfortably through high reeds, with Grylls’ repeatedly reminding that “this is tiger territory” and a “crocodile-infested river”. We do see some tiger prints but never in the same frame as the survivalists, and somehow the scene always cuts to generic shots of the forest when Grylls says “we’re going off-road”.

Perseverance is presented to us, but only in Modi’s past. In this Uttarakhand forest, the PM doesn’t break a sweat even after an 8 km walk.

Reminiscing the past

With an awe-struck Grylls, Modi takes audiences on a journey through his life, repeating stories of days spent helping his father sell chai on railway patris (tracks), ironing his clothes for school with cinders in copper pots and time spent finding himself in the Himalayas at the age of 17.

“When did you first dream of becoming Prime Minister?” Grylls asks. To this, Modi replies: “Mere dimaag mein main kya hoon, yeh vishay aata hi nahi. Main iss sab se upar hoon. Main mukhyamantri tha, tab bhi, main pradhan mantri hoon, tab bhi” (This idea of what I am doesn’t ever enter my head. I’m above all this. Even when I was a chief minister earlier and now when I am a Prime Minister).

For a head of state whose party swept two national elections on the back of a ‘Modi wave’, whose high-ranking ministers refer to the Indian armed forces as Modi’s army, who has worn a suit with his name stitched onto it as a motif and whose NaMo app was plugged in as an advertisement every time this show went on breaks, the self-professed selflessness is a tad hard to believe. But then, this show has had its share of troubles with authenticity.

“These predator cats are dangerous,” Grylls says of tigers early on in the episode. They are “masterfully camouflaged and the absolute ninjas of concealment.”

Only for those seeking it, the symbolism doesn’t always work in Modi’s favour. As Grylls fashions a makeshift spear to protect “the most important man in India,” Modi takes it reluctantly from the former’s hand and says, “My upbringing does not allow me to kill. I’ll hold this only for your protection.”

The uncomfortable truth is that it doesn’t matter if Grylls understood a word of what Modi said in Hindi because his voters definitely did. The show was never meant for people who follow Man Vs Wild, but for a significant portion of the population that doesn’t — for those who will catch it on their phones and in favourable sound-bytes on news channels. Who wouldn’t love a candid, environment-loving grand-fatherly figure traversing his way through the jungles as he shares tales of his childhood — and distracts you from his government’s record on the economy, Jammu & Kashmir, mob lynching and air pollution, among others.

Also read: Man vs Wild, a show not as ‘wild’ as it claims to be


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  1. A slanted and biased piece. Ms. Singh’s LSR education comes through in her disdain and contempt for the common man. She is an elite and will never be able to digest the fact that a person who does not qualify as an elite by any count is now the PM of India.
    Its time educational institutes of repute like the LSR, SRCC, Miranda House, St. Stephen’s and others bring about a change in the attitude of their students through a change in syllabus and educational pedagogy. The generous sprinkling of elitism observed in their graduates (like Mr. Manishankar Aiyar and others) is of no use at all and in fact is detrimental.

  2. Haa so true .Very well written and precise report. Thank god i didn’t watch this Modi vs wild show. Its a mere distraction tactics when economy is in shambles and Modi doing what he does best His marketing.

  3. Fcking biased journalism… People are equating 370 with demonization, this lady is mixing up economy with this TV programme… Lady, get some sense of humor and stop spewing your rage and hatred… It wasnt as bad as you write about…. It’s good to see pm promoting yoga, nature, among other agenda in office. Why are you so narrow minded… why can’t he share his experiences. He comes from humble background, give him some spa e to share his experiences… Show your liberal mind a d be accepting of him… Sorry, that he does not fit the bill of your typical elite Gandhis, but more respect to a self earned self made person that any of those you promote. And you need to catch up with changing times… Still that old biased tone. Showing one sided meme… Shame!

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