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The ‘apolitical’ interview between PM Modi & Akshay Kumar was more than just about mangoes

Anyone who believes there can be an ‘apolitical’ interview with the PM right in the middle of Lok Sabha elections knows nothing about Modi.

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Here’s a question you have always longed to but been too scared to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Do you eat mangoes?

Actor Akshay Kumar has now asked it for you – and for his driver’s daughter who, he said, actually wanted an answer to that question. For her and those of you who missed ‘#ModiWithAkshay’ or ‘PM Modi Unplugged’ Wednesday, here’s his reply: Yes.

The leader of the world’s largest democracy met India’s highest and the world’s seventh-highest paid actor (2017, Forbes) for a ‘mann ki baat’ (ABP) in what Times Now called, an ‘apolitical interview’ with the ‘human being’ Narendra Modi, and not the prime minister Narendra Modi.

Anyone who believes there can be an ‘apolitical’ interview with the prime minister right in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections – or at any other time for that matter – knows nothing about Modi and should watch this interview to understand that for him, everything is political.

Also read: Modi says Mamata sends him kurta & he has friends in opposition in interview to Akshay Kumar

Desh ko parivar bana diya” is not a personal testament, it’s a political statement, just as this personalised interview was an attempt to humanise the image of a stern ‘strict’ administrator as the reel-life Padman called Modi.

Back to the interview: Kumar’s questions and reactions were suffused with child-like wonder – indeed, a school child could have asked the questions he did: Do you get angry? Did you ever think you would be PM? Is your sense of humour intact? How do you manage with 3-4 hours of sleep?

And if Kumar doesn’t deserve to join the BJP and get a Lok Sabha ticket after his rich tribute to PM Modi – ‘You are a lovely person’—then nobody else does either.

Courtesy Kumar’s powers of interrogation, we learnt that Modi didn’t typically lose his temper but when angered, hid it well; that he has a sense of humour, illustrated by the joke he recounted and the number of times he laughed out loud during the interaction.

Modi also revealed that he had ambitions to join the Army and take ‘sanyas’; that he wasn’t close to his mother, led a “detached” life, gave up most of his worldly belongings, didn’t possess a bank account until he became an MLA, but possessed friends in the opposition – Mamata di gifted him kurtas –made do with 3-4 hours of sleep, and liked his cuppa chai at 5 am and 6 pm, under the open sky.

Oh, and former US president Barack Obama and he were so friendly they addressed each other as “tu” — how did they do that in English?

The 90-odd minute chat took place at Modi’s residence, 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, where the tête-à-two began on the verandah and then shifted to the resplendent lawn for a tea for two. It was shot in true cinematic style – long overhead shots, dreamy soft focus shots through overarching trees, flowers in the foreground with the men at the centre, sipping tea.

Also read: Narendra Modi interview no exception. Indian media rarely asks PMs tough questions

This is the second time in less than a week that Modi has been portrayed as an affable host. Times Now (now Times Now World), was also invited to a garden tea party with him although the conversation then was strictly and openly political.

Note that the Kumar interview is the second one given to an independent entity and not to a specific news channel or media house. This allows it to be telecast across news channels, like the ANI interview of 1 January, with access to a much wider, national audience.

While PM Modi’s media strategy is impeccable, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s is virtually non-existent – as the challenger, he ought to splurge on more screen time and projected himself as an alternative. His failure to appear in any interview suggests very poor media management. Is he running shy, or what?

The BJP’s Pragya Thakur is certainly not camera shy and since her nomination last week for the Bhopal constituency against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, she has enjoyed as much screen time as Modi – well, almost. The media is fascinated and repelled in equal measure by her and her remarks on police officer Hemant Karkare’s death (India Today), Babri Masjid or anything else so long as it gives them TRPs.

So much so that even when one of the “world’s deadliest terror attacks” (The New York Times) took place in Sri Lanka, Sunday, TV news remained by her side and hung onto her every word.

Perhaps just as well. The coverage on CNN International was hardly enlightening. A CNN anchor asked the Delhi correspondent to explain why Christians, who were attacked “around the world” were the victims in Sri Lanka. He replied, “There is no straightforward answer… that is what everyone is asking”.

Also read: India sent 3 alerts to warn Sri Lanka ahead Easter Sunday attack

WION was the first to have first-hand accounts from the ground. Its correspondent in Colombo, Monday, when another blast was heard, waxed excitable and full of foreboding: “It’s quite tense here, quite dramatic here… the situation is deteriorating fast…it is tense and can be very dangerous also…”

NDTV 24×7 also sent out a reporter to the troubled island nation and even carried an interview with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The other channels didn’t seem to care much in spite of 10 Indians dying in the terrorist attacks.

And finally, IPL: Am I alone in thinking that after a decade, the tournament has made hitting – and watching – a sixer commonplace? Now each time MS Dhoni, Andre Russell or Rishabh Pant twitch their bats, we expect the maximum from them – if they hit four, we want to hit them for a six.

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  1. It was indeed a apolitical political interview. It was not about “Aam” Aadmi/Mahila, but the real Aam which poor people is a luxury. As for as sleep, I have not seen any actor interviewing poor people who spend sleepless nights about next days roji roti or when Musquitoes dont allow such people or those in footpath whom police don’t allow to sleep. All answers from Modi are in public domain and Akki has framed questions using them. As for as Simmi Grewal interview they didn’t happen in the midst of election. Let BJP stop hypocrisy.

  2. So what if it has some political aims…who is stopping others to do the same….the point is who will watch such attempts by others

  3. I love reading your articles, Shailaja Ma’am, for the wit, wordplay, underlying humour …… you are extraordinary. But please don’t get too predictable with respect to your talent. I mean do train your guns on the non-BJP players too. Your allusion to Rahul Gandhi stopped way short of remembering what a mess he made in his interview with Arnab Goswami in 2014 and later with Javed Ansari. He has had greatness thrust on him.

  4. It was a very innovative way of reaching out to aam aadmi, and some of the things he stated are facts. For example: (1) his rise to the position of country’s CEO is purely based on competition and merit. None of these dynastic scions can take that from him; (2) he is a relentless worker; (3) his life is much more transparent than Rahul Gandhi’s life; and (4) he brings a huge amount of administrative experience, which many in opposition cannot boast of (I don’t even want to mention the brother-sister duo who are just having a good time because of their last name).

  5. You people find hard to accept a genuine individual. What you know about Modiji to reach at the conclusion… please share some facts and logic

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