Screenwriter, director: Subhash Kapoor
Starring: Richa Chada, Saurab Shukla, Manav Kaul, Akshay Oberoi,
Editor: Chandrashehar Prajapati
Operator: Jayesh Nair
Producer: Naren Kumar, Dimple Harbanda, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar
She has steel nerves and iron villains – Tara Rup Kumar (Richa Chadda in the opening credits, Richa Chaddha in the closing credits, Richa Chadha in Twitter). Madam Chief Minister traces her journey, from falling in love to the rigid, gelokos, upper caste Indramani Tripati (Akshay Oberoi) to become the first fiery lower caste, the female chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
The first and the second are related – after Tara was harassed, beaten and kicked in the stomach (while pregnant with Indramani’s child) by Indramani’s popcorn, she was accepted and raised for empowerment by Master Surajbhan (Saurab Shukla). It is believed that the child died with a kick in the stomach, but neither this nor its mental consequences are even so hinted. Master-ji directs his desire for revenge to the pursuit of political power. Now she seeks to work for the lower castes, the Dalits, who in this film are determined by their absence – their inability to enter temples, share meals and mix, all of which find scenes in this two-hour fare.
This is a very interesting premise, which is best captured by Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics, “Chidi chidi toh uddi uddi.” Being a lower caste means being in a constant state of provocation; the desire for power, prestige and popularity – to strike, to fly – does not come from any desire for “self-actualization”, but as a coping mechanism to keep provocateurs at bay. But the interesting room is fragmented piece by piece. First, because of the impossibility of creating a compelling political drama – the rise of Tara to power, from literally no one to the chief minister of India’s most populous country, is a mere montage. Her mobilization, her victory, her ability to overcome internal dissidents and external enemies is so snapping in her treatment, without any tension, any accumulation, and therefore without any expectation. The election speeches she gives have the charisma of forming cookies, which Chad can snatch with overly rehearsed hand gestures. I see her remember the pattern, first, the index finger of her left hand, then her right hand slid into the air. But electric charisma can never be rehearsed. It must be embodied and is seriously missing here.
The greater inability is to deal with social problems with a waving informality. When it was first released, the poster, with Chada holding a broom, received a lot of flakes. In our Talk Trailer, we wrote, “Many also noted that while using the instantly recognizable hairstyle of Mayavati, Dalit’s first female chief minister, she felt her education, preferring to use … iconography [of brooms and dirt] to make the easier, sensational connection with the Dalits. “
Glad to introduce you all, my new movie #MadamChiefMinister, a political drama about the “untouchable” who moves and makes him great in life! It hits theaters on January 22! Stay on the line! pic.twitter.com/7dXDY1KRIX
– TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) January 4, 2021
Chadha apologized and a new poster was released, even when the old one remained in their social media accounts. There is no broom scene in the film, perhaps littered with the noise. Instead, the association with the caste is entirely problem-based. The first mention of this occurs in the first scene, when the bridegroom of the lower caste is on top of a horse traveling through the upper pit of the caste; shooting followed. (The same setting was used in Aashram, though more effectively, creating in the viewer a substitute for anger and sorrow.) Then comes a caste like a pulpit, during scenes of closing, after marriage, then entrance to the temple. Soon between these scenes, the film is embroiled in political maneuvers, assassination attempts, murder and betrayal.
A way of perceiving identity, although flattened, can be effective if done well. There is no such experience here. Caste seems like violence that you can withdraw from at will, something that can be withheld from power. In this way, the intoxicating cocktail of patriarchy and casteism does not feel so impressive or threatening to Tara, who goes around with monologues. There are quiet references to Mayawati, but not much else – the gold, the incident at the Guest House, Kanshi Ram’s mentorship, the haircut, the line “Tilak tarazu aur talwar, Inko maaro joote chaar” that Mayavati used in her speeches. As a result, there are no profound or nuanced consequences.
There is a conversation about representation that happens with a piercing indifference to the people that the mainstream seeks to represent. As if the story of the lower caste is just like the story of the upper caste, but with characters from the lower caste. That a strange love story is like an ordinary love story, but with strange characters. The problem here is the assumption: that the only thing that distinguishes the lower caste from the upper caste is the caste, which is now considered a label, not a culture. This film and the surrounding story seem to come from such a narrow perspective. Good intention, narrow point of view.