Akshay Kumar realises a Modi interview can’t be apolitical

Both positive and negative reactions to the Narendra Modi interview with Akshay Kumar suggest this could never have been an apolitical exercise

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New Delhi: Actor Akshay Kumar is said to have engaged in a ‘non-political’, candid conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning. The 51-year-old actor began the conversation by asking the prime minister what he does during the day besides his responsibilities, his love for mangoes and his sleep schedule.

The entire conversation was streamed by ANI. Akshay interacted with the prime minister Modi at the official residence of the latter on Lok Kalyan Marg.

Akshay begins

A day before releasing the conversation, the 51-year-old actor shared a few snippets and tweeted, “While the whole country is talking elections and politics, here’s a breather. Privileged to have done this candid and COMPLETELY NON POLITICAL freewheeling conversation with our PM @narendramodi.”

But even the negative reactions to the interview suggest this could never have been an interview with 100% apolitical content. The prime minister in the tweet above can be heard as saying, “Main zindagi ki bahut chhoti aayu men sab kuchh chhod chuka hoon (I left everything (my family) at quite a tender age.” While this appealed to the countrymen who look up to spirituality with awe, it disturbed those who thought it was a bad idea to leave one’s family. And when the prime minister of the country is promoting the idea, it is bound to have repercussions on society. Here is a respondent who thought this was “surrogate advertising”.

The detractors were unsparing even for the light-hearted talk on mangoes and Gujaratis. A respondent thought Akshay Kumar was too frivolous to get a chance to interview the prime minister. She said Akshay’s wife Twinkle would have been a better choice.

Akshay doubts Modi is a Gujarati

“When I used to sell tea, I met a lot of people and got to learn about human nature. Luggage trains used to pass through my village. In the train, there would be people who transport cows and buffaloes. They had to spend three or four days at the station. I used to deliver tea to them and listen to the songs they brought along with them. So that’s how I got fluent in speaking Hindi,” the prime minister said as Akshay Kumar had, in this context and that of money, doubted Modi was a Gujarati.

How the PM manages with so little sleep

The actor Akshay, being a fitness freak, urged the prime minister during the part of the interview held on the lawns of the Lok Kalyan Marg residence of Modi that the body needed some more rest than what the PM gives it.

The prime minister said even Barack Obama was concerned about this. Modi said that, during the second meeting of the duo, Obama inquired whether Modi had increased the amount of sleep.

In the responses that the interview on news agency ANI has generated, there is a mix of approvals and disapprovals by the audience, with the approvers leading by a huge margin, of course.

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Why a politician’s interview can never be apolitical

Editor’s view

One may recall the promotion of Rahul Gandhi before the 2009 general election by a section of the media. Whether it was showing him travelling for a brief while by a Mumbai local train or whether it was the attempt last year to talk about his pet dog Pidi, these are attempts by politicians to project a soft, familial image of theirs, which endear to a large section of the people. In the United States where the institution of marriage is believed to be threatened, presidential candidates parade their families in public view to show they are stable on the home front.

In India, as seen since 2014, a dharmic section of voters has surfaced that is assertive in its expressions. When Modi was attacked for ‘abandoning’ his family, that section came up in his support, citing examples of sannyasa of Lord Rama, the Buddha, Adi Shankara and others who had prioritised the state or society over their respective families. At the same time, the detractors of Modi would be unnerved by this support. A negative reaction to everything from mango to hours of sleep is expected of them.