India's Election Commission Stalls Release of Upcoming Biopic on Prime Minister

Narendra Modi - Getty - H 2019
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

'PM Narendra Modi' was scheduled to open this week timed with India's elections, but ran into trouble when the opposition Congress party demanded its release be stalled until after the elections.

The release of a biopic about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been stalled by the country's Election Commission.

The film, entitled PM Narendra Modi, stars Bollywood actor Vivek Anand Oberoi in the titular role and follows his journey from his formative years as a tea seller to becoming chief minister of his home state of Gujarat and ultimately, prime minister when he led the BJP to a landslide victory in the 2014 elections.

Directed by Omung Kumar, whose credits include 2014 sports biopic Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra as India's champion female boxer, the film was scheduled to open Friday, a day ahead of the general elections. It ran into controversy soon after its trailer bowed a couple weeks ago when the opposition Congress party objected to it being a propaganda tool for Modi and the BJP, who are seeking a second term.

The Congress had also filed an appeal in the Supreme Court asking that its release be stalled until after the elections, stating that the film was designed to "manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters". But the court overruled the appeal Tuesday stating that the final decision on its release should be decided by the Election Commission.

On Wednesday, the commission stated in its ruling that "any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph," explaining that this would be a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

The commission's decision came just a day after the Censor Board had cleared the film for release. Its not immediately clear when the film will now hit theatres and whether its overseas release will be affected.

India's elections will run from Apr. 11- May 19, while final results will be declared on May 23.