5 Thoughts I Had About The ‘Madam Chief Minister’ Trailer: Richa Chadha Film Comes With A Lot Of Problematic Baggage.
Gone are the days when you could view art, especially cinematic art, minus the socio-political context. I mean, I don’t think you ever could, really, but God knows, we tried to keep our eyes closed. But now, with social media prying those eyes open and making us look, there’s nowhere to escape. Good, I think, because it’ll only help refine our films and shows, which finally look like they’re ready to catch up with the global standards. And it’s precisely because of this that the Subhash Kapoor’s Madam Chief Minister, starring Richa Chadha as a Dalit woman who becomes a Chief Minister, is a film that cannot be viewed separate from the controversies that it is mired in. The trailer for the political drama dropped today. It also stars Manav Kaul, Akshay Oberoi and Saurabh Shukla, amongst others, and is loosely based on the life of former Uttar Pradesh CM, Mayawati.
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Madam Chief Minister is already courting backlash on social media for multiple reasons. For starters Richa Chadha’s casting in the role of a Dalit woman has not been well received. Understandable, because we are an industry that neither casts Dalit actors for Dalit characters nor transgender actors in trans roles. The other problem is with the film’s poster, which shows Chadha holding a broom, with the tagline ‘Untouchable, Unstoppable’. Both these things have led people to call out the appropriation, so evidently Savarna in its nature.
Wake me up when this entertainment industry allows dalit actors in major roles.
— Bamponthi (@SickularIndian) January 4, 2021
I feel like there's a joke in here somewhere about how the US bombs countries and then makes movies about how their soldiers are depressed and stuff from killing people. somewhere there's a parallel here and it's bothersome that they dont see their oppressive lens.
— Sherina (@Sherinapoyyail) January 5, 2021
The recent poster of Madam Chief Minister makes me feel heartbroken once more. I lack words to talk about the deliberate reluctance of people to understand things. All so-called 'progressive' behaviour fails when it comes to how a Dalit is imagined in this country.
— Damni Kain (@DamniKain) January 5, 2021
Richa you need to take a step back and reflect on the valid criticism the movie poster is receiving. Really listen to what Dalit people are saying instead of getting defensive.
— Sanitary Panels (@sanitarypanels) January 5, 2021
And if that’s not all, I was reminded by a colleague about how the film’s director, Subhash Kapoor, had #MeToo allegations levelled against him by actress Geetika Tyagi, back in 2012. She reportedly filed a case against Kapoor in 2014, and he was arrested, produced in court and released on bail the same day. Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, who were producers for the Gulshan Kumar biopic, Mogul, directed by Kapoor, backed out of the film and then returned on board within a short span. And that’s that.
Also Read: Aamir Khan Is Going To Work With #MeToo Accused Subash Kapoor Because He Feels Guilty. Come On Aamir, What A Sorry Excuse!
So, clearly, you can see the metaphorical awkward silence surrounding a film about the empowerment of a female Dalit leader, casting an actress who is not a Dalit, and helmed by a director who was once upon a time, accused of molesting a woman.
With all that baggage weighing us down, we’ll still talk about the trailer we just saw, and unpack what the film has to offer. Here are five thoughts we had while watching the Madam Chief Minister trailer.
1. Richa Chadha will be putting forth a powerful performance again. And yet….
With some actors, it’s an unspoken promise that no matter how the film turns out to be, their performance is going to be top notch. And Richa Chadha definitely falls in that illustrious list of actors. In fact, recently she and Pankaj Tripathi (another actor on that list) were deemed to be the only solid things about Shakeela, an otherwise disappointing film. In Madam Chief Minister too, despite the controversy surrounding her casting, Chadha commands your attention wither her powerful performance, enough glimpses of which we catch in the trailer.
I still think casting a Dalit actor is the right way to go about this. And just as with Shakeela, my problem here with Richa Chadha’s casting is the utter lack of resemblance. She has the haircut, sure. But even if this is a loosely based biopic, the fact that you’re trying to bring in the Mayawati resemblance means you need to cast an actor who strikes some similarity, no? Forget looks, at least in background?
2. The dialogues are kaafi mainstream but I’d be happy if they manage to throw enough shade at our current political situation.
As an eternal connoisseur of OTT Hindi movie dialogues, I’m down if you want to pepper your political drama with masala, mainstream dialogues that elicit applause. After all, IRL politicians’ speeches are no different than fictional Bollywood movies now, are they? The film’s clearly massy and set in Uttar Pradesh, so expecting it to have the finesse that you’ll be seeing in heaps in, say, a Delhi-set Tandav is ridiculous. But what I do expect from MCM is oodles of shade throwing at Indian politics. I caught that ‘mandir’ wala dialogue, and I hope there’s more of that.
3. I’m eager to see how Madam Chief Minister depict India’s caste issues, juxtaposed with the politics.
Caste is going to be a huge theme here. Representation matters, but proper representation matters even more, not one done half-heartedly. Mayawati was the first female Scheduled Caste Chief Minister of India, and her appointment deemed a ‘miracle of democracy’ back then. So how the film handles the nuances of her journey is going to be a crucial thing to watch.
4. Trailer main hi poori picture dikhana zaroori hai kya?
Yaar, what is this behaviour? The trailer is 3 minutes long and it practically tells you everything there is to know about the movie’s plot. Not just this film though, this is a complaint I have with most movies that drop long-ass trailers, which leave nothing to imagination. Look here, guys. Your audience today is a champion at scrutiny and putting two and two together. So bad that when Marvel releases even a 30-second teaser, they have to CGI out elements from it, lest we figure out what is happening. Keep at least some of the mystery alive for when we watch the film, no?
Now you’ll probably release one more teaser before the film drops, and then what else is left to see, huh?
5. It’s going to be difficult to see Madam Chief Minister with a neutral mindset.
I know I keep coming back to this, but it is clearly a critical lens through which this film will be looked at. The themes that Madam Chief Minister caters to are burning hot in our political climate right now. So they will have an impact on how the film is perceived. Rest assured, credit will be given where credit is due for performances and technical skill. And we will reserve all judgement about those things for after the film. But the above filter will remain applied.
Madam Chief Minister will have a theatrical release on January 22, 2020.