Amid the surrounding controversy over his upcoming film, actor Anupam Kher on Friday said that The Accidental Prime Minister is his "life's best performance" and that the film should be seen as a creative endeavour and not an attempt to support a political party.
The actor said playing former prime minister Manmohan Singh is the most challenging role of his career and he was initially reluctant to take up the project as he was aware it will land into controversies.
"I felt that it is a very powerful story of modern India's political decade and I'm getting a chance to be a part of it as an actor. I am someone who has always reinvented himself as an actor," Kher said here at a press conference, which he had called after Maharashtra Youth Congress asked for a screening of the film prior to its release, a demand they later withdrew.
When informed that Maharashtra Youth Congress had withdrawn its demand, the actor said, "It is good if they have changed the thought process. It is fantastic. It is a great sign of maturity."
Kher dismissed that the film is his way of supporting the BJP.
"I have done 515 films, there are not even as many political parties. If I have to support a party I can do it on any platform. I will not try to make a film for that," he said.
Earlier in the day, Kher had tweeted that he was not going to "back off" due to the controversy.
"I am not going to back off. This is my life’s best performance. Dr Manmohan Singh will agree after seeing the film that it is a 100 per cent accurate depiction," he tweeted.
The trailer of the film, based on the book of the same name by Sanjay Baru who served as Singh's media advisor 2004 to 2008, was released on Thursday.
It depicts Singh as a victim of Congress' internal politics ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The trailer drew sharp reactions from the Congress, which dubbed it a "propaganda film", but Kher said it was a bold attempt to look at real events through the medium of the biopic for the first time in India.
"For the first time in independent India, we made a revolutionary film on real people with real names...This is the age of biopics; why can't we make a film on what happens inside the PMO."
Citing the example of Oscar-winning actors such as Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep, the actor said they have received appreciation for playing political figures, "Then why is my work not seen as art?... It is the most difficult role of career. I researched for six-seven months before taking up the role."
Kher had earlier referred to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's recent statement that freedom of expression is a fundamental right. This was in response to a party leader objecting to the language used to describe his father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the Netflix series "Sacred Games".
In the press conference Kher retiterated his earlier comments saying, "We talk about freedom of expression, but when we practice our right, people try to curb it. Cinema has to move on, we have to move on with maturity and allow people to make films. Why can't we make a film on politics?"
On Thursday, the controversy began after BJP's official Twitter handle shared the link to the trailer of the film.
"Riveting tale of how a family held the country to ransom for 10 long years. Was Dr Singh just a regent who was holding on to the PM's chair till the time heir was ready? Watch the official trailer of 'TheAccidentalPrimeMinister', based on an insider's account, releasing on 11 January," the party said.
Responding to the BJP, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter that "such fake propaganda" by the party would not stop it from asking the Modi government questions on "rural distress, rampant unemployment, demonetisation disaster, flawed GST, failed Modinomics, all pervading corruption”.
Singh evaded questions on the film at the Congress' foundation day function at the party headquarters on Friday.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also tweeted on the film, saying, "Can’t wait for when they make The Insensitive Prime Minister. So much worse than being the accidental one."
Directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, the film stars Kher as Manmohan Singh and Akshaye Khanna as Baru.