With his non-political interview to Akshay Kumar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proved that when it comes to PR outreach he is way ahead of any other politician.
Just look at the optics – the interview recorded and distributed by ANI was aired by every news channel on Wednesday morning. Namo TV actually did not show it. There was no need as all other channels were beaming it simultaneously not want to be left out. After all who would not like to peek beneath the skin of a leader known for his tough exterior?
While Modi had given other TV interviews - from favourite channels to no so favourite ones (ABP News) - today’s interview had a new dimension in that it also had another star - Akshay Kumar, which sent the TRPs sky high even during a morning telecast. And the coming together of the “Padman” with the “Broom Man” (Modi) had people watching more out of curiosity, wondering what new nuggets the action king of Bollywood would be able to ferret out of India’s most communicative politician. And Akshay did commendably engaging Modi in a friendly banter, keeping him relaxed and let him unwind before the camera.
We have heard of many things before from Modi himself – his language skills picked up as a tea seller, all his personal belongings could fit into one suitcase and shortening his long kurtas to save on packing space. And yet Akshay Kumar was able to get the BJP strongman to share some little know secrets – like his personal friendship with political rivals.
So it did come as a surprise that Mamata Banerjee, who is probably his most bitter critic in the Opposition camp, sends him two new personally selected kurtas along with sweets every year. Here is Modi, who described Mamata as a “speed breaker” the other day, fondly recalling the kurtas and sweets she would send him. Do not miss the political message in this as well – he was trying to be the large-hearted big brother who does not shy away from acknowledging the little gestures of an otherwise petulant younger ‘didi’ who usually bad mouthed him. Now it is up to Mamata on how to respond to that friendly jab.
Modi had no hesitation saying that Ghulam Nabi Azad had once told reporters that they would not be able to gauge their friendship as they belonged to one family. “This might even cost me the elections but there is no need to hide the fact that we share a personal bond with some of our rivals too,” Modi quipped.
The interview also had Modi talking about him enjoying his own private time and private space by sipping tea under open skies, wanting to sleep more and insisting that he was not a strict disciplinarian but only a workaholic who refused to take his job lightly.
But the lighter side of the leader was brought out subtly by Akshay who showed him a selection of memes on Modi and asked how he reacted to them. Modi admitted that he actually enjoyed the trolls and memes on him, and even had Akshay squirming by pointing out how he even followed his wife Twinkle Khanna’s comments on Modi. “The way she targets me, there should be peace in your family since all her anger would have been exhausted on me,” chuckles Modi and Akshay could only grin long sheepishly. More importantly the PM was seen admiring the creativity shown by the common man while creating such memes.
The interview was a brilliant PR job unpeeling the emotional, lighter and human side of Modi in contrast to the tough talking leader the nation is accustomed to. It was also his gentle riposte to his critics who are dubbing him “Chor”. But Modi let the world know that not only can he soak up any punches thrown at him, he can also keep smiling.