The Man Behind the Modi Mask


The Man Behind the Modi Mask

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré


f you’ve seen the movie Iron Man 3, chances are you’ll remember Mandarin. In this installment, Mandarin is built up as a terrifying arch-villain, worthy of the mighty Tony Stark, our swish, jet-setting hero who goes around smashing walls and cracking wise. The idea of Mandarin, a Middle-Eastern terrorist, is built up convincingly through the movie – he is frightening, chillingly efficient, and capable of world domination. So when Mandarin turns out to be Trevor Slattery, an 70-year-old, immoral, drunk buffoon (essayed delightfully by Ben Kingsley), the mask slips and Tony Stark is left clueless about the identity of the real puppeteer – devious, incognito behind the scenes.

The mask found a mention in Indian politics back in 1995. A political storm erupted after BJP’s own Govindacharya referred to Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the “mukhota”, when the latter was being packaged as the prime ministerial nominee. The former ideologue accused Vajpayee of being nothing but an acceptable mask to woo the masses, while L K Advani actually ran the show. Govindacharya, I believe, was mistaken.