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Pankaj Tripathi Shines as Atal Bihari Vajpayee in ‘Main Atal Hoon’ Despite Oversimplified Biopic Challenges

 Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi

Pankaj Tripathi’s Enthralling Portrayal Elevates a Sincere Yet Flawed Biopic

“Apni aadhi aankhen band karke, jab woh puri baat bolte the, toh saat samandar paar har koi sunta tha.” This poignant line from the opening scenes of “Main Atal Hoon,” a biopic on India’s 10th prime minister, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, encapsulates the essence of why his remarkable life and political journey deserve cinematic exploration. While the film, starring Pankaj Tripathi in the titular role and directed by National Award-winning filmmaker Ravi Jadhav, earnestly endeavors to showcase Atal’s multifaceted journey, it is ultimately Tripathi’s stellar performance that stands out amidst the challenges of an oversimplified and inconsistent narrative.

Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi

The film traces Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s life from his formative years, marked by a passion for poetry, through his academic pursuits in law, editorial roles in newspapers, involvement in the freedom struggle, and eventual entry into politics. Pankaj Tripathi’s portrayal brings Atal’s legacy to life on the big screen with a remarkable blend of conviction and confidence. The actor’s pitch-perfect performance breathes authenticity into the character, offering a sincere homage to Atal’s illustrious career.

Director Ravi Jadhav, in collaboration with co-writer Rishi Virmani, crafts an elaborate build-up of Atal’s journey, providing insight into his personality and ideals. The film skillfully portrays Atal’s nuanced traits, such as his calmness and aggression, idealism, and unwavering commitment to India’s interests. However, the narrative falters in the second half, feeling rushed and inconsistent, particularly towards the conclusion. Despite these shortcomings, the film succeeds in showcasing key historical events that shaped Atal’s political career.

 Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi

The storytelling, while lacking in pace and impact, refrains from chest-thumping patriotism or biased political narratives. It adheres to a sincere representation of Atal’s life across decades, portraying events such as Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the Kashmir attack in 1953, the wars with China and Pakistan, and the Emergency in 1975. This commitment to historical accuracy, however, results in a somewhat slow-paced narrative that struggles to evoke emotional resonance.

“Main Atal Hoon” transforms into a historical documentary at times, weaving in major events that acted as catalysts in Atal’s career. While essential for context, this approach occasionally hampers the film’s pace, preventing the narrative from forming a deep emotional connection with the audience. The second half, dedicated to the formation of the Bhartiya Janata Party and pivotal moments like India’s nuclear tests, the Delhi-Pakistan bus ride, and the Kargil War, feels like a montage lacking contextual depth.


Despite these flaws, Pankaj Tripathi’s unwavering performance sustains the film’s appeal. As Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Tripathi captures the essence of the late Prime Minister with meticulous detail. His physical resemblance to Atal is complemented by nuanced expressions, hand movements during speeches, and captivating eyes and smiles. Tripathi’s delivery of a speech in Ramleela Maidan during a downpour stands out as a beautifully written and skillfully shot sequence.

The supporting cast, including Piyush Mishra as Krishna Bihari Vajpayee (Atal’s father), Raja Rameshkumar Sevak as LK Advani, and Gauri Sukhtankar as Sushma Swaraj, contributes admirably. The father-son scenes between Piyush Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi are particularly endearing and add depth to the narrative.

Visually, the film excels with silhouette shots of Atal, Jawahar Lal Nehru, and Indira Gandhi, providing a visual treat. The integration of black-and-white archival footage enhances the film’s authenticity. Monty Sharma’s well-placed background score elevates the viewing experience.

“Main Atal Hoon” emerges as an earnest and humble effort to showcase Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s journey and tell his story. While the film grapples with pacing issues, a lack of emotional impact, and oversimplified storytelling, Pankaj Tripathi’s powerhouse performance remains the standout element. The film, despite its flaws, serves as a commendable attempt to celebrate the life of a political stalwart, and Tripathi’s portrayal ensures that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s legacy shines through.

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