‘Abki baar, Modi sarkar’. Unlike the former ‘Silent Prime Minister’, the current PM surely has the gift of the gab. PM Narendra Modi knows, more than anyone else in this country, that communication is the key to success and he falls short of nothing to fully leverage it. He uses anything from quirky slogans to unique hashtags to get his word out and seems to have caught the pulse of the nation, especially the youth. That he was a great orator didn’t just win him the election with a massive majority, it’s also what he has banked on to continue his dialogue with the nation. Even after he claimed the throne, Modi sarkar made rigorous efforts to stay connected on a one on one basis with the public. The outcome of this connection culminated was a monthly radio show titled ‘Mann Ki Baat’. One that had the Prime Minister addressing the concerns of the people on a medium that was sure to reach the masses. An idea that was unheard of until 2014.
Mann Ki Baat airs once a month and has the Prime Minister acknowledging the grievances shared by the aam junta. But what is the process behind the show? How is a concern narrowed down for discussion? How does a busy PM tune into the difficulties of the common man? A former producer of the show spoke to us, on the condition of anonymity, about the many layers and the behind-the-scenes of this very popular radio show.
Mann Ki Baat isn’t just a show that gives the PM to talk about his, well, Mann ki Baat. A dedicated team of about 15 employees are hard at work, producing every episode of the show the PM uses to address the nation. More than three lakh calls and days of rigorous research go into ideating a single episode of Mann Ki Baat. The producer reveals that every producer is assigned 3000 calls per day. These are calls made by the common people who express their distress and thoughts that can eventually make it to the show. Of the three lakh calls that are scanned, the team eventually narrows down to one topic for discussion when the show airs.
With Mann ki Baat, the PM’s team tries to address problems that are usually ignored. People are encouraged to call in with suggestions. However, there were times that the prank callers attacked. People who didn't quite believe that their voice was being heard. That this was a program that actually intended to connect the common man to the Prime Minister. The team would receive calls only to be left on hold and some were even calls by children who would recite poems. But not all were amusing as a few calls even made lewd remarks at women. Prank or not, every call was attended to. One way to differentiate between the prankster and a genuine caller was to look at the call duration. Anything above 30 seconds was accepted as legit. Didn't always work but did help curb the prank call menace. The calls were then divided among the members of the team. Everyone was assigned 3000 calls a day. Calls between 30 seconds to 3 minutes were attended to.
Further elaborating on the process, the source stated that the research went on for almost one week, after which the scripting process began. Two weeks are dedicated to scripting the episode. The fourth week is reserved for making any last-minute editing to the script, in case of any. A writer from the PMO works in-sync with the research team to help script the final draft of the talk show. The script then reaches the Prime Minister's table for his inputs. After going through layers of scrutiny, a single episode is recorded and broadcast to the masses.
Production calculations throw up astounding numbers. The 15-member team attends to over three lakh calls for one single episode, with most calls coming in from the North. So in case you called, made a suggestion and are disappointed that it never made it to the show, don’t be. There are three lakh other citizens who have made the attempt too. The production team, however, does more than just answer calls. They move away from their ringing phones and head to rural India. Team members mapped remote locations in regional India in an attempt to understand the problems faced by the people. They tune their ears to the people as they raise concerns over irrigation and electricity, displacement, education and even domestic violence. Every voice is relevant.
Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ isn’t just about what’s on his mind. In fact, it isn’t at all what’s on his mind. It’s, in actuality, the pulse of the nation. It all begins with one call, and takes shape at the producers’ very busy desks. It’s the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of the people, by a few people.