First of all, let me be very clear. I am not a Gandhian. But yes, he is the father of the nation, now that whole world has already accepted him, to be, it is pointless to go on with this discussion, as the socio political system has since changed, and the regression today, is the result of a beginning of an economy that fumbled then. All in all, we had a poor start, but then, at-least we had one, and it may take some time, by the time we are really strong on our feet. Other countries took a long time as well. It’s just that their struggle started quite early when compared to ours.
But this is not a column where I criticize our socio-economic-political situation, or Gandhi’s deeds. For that others, more knowledgeable, are there, and that topic is not the concern of our website too. It’s just that I can’t deny my faith, but yes, Mahatma over the years, irrespective of whatever great or not he’s done in the past, has been, undeniably, a good subject, as far as cinema is concerned.
Today on your channels and TVs, you might find the usual suspects, Lage Raho Munnabhai or the very fine Shyam Benegal version of Making of Mahatma or Richard Attenborough’s epic-ensemble masterpiece Gandhi. One TV channel might be broadcasting “Hey Ram”, using its controversial nature for TRP, watch it though, it’s a very good, dogmatic, film, but there are 2, relatively less popular, more cinematic, and finer films and unlike “Making of Mahatma” or “Gandhi”, they are not biographical movies, but filmed around Mahatma Gandhi.
When Gandhi, My Father begins, we see an old man, bearded, lying down on a bed, who is very weak and sick, and the attendant asks him his father’s name, he says, “Gandhi”, but the attendant just can’t take this revelation seriously. We, as audience, know that the guy on bed is Harilal Gandhi, played brilliantly by Akshaye Khanna. Gandhi, My Father as a film doesn’t try to capture anything that other film makers usually do. It doesn’t bombard production values upon us, being a period film, or the hardships of the people living then, it doesn’t intend to become poverty porn, neither it takes sympathetic sides for the hero, or may be it does? It simply asks a question, was Father of the nation, a flawed father first of all? Or, his ambitions interfered in his son’s? Or Hari was just being too naïve, he should have supported his father in his intentions, and that he did too intermittently. But he just couldn’t suppress his urge, of being an independent personality, was it more than what he should have asked for? Or was it that his surname crippled his intentions, had he been outside the Gandhi family, would he be a happier person? Or was the guidance given to him, as a child, imperfect in the first place? This film dwells around those questions; it is like a saying in Hindi Raees Baap ki Bigdi Aulaad, and those brothers of him, who couldn’t establish themselves, joined family business, as they say.
This film focuses, on decisions, that Hari takes, wrong, mostly, and keeps fluctuating amongst them. Cinematically, the whole disparity, ambition, disappointment behind the man, who wonders why every attempt he makes to become a man on his own backlashes, is captured on celluloid. He sees his failure and helplessness, and all his father could understand is his own ambition. His parents are traveling in a train, it is stopped to address the crowd; he brings a fruit upto them, and gifts it to his mother, clearly telling his father there is nothing for him, while his own financial situation is poorer than ever. It is shown that Hari was, indeed, arrogant at times, at times wrong and indecisive, but very minimal support he finds from his deserting father. In one scene, when Mahatma is assassinated, Hari is at a tea shop, upon the announcement, the tea shop owner mourns Gandhi’s death and declares he is an orphan, camera focuses on Hari’s face, he doesn’t say anything. Maybe, his situation, as such, was Gandhi’s sacrifice for the nation or Hari’s lack of dedication, but all it ends with, is, disparity and loss.
Another, lesser popular, and a very fine film, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara tries to show us the sadness of a sick old man, who thinks he killed mahatma Gandhi, and tells us that we all have already killed Gandhi by disrespecting his morals and the principles upon which he intended to build his nation. This film shows the weakness of an old man struggling Alzheimer’s, a family trying to persuade him that no one will hurt him and that he is not responsible for Mahatma’s death, by virtually conducting a fake court case in which he is respectfully acquitted of Gandhi’s murder. The old man, collates an event from child-hood, his sickness adds up to it, and he dreams of people from his past coming to him and blaming him for Gandhi’s murder.
Anupam Kher, full of disappointment and sadness, all that he can remember is he is blamed for being the assassin. Throughout the film he is scared, people around him are unsure, what he is seeing or what he is afraid of, but he is afraid, when the fake court hearings begin, he gains confidence as fake evidence consoles him of being clear of the charge. His daughter, ready to do anything for her father, loses marriage in between, yet, the film ends with Nirala’s Himmat Karne Walon Ki Har Nahi Hoti, telling us, that the story is, not only Kher’s but also Urmila’s who is just trying to live, happily, as most of us, intend to, and this life is a plethora of problems, we just have to hang on till the end. The modest part of this film is, at no point of time, makers try to be preachy, they simply tend to talk about the right, and with efficient economy, they very subtly let us know what we might be seeing or thinking, that is right, maybe it is not.