Mahatma v/s Gandhi (My Father)

“The greatest regret of my life…Two people I could never convince –My Muslim friend Mohammed Ali Jinnah and my own son Harilal Gandhi.”

This line summarizes portrayal of the troubled relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his eldest son, Harilal Gandhi in the film- Gandhi My Father. The film features Mahatma’s political accomplishments in the backdrop and his un-accomplishments as a father in the foreground.

The film revolves around Mahatma Gandhi’s relationships with his eldest son Harilal Gandhi, how Harilal first idolizes his father and wants to be a barrister like him and eventually all he has is resentment over the ‘father he couldn’t have’. How and why this happens, is for you to check out.

The movie is a thorough example of landmark cinema, a landmark in terms of substance, simplicity, story and performances. This is no Sepoy Mutiny or India’s Partition that you read about in your text books, or something that has been showed on the celluloid twice a year; it is about the Father of the Nation’s son, (in that respects a brother to us), whom we hardly know. The movie showcases an altogether new face of the Mahatma- him as a father and probably a husband too.Simplicity: The movie is discreet, rarely do you find a movie in the coming-of-age Bollywood with no songs to break the monotony of the film, and yes, no intense background scores complimetating (or not quite complimenting) dialogues and conversations. The vigor of the film lies in its dialogues, which don’t rely on fading scores but sheer power of the meaning they hold. Kudos to the debutant director Feroz Abbas Khan, who breaks ground emerging a true winner, adapting his own play Mahatma v/s Gandhi on the silver screen.

The movie, especially the first half contains doses of sarcastic humor, which definitely sets the mood for the latter. The film revolves around four major characters: Mahatma Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala), Harilal Gandhi (Akshay Khanna), his mother Kasturba (Shefali Shah) and Harilal’s wife Gulab (Bhumika Chawla). The two male protagonists definitely share the limelight in the screenplay, but all four characters walk away with accolades.Akshay Khanna delivers his career best performance, enacting the role of a celebrity son, a looser trader and then as the indisposed drunkard. Akshay plays the character with élan. He is definitely a strong contender for the Best Actor Award for 2007. Darshan Jariwala, whom we recently saw quarreling with Himesh Reshammiya in his musical flick, delivers a performance at par with Ben Kingley’s Oscar Winning portrayal of Gandhi in 1982, and perhaps even better as it is supported by the technical advancements in cinema over the 25 years that separate the two films. Shefali Shah is simple and diligently fits into the role of a responsible wife and a guilty mother. Bhumika Chawla, though in a small role, delivers her career best performance.

The movie has its share of flaws too. It probably needed more research to leave an ever-lasting impact. Scant reference is found of the Mahatma’s relationship with his other three sons. The film, though only, 2.25 hours, could have been trimmed by about 15 more minutes. This would have definitely saved a yawn or two towards the beginning of the second hour.

Despite the shortcomings, the film is a landmark and must be watched by every Indian for their Mahatma, and for the sorrows, the pain and humaneness manifested in the film. It is not far from being marked tax-free to reach the masses and further as being chosen India’s official entry to the Oscars!

Sahil Chaudhry

Gurgaon, India