Delighted laughter and loud applause broke out at the usually sombre United Nations building in New York during the screening of hit Bollywood film "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" that delivers Gandhi's homilies to the masses in everyday idiom.
During the screening of Rajkumar Hirani's film at the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium Friday, the members laughed and clapped at the adventures of Munna and Circuit, played by Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi respectively, as they go about realising the importance of Gandhi's teachings of non-violence and satyagraha in their own bumbling fashion.
The screening on Friday was the first ever of a full-length Hindi film at the UN.
Shashi Tharoor, UN under secretary general for Communications and Public Information, introduced the film. He appreciated its role in bringing Mahatma Gandhi back into the public consciousness.
In a humorous vein he recounted how he was intrigued by the term "Gandhigiri", used for Gandhism in the film, in the Indian media and tried to figure out what it meant.
Tharoor remembered an essay contest from his childhood about Gandhi, and how just a few years after the leader's death, the youth of the nation hardly seem to know anything about him. He wholeheartedly praised the film's efforts to reverse this disturbing trend.
A vibrant question and answer session followed with the director Rajkumar Hirani, writer Abhijat Joshi, and actor Boman Irani, who had specially flown in for the screening.
A member of the audience pointed out that although it was customary for the UN to screen world-class films dealing with issues of social justice, this was one film at the end of which one felt like shouting out "What a great movie!"
Another member, an economist, pointed out that the film epitomises what India has to offer to the world.
Boman spoke movingly about how the UN Charter is nothing but the language of Gandhi's heart.
Even after the long event, members wanted to continue the conversation with the writer, director and actor, and according to the secretary of the UN Film Society, it was a difficult task to usher out the enthralled audience.
An evening that had started with massive security arrangements in the sombre UN setting, concluded in a festive atmosphere in the lounge of the UN with diplomats from other tables joining in raising a toast for the film.