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In the name of the father

Shoma A. Chatterji, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network
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View Gandhi My Father Movie StillsAnil Kapoor’s foray into production is marked by GANDHI, MY FATHER, a departure from the usual celluloid homage to Mahatma Gandhi. So is Mahatma Gandhi the latest flavour in Bollywood? With many current and recent past films having Gandhi as an icon, one wonders

When Richard Attenborough made Gandhi many years ago, no one in his or her wildest imagination would have thought of Gandhi as a good bet for success in Bollywood. But times have changed and so have the average Indian filmmaker’s perceptions about Indian history. Gandhi seems to be omnipresent in many recent Indian films in terms of ideology, metaphor and essence if not in terms of physical presence.

Actor Anil Kapoor’s foray into production is marked by a departure from the usual celluloid homage to Mahatma Gandhi. His soon-to-be-released GANDHI, MY FATHER, presents Gandhi mainly as the father of his children. It is a point-of-view narration by Harilal Gandhi, his eldest offspring, who died, unwept and unsung, alone and unattended to, at Mumbai’s Sion Hospital a few months after his father’s assassination. Anil Kapoor Films Company and Eros International have jointly produced GANDHI, MY FATHER.

Feroz Abbas Khan, who directed the notable theatre production along the same theme under the title Mahatma v/s Gandhi, has written and directed this film. The New York Times called it ‘The finest English Play to emerge from India in a long time.’

Mutations have been strong among the contemporary Indian audience as well where a film like MURDER rubs shoulders with one of the biggest hits in recent years, LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI where Gandhi appears as a motivational ghost in front of the atypical hero Munnabhai. Shyam Benegal made a historical film on the early years of Mahatma Gandhi called THE MAKING OF THE MAHATMA (1995). The film essayed a strong portrayal of Gandhi’s wife Kasturba (Pallavi Joshi). Benegal’s film brings out the sacrifices a woman must make, albeit with reluctance, when she is married to a man with a mission, at a View Gandhi My Father Movie Stillstime when he is being shaped to become the father of a nation. The personal conflicts between Gandhi and Kasturba often throw up the schism in the marriage, with Kasturba crusading relentlessly for the security and welfare of her sons, and the husband slowly evolving into more of a leader than a husband and father. Kamal Hassan's HARI OM described a fictitious series of events that led to the assassination of a figure parallel to Gandhi. Jahnu Barua’s MAINE GANDHI KO NAHIN MARA (2005) produced by Anupam Kher who plays the dementia-ridden retired professor haunted by delusions of having assassinated Gandhi presents Gandhi as a concept that is lost on most countrymen today. The film raised pertinent questions on the responsibility of an individual as citizens both for Gandhi's murder and for the people's subsequent failure to disseminate his ideas and his legacy to contemporary India.

About GANDHI, MY FATHER, Feroz Abbas Khan says, “Gandhi has always been compelling, complex and strangely contemporary. Sir Richard Attenborough introduced ‘Mahatma’ to the West. I grew up understanding Gandhi through others till I discovered a deep wound he carried in his heart. Somewhere in the shadows of the great man lived his son, roaming the streets of India like a beggar. He converted to Islam and became Abdullah Gandhi as a rebellion, then reconverted to Hinduism as a penance, finally drinking himself to death. Mahatma Gandhi could transform the soul of a nation but couldn’t save the soul of his own son,” says

“Dear Bapu,” wrote Harilal to his father once. “In your laboratory of experiments, unfortunately, I am the one truth that has gone wrong…Yours Harilal.” Elsewhere, he said, “He is the greatest father you have…but he is the one father I wish I did not have.” As for Gandhi, he once said, “The greatest regret of my life… Two people I could never convince – my Muslim friend Mohammed Ali Jinnah and my own son Harilal Gandhi.”

Akshay Khanna plays Harilal, the mentally battered, emotionally disturbed son of Mahatma Gandhi, an embarrassment to the entire Gandhi clan so much so that no one came to his bedside when he lay dying. “I have tried to unfold this personal tragedy of a great father and his no-good son against the backdrop of racial hatred in South Africa and the colonial humiliation in India because these View Gandhi My Father Movie Stillstwo historical truths moved me deeply. My search for the human side of the Mahatma took me to South Africa and to different parts of India, passing through libraries, memories of scholars and his immediate family members. I then decided to make a film about a principled father and his unfortunate son. For me, Gandhi evolved into a greater human being through his personal, political and social struggles because he always placed his principles and his quest for human dignity above everything else,” sums up Khan.

Says Anil Kapoor, “I decided to produce this film because it is a story that gives a fascinating insight into Mahatma Gandhi’s life not so much as the father of the nation but as father to his son Harilal. As producer, I believe in setting international standards for my production banner.”

Darhshan Jariwalla, a famous actor of the Gujarati stage, plays Gandhi. Shefali Chhaya performs Kasturba while Bhumika Chawla plays Hari’s wife Gulab Gandhi.

David Macdonald is director of cinematography while four-time National Award winner Nitin Chandrakant Desai is production designer for this period film.

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