Movie Review: Gandhi, My Father

Rating: 9 on 10. 1 point deducted for the last 20 minutes which are a little slow.

Harilal giving an apple to Ba at train station

The movie is not about Gandhi – the father of the nation. Its about Gandhi, the failed father of a failed son. The greatness of this movie is not in the greatness/Gandhi surname of its protagonists, but the fact that you come out of this 140 minute session without blaming either of the two. Coupled with some great performances from Akshaye, Darshan, Shefali and Bhoomika, this movie is an extremely sensitive portrayal of an issue which could have ignited quite a few factions in the society. However, having gone looking for good acting and some nice controversy (oh yes, I was expecting that), I came out having seen an excellent movie, directed with photographic finesse, enacted with artistic excellence, and consciously staying away from controversy while communicating everything the storyteller wanted to say.

The relationship between the Father and the Son is best described in a shot of the movie – Harilal reaches South Africa. Gandhiji could not go to the port to receive him. His retort – itne kaam hai aur waqt itna kam. Next dusk, early morning, Harilal goes to meet Mahatma, touches his feet and sits next to him. It’s a shot where only the silhouettes are shown and you can see an older but perfectly straight Mahatma Gandhi sitting next to a younger but slightly slouched/bent over Harilal. That posture, that subtlety, defines the relationship and the kind of people the two were.

Now, I might inviting the ire of a lot of people (critics, bloggers) who would call the movie drab, slow, unauthentic, lacking details, etc etc., but I guess I am entitled to my opinion.

Unlike many who love or hate the Father of the Nation in totality, I still have mixed feelings about Gandhiji. I respect him for being one of the greatest leaders of all times, and for bringing the entire (well, almost) nation under one philosophy. But at the same time, I don’t consider him God who could not have made mistakes. I do agree with some of the views of the nation paying a price for some of his decisions. That said, it does not take away all that he did this for a nation which comes together only for a cricket match or a war.

Anyways – the movie is about Harilal, Mahatma Gandhi’s son, and his relationship with his father, who incidentally, was the Father of the Nation. Its not about Gandhi family. Its not about the three other sons of Gandhiji. Neither is it about Kasturba Gandhi (Ba), or Gulab (Harilal’s wife). They exist in the movie as supplements to the relationship between Gandhiji and Harilal. And to that extent, full marks to the director for being so focused on what he wanted to show.

Direction is good, albeit slow at places. But lets not forget that this movie could not have had singing dancing the way run of the mill movies have. Neither a deep exploration of relationships is best shown at a rocket pace (remember? The “Art Movies” of yesteryears).

Its definitely acting where the movie scores a home run. Akshay and Darshan are phenomenal in their performances. Akshay continues to be one of the most underrated actors of the industry. The way he essays a character is quite understated and restrained. And that’s what makes him so lovable. Despite the fact that Harilal does come across as an idiot by the end of the movie, you don’t come out of the theatre hating him. You feel pity for him.

The surprise package, surely, is Darshan. I hadn’t seen a lot of him. I had no idea how good or bad an actor he is. I remember him from comedy serials, where he played his part well. But this movie marks his coming of age (high time 😉 ). Now, Gandhi, as a character, is not the easiest to play. From what I understand, and what I had imagined Mahatma Gandhi to be, Darshan did bring it to life. Gandhiji for me – perpetual smile/amusement/wonder, the ease with which he went about handling the most difficult of circumstances, his walk, his proud personality inside a (seemingly) frail body – I could feel that Darshan has done justice to his character.

Even Shefali Chaya as Kasturba Gandhi and Bhoomika Chawla as Gulab Gandhi have performed brilliantly. Their silences and agony tear you apart at times.

My endnote on this movie – If you have the sensibility of keeping your emotions for Gandhiji (as the Father of the Nation) aside, while evaluating what human relationships are all about, you should definitely see this movie. If you are looking for some mudslinging on Gandhiji/Harilal, then this is not the movie for you. This movie is just a reflection of a proverb from Indian mythology– one of the heaviest burdens to carry on your shoulders is that of your father’s fame.

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