Gandhi My Father
Cast- Akshaye Khanna, Darshan Jariwala, Shefali Shah, Bhoomika Chawla
Director- Feroz Abbas Khan
It’s not always that a Hindi film scores so highly, getting it right on almost all fronts. The good news is that this week’s anticipated release ‘Gandhi My Father’ falls into this unique category. The maturity and sensitivity with which first time director Feroz Abbas Khan has portrayed the father of the nation’s tumultuous relationship with his son Harilal on the screen, is remarkable.
The film has not much to do with Bapu’s well chronicled fight for Indian independence, his very own non violent and truthful way which has made him an international icon, a legend. Instead it’s based on ‘Harilal Gandhi- A Life’ by Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal and inspired by the director’s play ‘Mahatma Vs. Gandhi’ which had a similar theme. The film delves into hitherto unexplored territory and talks about how Gandhi’s high ideals in life and sacrificing and selfless nature came in the way of a smooth relationship with his eldest son, Harilal. The son is shown as being talented, enthusiastic and loving, but he is more human, someone looking out for a simple life revolving around his wife Gulab and his kids. He tries hard to do something of his own and create his own individual identity.
Unfortunately, dogged constantly by adverse circumstances, he makes a lot of mistakes and things go tremendously wrong for him. And he is never able to come to terms with his father’s big ideals and his unwillingness to particularly forward his career. But its not that Bapu is portrayed in negative light; after all it was those unique ideals that made him the Mahatma, our Father of the Nation, the one who got us freedom from almost a 200 year old British Raj. The human side of Gandhi is displayed too. It was just that Gandhiji gave more importance to his country and humanity and love for his son and family came a close second. Indeed, the film stays true to its tagline- “One family’s tragedy was the price of a nation’s freedom.”
While managing to be fair to both Gandhi and Harilal, the film focuses on the classic clash between convictions, values and family aspirations. Harilal is shown openly rebelling against Bapu's ideals, converting to Islam, reconverting to Hinduism and being publicly disowned by the Mahatma.
The film is emotionally engaging, manages to strike a chord and many sequences can make one moist eyed. The perfect casting is a plus point. All the actors turn in fine, restrained performances.
Theatre actor Darshan Jariwala who plays Mahatma has managed to pick up the nuances of the much loved historical character well, complete with mannerisms, gait et al. If Ben Kingsley in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 classic made a perfect Bapu, Jariwala is no disappointment either. Shefali Shah as Kasturba has delivered a flawless performance as a woman caught between her husband and son. In fact the emotions run high, every time she is on screen. Akshaye Khanna might be doing a gamut of commercial movies but there is no doubt about the fact that he is one of the finest actors in Bollywood today who can carry off all kinds of roles. He is extremely natural and expressive as Harilal and this can easily qualify as Khanna’s best performance till date. Bhoomika Chawla as Gulab Gandhi has a short and sweet role with which she does complete justice.
Cinematography (David Macdonald) and editing are excellent. The authenticity of the period has been maintained throughout (production design-Nitin Chandrakant Desai). The Black and white, grainy visuals make things even more authentic.
Penny Smith’s make up too deserves special mention. The aging and the transformations that the characters undergo looks real. Costumes, dialogues and the background score nicely compliment the film.
Feroz Abbas Khan has emerged as a director to watch out for in the days to come.
'Gandhi My Father' is a feather in the cap of actor Anil Kapoor as well, for whom it was a first outing as a producer. Must say, quite an intelligent choice of subject! The film, a well timed 6Oth year of Indian independence release, should appeal to a cross section of viewers including the international circuit. It’s easily a must watch movie. Calling it a masterpiece churned out by Bollywood after pretty long, won’t be an understatement either.-Sneha Hazarika