Few movies can recreate historical characters without a tinge of colour ? it usually depends on which side of the divide are the film-makers. Gandhi, My Father, written and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, is brilliant in telling a story. The under-lying theme of the movie is to show the tumultuous relationship Gandhiji had with his eldest son Harilal. Gandhiji has been a darling of the people and his philosophy of non-violence has endeared freedom fighters all over the world. Nelson Mandela had once attributed his success to Gandhian way of struggle to free South Africa from apartheid.
But Feroz Abbas Khan'smovie deals exclusively with Gandhiji'spersonal relation with Harilal. Gandhiji refuses to educate his children or send Harilal to England to study law. Gandhiji ostensibly wanted his son to join him in the political movement to gain India'sIndependence. Feroz Abbas Khan has to be credited for handling the sensitive subject so fairly that at the end of the movie it becomes difficult to take sides. You wouldn'treally blame Gandhiji for Harilal'stravails.
Gandhi, My Father is such a departure from the mainstream popular movies. Especially so because Hindi film industry has the propensity to take positions that can distort reality. The intention might be to take cinematic liberties to convince a largely ignorant people who don'tknow the other side of the story. But as often seen the attempt might reek of immaturity and crudity. Like it happened with Sanjay Dutt starrer Lage Raho Munnabhai. Just to appeal to the yuppie crowd Munnabhai made a travesty of Gandhism.
For any follower of Gandhiji the brazenly told falsehood is hard to watch. The director of Munnabhai had once said that the movie was an attempt to make Gandhiji'sphilosophy interesting to today'sgeneration! But just take one aspect of the Munnabhai?Mahatma. Gandhiji was a big proponent of sexual abstinence. The movie showed the Mahatma actually helping Munnabhai court a girl, take her in a ?kissing car? and take sex to logical conclusion. Mahatma Gandhi is known to have given up sex at the age of 40 and even kept away from physical relations with his wife. Can'tbelieve how can a Sanjay Dutt who is nearly 50 years of age get the Mahatma'ssupport in such licentiousness. That movie was made with the sole intention of saving Sanjay Dutt in the bomb blast case by peddling distorted version of Gandhism called Gandhigiri. The halo around Sanjay Dutt'shead failed to stick.
Producer of Gandhi, My Father Anil Kapoor does not seem to have any such agendas. Harilal Gandhi in the movie is shown at several places to be gullible enough to fail in business, crooked enough to swindle people and even convert to Islam when Muslim zealots try to make use of his rift with his father. Finally, Harilal comes back to Hinduism when his mother makes him see light.
The film poster explains vividly that: To people he (Gandhiji) was a father; To his son he was a father he never had! Akshaye Khanna, who plays Harilal Gandhi, is good in some situations but his inexperience shows at others. He does not come up to the brilliance of Saif Ali Khan in Omkara or Irfan Khan in Maqbool. But the rest of the team such as Bhumika Chawla as Harilal'swife Gulab Gandhi, Shefali Chhaya as Kasturba Gandhi, Daniel Janks as Henry Polak all do wonderfully well in the period film situations. But as the focus is on Darshan Jariwala as Mahatma Gandhi and Akshaye Khanna as Harilal, the rest of the cast pale into insignificance. The cinematography by David Macdonald is unusually good for shots which bring out silhouettes with palpable feelings?like the scene in which Gandhiji, counsels his son under a tree with the setting sun behind. The same scene reoccurs quite a few times and the viewer starts to understand the widening gap between the protagonist and the Mahatma. The only setback is the projection of the Mahatma as a family man. It would have been good if Gandhiji had been shown having a hands-on involvement in the freedom struggle which had decidedly changed his priorities in life. At the end Gandhiji poignantly states: ?The greatest regret of my life?two people I could never convince ? my Muslim friend Mohammed Ali Jinnah and my own son Harilal Gandhi.? Mahatma will remain mahatma.