ApunKaChoice : Bollywood


Gandhi My FatherGandhi My Father : Movie Review
03rd Aug 2007  21.55 IST
By N. K. Deoshi  

Gandhi My Father is a story that was waiting to be told. We all know about Mahatma Gandhi and his greatness. But only a few know of the troubled relationship he shared with his eldest son Harilal.

Mind it, the movie doesn't show Gandhi in negative light. It just shows how a son - an ordinary man with his own desires and weaknesses - is crushed under the weight of the high principles of his father. It shows how Harilal's failures and weaknesses stood in sharp contrast to the high ideals and victories of his father. It shows how Harilal carried the tag of Gandhi like a curse around his neck.

Director Feroz Abbas Khan handles the subject with sensitivity and understanding. He draws parallel life sketches of Mahatma Gandhi and Harilal from Rajkot in Gujarat to Phoenix Settlement in South Africa.

The movie begins in 1948 with an ill and infirm man - unkempt, disheveled and dressed in ragged clothes - being brought to Bombay Hospital on a stretcher in an unconscious state. The dying man is none other than Harilal Gandhi.

The movie goes back into flashback to 1905. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ( Darshan Jariwala ), along with his wife Kasturba (Shefali Shah), runs a printing press in his settlement in South Africa. His grown-up son Harilal ( Akshaye Khanna ) marries Gulab ( Bhumika Chawla ) in Rajkot. Glimpses of strain between the father and the son are apparent from the first as Harilal informs his father, rather than ask his permission, about the marriage.

Soon, Harilal and Gulab join Gandhi in South Africa. Supporting the movement begun by his father, Harilal goes to jail a couple of times. His dream is to be a barrister like his father. But Gandhi doesn't favour Harilal and rather sends someone else for study in England. Little things like these begin taking root in Harilal's mind. He wishes to break away from his idealistic father and start a life of his own.

Harilal goes back to India. But he meets failure in whatever endeavor he undertakes. He fails in his studies and he fails in business. He incurs debts. He embezzles money at his workplace and is fired from his job. Soon he takes to drinking.

Tired of constant harassing by debtors and her husband's ways, Gulab leaves Harilal and takes her children along with her. Not much later, she dies.

A lonely Harilal gives in to the life of a derelict. He is disowned by his father. He converts to Islam, reconverts to Hinduism, turns into an alcoholic, a tramp, and finally dies the death of a beggar.

Feroz Abbas Khan retains an element of poignancy and subtle irony in the way he tells the story. On the one hand, we see Gandhi rising from an activist in South Africa to become the father of nation in India. On the other hand, we see Harilal's failures and his fall from grace. This contrast particularly stands out because F A Khan delineates the life sketches of Gandhi and Harilal parallel to each other.

At the core, F.A. Khan remains an actor's director (probably by the virtue of his theatre background). 'Gandhi My Father' rests on terrific performances by its starcast, particularly Akshaye Khanna, Darshan Jariwala and Shefali Shah.

It would be a shame and injustice if Akshaye doesn't win an award for his performance in the film. The actor sinks his teeth deep into his character. In the initial parts he brings innocence and rawness into Harilal. But slowly this innocence develops into open rebellion against his father.

Darshan Jariwala is superb in his role as Mahatma Gandhi. There is a lingering smile on his face and in his eyes throughout the film.

Shefali Shah also delivers a powerful performance as Kasturba Gandhi. Bhumika Chawla is convincing in playing her part.

Meticulous attention has been paid to recreating the India of early 20th century. The costumes, the props, the old trains, vintage cars, old buildings - all of them authentically recreate the ambience of the times the story is set in. Hats off to producer Anil Kapoor for taking on such a logistical challenge.

The movie has no songs but two bhajans that play in the background. The cinematography by David Macdonald is of international standards.

All said, 'Gandhi My Father' is a hard-hitting film that tells a sad and tragic story. Seekers of feelgood entertainment won't find anything eminently enjoyable in the film. But the film, albeit, is a piece of quality cinema.

Rating: ***

Gandhi My Father
Feroz Abbas Khan
Darshan Jariwala
Akshaye Khanna
Bhumika Chawla
Anil Kapoor

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