Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Family Affair

From the moment the promos of Gandhi My Father hit the screen, one got the impression this would be a very special cinematic experience. Right from the montage to the tag line ("To the nation, he was a father...To his son, he was a father he never had"), everything about the film shrieks of the art genre, something made for the film festivals. Not to mention, the film marks the return of Anil Kapoor the producer, after the disastrous Badhaai Ho Badhaai in 2002. Can't remember Badhaai Ho Badhaai? No worries, there's a good reason for that.

Moving along, the film brings the focus back on Mahatma Gandhi after last year's blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai made gandhigiri the latest fashion. Any comparison between the two would, however, be entirely inappropriate - one is a serious biopic and the other a moral comedy.

Gandhi: My Father essentially traces the tumultuous relationship between Gandhi and his son, Harilal. It literally runs like a biography with the occasional flash from past to present. At times you ponder the overall point of the film, only to realize that it has no conflict or resolution as such - it is simply an untold chapter of Gandhi's life.

What works for the film is the fact that it is a compelling story. While it is certainly not for those of you looking for a bit of song and dance, it is definitely recommended for art cinema enthusiasts. Yes, the film moves at a sluggish pace and is often hard to get through, but a part of you remains curious enough to explore this part of Gandhi's life, a facet seldom encountered both on celluloid and in the history books.

In addition, the film is laden with excellent performances from the lead cast. Akshaye Khanna may forever be known as the untapped talent of Indian cinema, but here he gets the license to show everyone what he's made of. At times you may think he is resorting to histrionics, but not if you take into consideration the intensity of Harilal and the torment he undergoes throughout his life. It's almost sad that Akshaye is never really given his due, as he has a fair amount of reputable performances in his repertoire.

It's a bit of a breakout performance for Darshan Jariwala as well, whose prior acting credits include bit roles in films like Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. and Aap Ka Suroor. At this point there have been so many representations of Gandhi on screen that it is hard to decipher a stand-out performance from an ordinary one, but Mr. Jariwala makes his presence felt.

Shefali Shah is outstanding as Kasturba Gandhi. Again, we have an underrated performer who makes the most of the opportunity bestowed upon her.

Bhumika Chawla is an improvement from her previous ventures, although one really wonders what sort of future she has in the industry. Good on her for doing some nice work in a critically-acclaimed film such as this, but after a reasonably successful debut in Tere Naam, one feels like she never really took off.

But the film is certainly not without its flaws. Even after the film reaches its climax, there is a sense of it being incomplete. So much effort went into fact-checking the history, bringing into light another side of Gandhi, etc. only wishes the filmmakers had gone that extra mile and left a lasting impression on the viewer.

Instead, the viewer comes out of the film thinking it was "a nice film", when it is clear the intent was to be more of an epic. Also, the aforementioned pace is an issue - perhaps some small scenes could have been cut or better transitions utilized, because there are several moments when the film is unable to hold its grip on your attention.

Having said that, there are also scenes that should have been inserted into the film. Quite a few details remain unexplained, and some of these are the details that escalate into serious conflicts. Why does Gandhi encourage Indian youths to study abroad and then discourage his own son from doing so? This is just one of a number of questions that should have been answered.

Verdict? Watch if you can appreciate good acting and offbeat cinema.


Prachi said...

i have the movie and i wanna watch it really bad but don't so backlogged on my hindi films..i have so many that i've collected with purpose of watchin but i've gotten totally lazy!

Shreya said...

Love your writing! Nice review :) I do not watch very many hindi movies, but I like reading the reviews anyway :)

Nikhil said...

I think this movie was quite well done and had great acting. It did very well in bringing to light a facet of Gandhi's life which few really know. I think it most certainly will kick start any interest in Gandhi's relationship with his family as there have always been theories about his family life that have regularly been tossed aside as mere controversy/conspiracy. All in all, this was a great movie.