All of us know about Gandhi's contribution to the Indian independence struggle and his principles of non-violence. But very few of us know about the struggles in his personal life. Gandhi My Father is the story of the Mahatma's relationship with his eldest son Harilal, whom he eventually disowned. Director Feroz Abbas Khan talks about his film and Indian independence.
What message do you want to give to the audience through Gandhi --- My Father?
I have tried to portray the relationship between Gandhiji and his son Harilal. A father-son relationship is usually quite complicated. That is what I have tried to portray in my movie.
Why is the character of Harilal so aggressive in your film?
Actually, failures make Harilal aggressive. Luck plays a very vital role in everyone's life. That's why even Kasturba had once said that Harilal was not bad at heart, it was just that his luck didn't favour him.
Don't you think that at times Harilal wanted to humiliate his father?
He wants to do something different on his own. He takes money to start a garment business. But runs out of luck. Initially, he supports Gandhiji wholeheartedly in everything the Mahatma did. He used to take pride in being called Junior Gandhi.
Whom have you held wrong in this movie?
Even if I want to, I cannot hold anyone wrong in the movie. Because both Gandhiji and Hari Lal were right from their viewpoints. A lot of people might think that Gandhiji was unjust to his son by letting his nephew go to England to become a barrister, instead of sending Harilal. However, Gandhiji had a soft corner for Harilal. In fact, that's why he forgave Harilal's innumerable mistakes.
Don't you think apart from Harilal, Gandhji's other three sons should also have featured in the film?
You are right, but we had just two hours. We could project only those people and instances which were most important. Had we featured the other sons we would have had to cut down on Harilal's character, which we didn't want to do.
How important is freedom to you?
Well, today whatever we all are is because of political freedom. But still, there are a lot of people who are not socially and economically independent yet. Till the time all of us don't get complete freedom we cannot call our country free.
Don't you feel that we Indians have forgotten those who fought for our freedom?
The issue is not how many or how much about the freedom fighters we remember today. The question is whether we respect their values and morals and implement them in our daily lives. The leaders of yesteryear laid down their lives for us and it will be more than enough if we can carry forward and fulfill their dreams. That would mean much more to their families than just remembering the martyrs.
Are we not taking undue advantage of our freedom?
I feel that only a prisoner can understand freedom's worth. It is because of freedom that our Constitution grants us the power to establish a democracy in our country. But now, India has reached stagnation and needs to progress. It is important now that everyone in this country gets social and economic justice.
You are from a theater background. What according to you is the difference between film direction and drama direction?
There's a lot of difference between the two. In theater, words play the most important role and in films, it's the visuals. In theater, we can personify objects and even use symbols to depict objects or ideas. Whereas in films, we can't do so.