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Gandhi My Father - Review

By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Saturday, August 04, 2007
“The greatest regret of my life…
Two people I could never convince --
My Muslim friend Mohammed Ali Jinnah and
My own son Harilal Gandhi.”

Making a film based on true events is difficult. Not only does it entail lots and lots of research, but to recreate the bygone era and get the right set of actors to enact the characters is another challenge.

It's all the more tough if the film is based on Mahatma Gandhi. And a far bigger challenge is to present the relationship shared by the Mahatma and his son Harilal.

Everyone knows about Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, but not much is known about him as a father to his children. Gandhi My Father tells the story of Harilal Gandhi and the relationship he shared with his parents, more particularly with his father, the great Mahatma.

Gandhi My Father leaves an indelible impression on the viewer. Since the story of Harilal is not known to many, you absorb every incident like a sponge absorbs water. It's an enlightening experience… and also a moving one. Your heart goes out to Harilal and his plight, more so towards the sunset of his life, makes you moist-eyed.

Gandhi My Father tells a story not told before and director Feroz Abbas Khan tells it very well. Put your hands together for one of the finest films to come out of India. This one deserves to be the official entry for the Oscars.

To sum up, Gandhi My Father is a must watch for every Indian. Strongly recommended!

Somewhere in the shadows of a great man [Mahatma Gandhi] lived his son [Harilal Gandhi], roaming the streets of India like a beggar. Converting to Islam as a rebellion, reconverting to Hinduism as a penance and finally drinking himself to death.

Mahatma Gandhi could transform the soul of a nation, but could not save the soul of his own son. The film unfolds a personal tragedy about a principled father and an unfortunate son.

For most viewers, the story of Gandhi My Father is an eye-opener, since it tells a rarely heard story and tells it exceedingly well. The storyteller recreates the era with flourish, not once deviating from the core issue. The story is not about the freedom movement and the pivotal role played by the Mahatma, but it highlights the sensitive relationship between a father and son.

As a cinematic experience, Gandhi My Father unfolds in the most simplistic, but compelling manner. Since the director is talking history, he ought to do the balancing act well. He reproduces facts without resorting to cinematic liberties and at the same time, simplifies everything so that the viewer can decipher it well.

A landmark film in all respects, highlighting a scene or two would be doing gross injustice to the film. For, every sequence has the power to keep you hooked and most importantly, carries the stamp of a genius.

The director has ensured that every department works in tandem. David Macdonald's cinematography is superb. Special mention must be made of the B&W, grainy frames that compliment the actual footage. The production design [Nitin Chandrakant Desai] is perfect. The ambience transports you to the early 20th century. Make-up [Penny Smith] is of international standard. The transformation of the characters as they age looks so real. Costumes [Sujata Sharma] suit the theme well. Background score [Piyush Kanojia] is appropriate.

Akshaye Khanna is extraordinary in the role of Harilal Gandhi. He portrays the varied emotions -- angst, sorrow, anger, frustration, love -- with great understanding and maturity and comes up with his career-best work. Darshan Jariwala as Mahatma Gandhi is another great performance you carry home. Although a number of seasoned actors have portrayed the part of Mahatma Gandhi on the big screen, Darshan's performance easily ranks amongst the best.

Shefali Shah is awesome. Note the sequence when Harilal converts to Islam and Kasturba Gandhi visits him. Or the final moments before she bids goodbye to the world. The actress deserves the highest marks. Why don't we see more of Shefali on the big screen? Bhumika Chawla is excellent. Her portions, with Harilal mainly, are well enacted.

On the whole, Gandhi My Father is a treat for movie lovers. As mentioned at the very outset, it's a must-see for all Indians. At the box-office, it holds tremendous appeal for the multiplexes, where it should grow with a strong word of mouth. Strongly recommended!

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