Gandhi in cinema

Portraying Mahatma

Gandhi in cinema

Mahatma Gandhi is back in people’s consciousness and just in time for his “Happy Birthday”, as Circuit (the character played by Arshad Warsi in Lage Raho Munna Bhai) describes October 2. The relevance of Gandhi has always been seen in all spheres of life, cinema too has shown its take on Gandhi and his philosophy. In Hindi and English, there are wonderful films made on Gandhi.

On Gandhi Jayanthi, Metrolife asks film-makers  why the Mahatma has never been portrayed as a character  in the Kannada film industry.

Movies like Bangarada Manushya, Gandhinagara, Jeevana Chaitra and others have been based on many Gandhian principles, another such film which has shown Gandhi as an undercurrent is Naanu Gandhi, a movie that analysed the Mahatma through the eyes of children.

The movie deals with an idealist boy, named Gandhi who is torn between the Mahatma’s ideals and the world around him.

“One cannot separate the name from the ideology. The minute one says Gandhi, one immediately associates himself to his ideology. Similarly, the boy in the movie does not want to be named Gandhi, not because he hates the name, but because he feels that he cannot justify it,” says Nanjunde Gowda, the director of the film, while adding, “both the director as well as the actor willing to portray Gandhi as a character, need immense strength and deep knowledge about him. It is a concept that one really needs to look into.”

One point most film-makers have made is that Gandhi is not a myth or a fictional character. So to recreate him as a character in a film, would mean maintaining the authenticity in sets, props, ambience and costumes, which demand huge money, time, research and dedication.

“In the Kannada industry, we have none of these. Another technical problem is that Gandhiji cannot speak in Kannada on the screen. When the target audience is Kannadigas, and the main character itself does not speak in Kannada, it becomes problematic,” says director Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar.

There have also been movies that are based on legends closer home like Ranadheera Kanteerava and Sri Krishna Devaraya, where exuberant sets and costumes have been used.

Film-maker Baraguru Ramchandrappa, comments, “Bringing out a movie with Gandhi as a character is a challenging venture. Using legends like Ranadheera Kanteerava and Krishna Devaraya allow film-maker to glorify them but Gandhi is such a great personality that one has to get every minute detail right. Moreover, the past has seen such amazing movies based on him that if one had to make a movie on him, it would have to outdo those that were earlier made and to achieve that on a
regional level would be difficult.”

Nevertheless, movies like Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which have showcased Gandhi, have not only managed to strike a chord in the youth’s mind but have also seen box office return.

So is Sandalwood really lagging behind? “I am happy to say that in Kannada
cinema, whether commercial, or art, even if Gandhi’s character is not wholly evident, Gandhi’s philosophy is present in a very significant way.

This is more important than bringing Gandhi as a character into cinema,” concludes Nagathihalli.

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