16 August 2004

Revisiting Gandhi

I watched the movie Gandhi on the eve of Independence Day. I had watched it as a kid but didn’t remember anything except the scene in which Gandhi is thrown out of the train.

Ben Kingsley is simply amazing. Actually, the entire casting is good. Not many details are missed. Like Gandhi’s changing complexion and weight. The setting is so real. And each character mouths the dialogues so well.

It also set me thinking about Gandhi, the person. The kind of power he had over the Indian masses – wow! It is the stuff of myths. Imagine: he brought the burning city of Calcutta to stop the mad rioting (immediately after Independence) with his well-tested fast unto death. Could he have done that to Gujarat? Really, could he? I don’t know.

Dissenters, activists, NGOs the world over are constantly thinking of novel ways of protest so that their cause is heard and seen. They have several tried and tested methods on which they can fall back on. But Gandhi has to be admired for the sheer innovativeness of his methods of protest. And he had such conviction in them.

Non-violence, for instance. When you disarm and present yourself before the powerful, actually, the power is with you. The opponent is co-opted, outwitted. The Dandi march, too, was very clever. He walked some 200 odd km to the sea, mobilizing people not only along the way, but also across the country.

Gandhi did no PR, no media campaigning as it is known today. Just the goodwill and trust of people. As a child of the 80s, this is something that I have not seen happen. And I don’t know if it will ever happen again.

The mixture of political cunning, moral clarity and integrity, personal charisma, conviction and vision that Gandhi was, is simply incredible.


Sham said...

very true.
There lies the greatness of this man.

About the movie, I have a few comments which I think are not portrayed upto standards of the Mahatma.
I agree it is a great movie. But there are some scenes..that I dont agree with. Not the director does not have liberty to interpret the story.. but anyway.. here are my apprehensions.

The riots breakout after independence. Gandhi goest to fast. Now, this is also a way of SatyAgraha, nothing different to anything else in the freedom struggle.
But I guess, there is a change in the way it is filmed. Here, I see a weariness in the characters, actors and the direction too.. as if they are getting tired of this 'sentimental blackmailing' of Gandhi. This might be true, but it infers a moral failure of Gandhi's fasting. The dialogues in this scene also support this view. Gandhi says to Nehru that he shall stop fasting only if Nehru can convince Gandhi that there shall not be any more violence...
agreed that gandhi was stubborn. but in order to show that, i think the film looses on portraying the morale behind his fasting. it is not mere 'threat' or blackmailing..but sadly thats how it looks like in the movie.
This is potentially a very bad point because, all nonbelievers in Gandhi instantly are convinced that what he did was mere sentimental blackmailing.

But this is just me

Vijayalaxmi said...

I guess you are right, Shyam. Sub-consciously I had felt there was something wrong in that scene, but couldnt lay my finger on what it exactly was.