Newsweek finds “Gandhi, My Father” gripping

Washington, Aug 2(IANS) “Gandhi, My Father,” a new film on the Mahatma has been acclaimed by Newsweek “as a gripping account of the stormy relationship between one of the world’s greatest political icons and his rebellious eldest son.”

Based on the biography “Harilal: A Life,” by the Gujarati scholar Chandulal Dalal, “Gandhi, My Father”-shot in Hindi and English “sheds light on the human side of the Mahatma, whose non-violent resistance to British rule helped win India its independence in 1947,” notes the American magazine in its Aug 6 issue.

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First-time film director Feroze Abbas Khan and Bollywood star turned producer Anil Kapoor blend sweeping sets and colourful costumes to create an emotionally charged period piece that occasionally verges on melodrama but is also sprinkled with genuine moments of comedy, it says.

“This is a story about a clash of principles between father and son,” says Newsweek citing Khan, who first tackled the subject in his play “Mahatma vs Gandhi.” “Harilal carried his Gandhi identity like a curse around his neck.

It was something that he just couldn’t shake off.”

Veteran actor Darshan Jariwala gives a refreshing portrayal of a man whose cast-iron morality could transform a nation yet failed to save his own son, the magazine says. Shefali Shah (“Monsoon Wedding”), who plays Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba, and Bhumika Chawla as Harilal’s wife, Gulab, give powerful performances as women caught in the cross-fire. Tushar Gandhi, the 47-year-old grandson of Manilal Gandhi, the second of Gandhi’s four sons, is quoted as telling critics of the film that they should reserve judgment until they see it.

“The film remains sincere to the subject,” he says, admitting it made him shed a few tears. “It is as though somebody has understood the pain of what our family went through.”

Khan is meticulous in his effort to deliver a balanced narrative, painting neither Gandhi nor Harilal as the villain, says Newsweek noting previous films on the subject – like Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning epic “Gandhi” – portray the great man as a political saint.

“Gandhi, My Father” upends this notion, depicting the Mahatma as a difficult patriarch whose ideals shaped a nation but hurt his family, it says. As Khan points out: “He loved his son and family, but he loved the nation more.” It’s a distinction that makes for a compelling film.