‘Gandhi My Father’ impresses New York audience

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : New Yorkers have enjoyed a Hindi film, "Gandhi My Father", which was recently screened here.

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The audience at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) theatre Friday hardly had any Indian Americans. But they were all glued to the highly emotional drama played out between Mahatma Gandhi and his wayward eldest son Harilal. There were plenty of cheers when the movie ended.

The two-hour film seems to have been made with an international audience in mind. It may not become a blockbuster like Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi" (1982), but "Gandhi My Father" may win awards on the international film circuit.

The difference is that "Gandhi" dealt with Mahatma the icon while "Gandhi My Father" brings out the human side of the most well known Indian in the world.

The film's director Feroz Abbas Khan, an acclaimed Indian theatre director whose credits include "Mahatma vs. Gandhi", has said: "For me to direct this film meant that I would not sacrifice the creative aspect for the commercial ones."

Indeed, despite the presence in the film's cast of two Bollywood stars – Akshaye Khanna as Harilal and Bhoomika Chawla as Harilal's wife Gulab – there are no masala elements.

Akshaye and Bhoomika as well as Darshan Jariwala as the Mahatma and Shefali Shah as Kasturba turn in fine, restrained performances. Photography, design and other production values are all excellent. "Gandhi My Father" marks Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor's foray into production.

Most importantly, the film is emotionally engaging, even relentless, while managing to be fair to both Gandhi and Harilal. The screenplay builds the film up as a classic clash between convictions, values and family aspirations.

It does say, however, that what Gandhi did for the country and humanity was of greater importance than his unwillingness to particularly forward his son's career because he saw all his associates as his sons.

The film is based on "Harilal Gandhi: A Life" by Gandhian scholar Chandulal Dalal and is historically factual. The film has Harilal openly rebelling against Gandhi's ideals, converting to Islam, reconverting to Hinduism and being publicly disowned by the Mahatma.

"Gandhi My Father" is set to be released in India Aug 3.

MoMI will also be screening the Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Devdas" Aug 10 to celebrate the vitality of Indian cinema as part of its World Cinema Showcase series.