A film that attempts to explore an ‘alternative history’ cannot be so superficial, sighs Utkarsh Mishra.
Over a decade ago, with my limited reading on the subject, I often attempted to explore the notion of what would have happened if Mahatma Gandhi had survived the assassination attempt by Nathuram Vinayak Godse and others on January 30, 1948.
Later, reading a little more, I realized that it wasn’t just speculation, as the one in which he was killed wasn’t the only attempt on Gandhi’s life.
In fact, the men who finally got him had failed a few times before; One of them was also arrested after an unsuccessful bid just days before Gandhi was actually assassinated.
All Gandhi did was praise his attackers and say: “Bache hain (they are children). You do not understand. After my death they would realize that the budda (the old man) was right.’
When I first heard that a film was being made – by Rajkumar Santoshi, no less – about an imaginary dialogue between Gandhi and Godse, I was intrigued to watch it, even if given the times he was concerned, worried about it we live.
It turned out worse than I feared.
And while I expected sympathetic treatment from Godse, it was indeed a surprise to see such a diabolical attempt to redeem him.
Gandhi Godse – Ek Yudh based on the play by playwright Asghar Wajahat Godse@Gandhi.com. The name of the piece already hints at what the author wanted to do, which is to bring Godse’s darkness to Gandhi’s light.
The film, on the other hand, tries to achieve the opposite.
First and foremost, the screenplay is too lazy, taking most of the dialogue and sequences out of the play word for word. The treatment of themes outside the play is also too narrow-minded.
The scenes where giants like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr. Discussing matters of national importance, BR Ambedkar, JB Kriplani and others looked like a costume contest at a school, with children dressed up as prominent figures parroting the stereotypical lines ascribed to them.
There are childish attempts at humor even when dealing with such a serious subject, dishonest portrayals of several pro-Partition episodes in Delhi that later lend weight to Godse’s arguments, and an unnecessary subplot that, while part of the play, could have been avoided in the film to make it more pointed.
Not to mention the sub-par acting from most of the cast, particularly debutantes Tanisha Santoshi, who plays Sushma, a young woman who plans to spend her life in service by being with Gandhi, and Anuj Saini, who plays Sushma’s lover. fools
Chinmay Mandlekar as Godse is the only actor worth paying for, which unfortunately goes against the spirit of the play as the play never attempts to portray Godse as some sort of enlightened man who has chosen to take up arms against a tyrant he saw no other way out.
The play shows Godse as a man of limited understanding by making him repeat the same lines over and over again.
He could make no other argument against Gandhi than the simplistic one that “Gandhi is responsible for the division of Akhand Bharat because he hates Hindus and loves Muslims”.
The film, on the other hand, portrays Godse as more intellectual than he actually was.
In reality, Godse was not very educated.
He failed his matriculation exam with very bad grades in English. In his own words, “he gave up school forever out of disgust and moodiness.”
Godse’s only claim to scholarship is his testimony at the trial, in which he lists his reasons for killing Gandhi.
However, the Mahatma’s great-grandson and well-known author Tushar Gandhi writes: “The Declaration was definitely not written by Godse, who never showed such a masterful command of the language. His writing style was loud, crass, insulting, and menacing. The document was very cleverly written to emotionally exploit and influence even the most liberal minds.’
Tushar Gandhi points out, and it is true, that the statement was written by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who “absolutely mastered such hypnotic use of language.”
Nor was Godse as bold as the film portrays him to be.
He wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger on the group’s original plan to assassinate Gandhi.
In his book The men who killed Gandhiauthor Manohar Malgonkar describes the plan of Godse and his accomplices to kill Gandhi.
They had decided to shoot the Mahatma from the window of one of the rooms of the Birla house that overlooked his place at the prayer meeting.
Godse’s accomplice, Digambar Badge, who later became the approver, was supposed to pull the trigger and throw a grenade.
Another member of the group, Madanlal Pahwa, detonated a load of cotton to create panic prior to this act.
The other members of the group were Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse, Vishnu Karkare, a Hindu Mahasabha leader, and Shankar, Badge’s servant.
All five had grenades that they would throw into the crowd after Badge fired the first shot, not caring about the number of casualties it would cause.
But the leaders of the group – Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, both of whom were later hanged for the assassination of the Mahatma – who hatched this sinister conspiracy were unarmed. Their task was to “guide the operation by signals”.
That was Godse’s “bravado” presented to us as a kind of revolutionary!
This assassination attempt, which they carried out on January 20, 1948, failed because Badge got cold feet and could not shoot. But Pahwa had already detonated the cargo of cotton and was arrested. The rest fled the place.
After this failed attempt, Godse decided to carry out the task himself.
Contrary to popular belief, Godse did not surrender after finally killing Gandhi on January 30, 1948. He tried to escape but was caught and pinned.
In the play, Godse constantly credits a “guruji” with helping him find the path he found.
This makes him sound more like a brainwashed, indoctrinated student than an intellectual whose beliefs have evolved through critical thinking.
But the film makes no such effort.
Not only that, while the film elevates the play’s dialogue in most scenes, it skipped the part where Gandhi questions Godse about Savarkar’s beliefs and actions. As well as the part where Gandhi tells Godse that the map of his ‘Akhand Bharat’ is actually a map of British India and omits large parts of areas where the Aryans once lived or areas that were once under the Maurya Empire stood.
These scenes in the play attempted to portray Godse as ruthless and irresponsible. Not including her in the film gave more weight to Godse’s character.
On the other hand, the film doesn’t forget to get Godse to insult Nehru by saying to Gandhi: “Where tumhara, where kya naam hai uska?‘ to which Gandhi replied in a low voice, ‘Jawahar’.
And the audience erupts in laughter.
While attempts have been made to dispel some misperceived notions about Gandhi, there is no shortage of misrepresentations of historical fact.
Yes, Gandhi wrote a note on January 27, 1948, three days before his death, that “the Congress in its present guise and form as a means of propaganda and a parliamentary machine has outlived its use” and that “the AICC decides to dissolve the existing Congress organization.” and transform into a Lok Sevak Sangh’.
But it wasn’t dictation. Rather, Gandhi wrote it as part of the “Draft Constitution of Congress” and he was killed before it could be presented to the party.
This draft was later leaked to the press after his assassination, and it is the source of the now widespread claim that Gandhi wanted to dissolve the Congress.
As Tushar Gandhi writes, “What he meant by this was that a coalition of people representing different political ideologies could no longer survive…so it would be best to dissolve the coalition and leave the electorate free to form more homogeneous political parties.”
Although the play shares the same sequence, the film should have paid more attention to the nuance and could have handled it better.
But the film’s greatest farce is how Godse Gandhi shows his stupidity in not allowing Sushma to marry Naren.
In the play, Gandhi realizes it after Kasturba appears in his dream and uses some strong words and after Sushma’s mother, who is also his ardent follower, warned him with consequences if anything happens to her daughter.
The film showed the sequence of Kasturba appearing in Gandhi’s dream, but it is ultimately a sermon by ‘Nathuram Vinayak Godseyeah‘ That’s what finally convinced Gandhi.
Even worse is the climax, which is an improvisation not part of the piece.
It reminds the viewer of Kamal Haasans Hey! R.A.M.in which a would-be assassin is transformed by contact with Gandhi, but thoroughly lacks the depth such improvisation requires, or that Hey! R.A.M. had.
Overall, the film’s biggest problem is showing a piece intended for the stage as it is on the big screen. A play, especially a satirical one, may contain drama, loud acting, silly humor and Reduction ad absurdum.
But a film that attempts to explore an “alternative history” can’t be so superficial.
It must pay attention to nuance and also make it understandable to the audience, especially at a time when it is necessary to be extremely careful when dealing with historical subjects.
Gandhi Godse – Ek Yudh review Rediff Rating: