‘Gandhi Godse Ek Yudh’: Naive, Insidious

By Shubhra Gupta

Looking back at historical figures with the benefit of hindsight can be an interesting exercise. Rajkumar Santoshi posits a question in his ‘Gandhi Godse Ek Yudh’: what if Godse’s lethal attack on the Mahatma had failed? What if the two were given untrammeled time to converse with each other? Would there have been a dilution of ideology, or change of heart on the part of Nathuram Godse, one of the most reviled names in modern history?
But Santoshi’s attempt at revisionism is marred by trying to play it both ways, and falling between the planks. What we get is a series of equally weighted back-and-forth cuts between Gandhi (Deepak Antani) and Godse (Chinmay Mandlekar), as they go about their business: the former trying to douse the inflamed passions of people and a country on the verge of Partition, the latter getting more and more enraged by the escalating situation. A scene of conciliation following a scene of agitation, in a loop, puts into place false equivalence, both naïve and insidious.

Antani’s playing of Gandhi is impressive. In one instance, he gets the toothless laughter just right, apart from pulling off the physical appearance of dhoti-glasses-charkha, and his smiling visage, ever ready to turn the other cheek. Mandlekar is made to constantly rail and flare his nostrils, turning him into a uni-dimensional hot-head who keeps justifying the murder of one of the greatest pacifists the world has known, by denouncing him as the man who didn’t hold the interests of the Hindu community above all, and who forced a love of Muslims down reluctant throats.
One of the film’s ideas is to debunk the kind of myths which have been gaining currency on WhatsApp groups, that he agreed to hand over precious crores to Pakistan. Gandhi is shown lecturing Godse on the error of his ways: ‘nihaththon pe vaar karna koi dharm nahin sikhata’ (no religion advocates aiming at defenseless people). Which is all very well, but there’s no weight to this and a lot more that the Mahatma, shown to be increasingly isolated from the actual functioning of the newly-formed government, tries to impart to the man he has ‘forgiven’.
What if fictional forgiveness is extrapolated and turned into fact in these post-truth times? People in the theatre were laughing at Godse proclaiming about how while people are dying, Gandhi is busy drinking ‘bakri ka doodh’: this kind coarseness goes down easier than anodyne lectures on ‘ekta, vividhta, vishaalta’ of the country.
The film does try and interrogate Gandhi’s strange ideas on love and celibacy through the device of a young girl (Tanisha Santoshi, the director’s daughter) who is forced to choose between serving the nation and a suitable young man (Anuj Saini). But it is clunkily done, as is the film. — Indian Express
Cast: Deepak Antani, Chinmay Mandlekar, Tanisha Santoshi, Anuj Saini
Director: Rajkumar Santosh
Composer: A.R. Rahman
Rating: 1.5 stars