Sunday, October 09, 2005


Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara

Award winning Assamese director Jahnu Barua makes belated Bollywood debut with the startlingly titled Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara.

Original and full of potential, the story of an aged man, who starts losing his memory and gets fixated on a childhood incident—if the film does not quite work in its entirety, it’s because of the overly theatrical treatment, and inconclusive end.

An over stuffed bungalow set (the banister shakes every time someone goes up and down the stairs), houses retired Hindi professor Uttam Chaudhary, his daughter Trisha (Urmila Matondkar), younger son (Addy) and loyal maid. The older son (Rajit Kapoor) lives in the US. It’s a typical happy family, when the professor’s memory lapses (he forgets his wife died, or that he is retired) get frightening.

Trisha, trying to balance between caring for her father, keeping her job and a four-year relationship going, loses it all, when the professor gets it into his head that he is in jail for murdering Gandhi.

At some point, the film stops being about the old man losing his mind, and turns its focus towards the young woman left to deal with a difficult situation in an urban milieu where nobody, not even her kind boss (Waheeda Rehman), can quite understand her suffering.

Her brothers’ quick fix solution is to send him to a mental institution, but Trisha soldiers on, participating in an experiment cooked up by a psychiatrist (Parvin Dabas), in which the Gandhi murder case is reopened, by hiring actors performing on a fake court room set.

However, when you leave the auditorium it is with the uncomfortable feeling, that after the obvious point about the loss of Gandhian values in today’s society is made, does the problem of the aged go away? The professor may be able to remember his favourite poem, but what kind of future does Trisha have?

Since most of the action is in the house, the film does end up looking like a tele-play. The sincere, but slightly over-the top performances could have been toned down too. Still, this is a brave attempt at meaningful cinema, when nobody wants to go very far off the beaten track.


It’s not as if Bollywood filmmakers have suddenly developed an empathy for political or gender issues, but Ariel Dorman’s play Death and the Maiden is easily adaptable to any country and culture. And it offers, besides the obvious political message, the titillation associated with rape.

The recent Dansh, a far superior and well researched version of the play (also made into a film by Roman Polanski) was barely out of mind when Ashwini Chaudhary socks us with a low-budget copy set in a tacky jungle bungalow, and the background of the violence suffered by the woman is the Gujarat riots. It isn’t stated obviously, the viewer has to make guesses based on Gujarat car number plates, and a phone call that places the caller in Ahmedabad. The grainy stock footage of riots could be from anywhere.

What’s important is that the victim is a Muslim and her tormentor a surname-less Hindu (Dr Vishwas what?)

Ayesha (Neha Dhupia) had been raped by a doctor in a camp, during the riots. She never saw the man (her eyes were bandaged), but the trauma is deeply entrenched in her mind. It is suggested by her peculiar jittery behaviour that she is perhaps unhinged by it… the slightest sound near her isolated forest cottage, makes her lunge for a gun. (Stranglely, for one who lives in constant fear, the windows have no bars!)

To her annoyance, her journalist husband Javed Sheikh (Sachin Khedekar) has accepted a position in a token commission set up to investigate the riots. When she is already disturbed, Dr Vishwas (Sonu Sood) drops by with Javed on a rainy night.

Ayesha recognizes his voice and smell, and wants revenge for what she went through. The husband (and it is established that he is an anti-feminist, hypocritical prig) wavers between his wife and the doctor who pleads innocence.

The way Chaudhary handles the material, the nuances disappear, subtexts vanish and it becomes a melodramatic confrontation in which the woman keeps demanding to know why he did it, at one point pulling out a picture of Vishwa’s daughter and asks how he would feel is his wife or daughter were raped. (The foul ‘teri ma behen nahin hai kya’ logic, which actually hides a patriarchal bias.)

And worst of all the dangers of miscasting – audiences tittering when they should be shocked and tense! Neha Dhupia in a fright wig and low cut, strappy, body hugging dress (must be for those who expect to see Julie!) shrieking incoherently. Sonu Sood is so-so. Only Sachin Khedekar is able to somehow give his character a few grey shades.


Even in the midst of a spate of bad films, there will occasionally be one so senseless, that you are astounded by the audacity of the filmmaker in actually inflicting it upon the masses. Kasak is one such.

What was Rajiv Babbar (who once made Mithun Chakraborty potboilers) thinking when he made this film? And what were Lucky Ali and Meera thinking when they signed it? (Does Meera hope to make a career in Hindi films with roles like these?)

The film begins with a boy looking after his mother, who has gone into a coma. How she remains in that state for several years, without life support systems is a medical miracle. When the boy is middle aged, Amar (Lucky Ali) he starts working in a city hospital as a nurse and serves a rich woman, who leaves him a small fortune.

To gyp him out of this, another nurse at the hospital, Anjali, (Meera), pretends to love him, marries him and then chucks him out without a penny. He lands up in a village somewhere, and makes tons of money so that he can entice his wife back.

It sounds coherent when put in a few lines, but the film goes all over the place and introduces the oddest characters like the drunk who pays Amar to kill him, and a horny bikini clad babe, who writhes in a tub full of grapes. It also takes too many breaks for soporific, indifferently choreographed songs.

Anjali, with her peculiar English accent, horrendous costumes and vampire make-up must be the oddest film ‘heroine’ of all time, and Meera plays her with an unintended comic touch. Lucky Ali, should perhaps stick to singing, or at least choose better parts.


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