Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005)
Name: Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (I Did Not Kill Gandhi)
Director: Jahnu Barua
Did I watch this recently? Yes
Uttam Chowhury (Anupam Kher), eminent author and professor of Hindi literature at the University of Bombay now lives the quiet serene life of a retiree with his daughter Trisha (Urmila Montondkar) and youngest son. Life was good until he gradually began losing his memory. At first what is described as ‘old age’ soon becomes evident is much more and is diagnosed with Dementia (a form of Alzheimers). When his dementia leads him into believing that he killed Gandhi drastic steps must be taken by his supportive family in an attempt to cure his delusion and keep him out of a hospital asylum.
Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara came out in 2005 with a whimper and left in silence at the box office but luckily this poignant film was not all forgotten. It still managed to receive critical acclaim with Anupam Kher winning a special jury award at the National Film Awards and Urmila Matondkar won Best Actress award for her performance. But somehow i wish the mainstream audience appreciated this film more, its truly original (especially for bollywood) and a quality movie that people should watch for Anupam alone. But be mindful, its not your every run-of-the-mill bollywood film. It has no music, its thought provoking (rather then just plain ‘feel good’) and most of the time realistic. But its exactly the kind of experimentation that is good to see once and a while in Bollywood especially considering its distributed by Yash Raj one of the most commercial powerful distributors and producers in Bollywood. This movie was definitely the starting trend of Yash Raj’s experimentation with niche cinema.
Anupam Kher plays Uttam, the retired Hindi professor who does not know it yet but has succumbed to dementia (a form of Alzheimers which is a degeneration of the brain). His loving Daughter Trisha, played by Urmila Matondkar, starts to get worried when he begins to forget names, where he is, what happened the day before and even that his wife has died. Things go from bad to worse when Uttam starts to blur reality with fiction and believes that he killed Gandhi.
The true strength of this film is Anupam. You can tell he has put so much love and effort into this film and character and it really comes across on screen. Its extremely rare to find an actor like Kher who has done 200+ films and who can do both comedy and drama with such ease. A truly powerful performance and one of the best i have seen him do. He really showcases his talents in this film from the confusion, to pleas of innocence, the loving father, the scared prisoner he really does them all with such passion its hard to forget his performance. I’m sorry to see he didn’t gain the award for best actor in 2005 which of course went to Amitabh Bachchan in a similar role in Black (2005) involving Alzheimers.
Other strengths of this film lay in the cinematography and special mention for the background score. Considering the movie had no music, it was more then made up for by the score of the film. It just perfectly matched the ambiance and emotion of the scenes, so its good to see when they aren’t creating songs they are still focusing on the strength of the score to create emotion and add to scenes. Other mention I have to give goes to Urmila Matondakar. I’m not really at all a fan of Urmila but then i watch films like Satya (1998), Pinjar (2003) & Ek Hasina Thi (2004) and i’m reminded exactly why people consider her a good actress. I wish she gets better roles then Bas Ek Pal & RGV Ki Aag cause judging by this movie its a total waste of her talents.
All performances in the film were outstanding with the one exception of the youngest son ‘Karan’ played by an actor called Addy. I’m not sure if its the character or the actor i dislike but i definitely got quite annoyed at times by the one note whiny acting. It could have been a character with alot of depth but instead was completely wasted. Checking by his filmography he has luckily not done a movie since. Bomani Irani also is over the top but then again he is playing an actor! Waheeda Rehman plays a small role that unfortunately was too small for her to show off her talent.
There is heavy Gandhian symbolism in this film but i think in terms of executing the Gandhi messages it was not all that well done and was weakly integrated. I think if i had to choose a film that really tackled the Gandhian philosophy and trying to teach the audience about Gandhi, i would chose without question Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006). I know that it was a comedy and this is a drama so they are quite different in their premise, but as someone who is not that familiar with Gandhi I felt that Lage Raho Munnabhai taught me so much more about what he stood for and the issues associated with present day Gandhism. Though its a very good idea to show Uttam’s gradual erosion of his memory in the present like the erosion of Gandhi’s principles in todays society, but beyond that I feel i didn’t feel the full power of their intended message.
There was strong emphasis on establishing the connection between Gandhi and Uttam that i feel they lost focus on what was truly good to see in this film. I mostly felt the film when they focused on the children and Uttam’s journey into dementia. The complex emotions of sadness, frustration, denial and confusion were for me the things that made this film, not the execution of the Gandhi issues. There is a court scene in the second half where the children and doctor try to stage a court room drama so Uttam can be convinced he did not kill Gandhi. This is where i kind of lost interest. It was too far fetched for me considering this is supposed to be a realistic take on the disease. But it was the strongest scene at least for conveying the Gandhi message but i wouldn’t miss it if the whole last half hour was cut and spent more time integrating the Gandhi message better.
Last issue i had with the film was the length. The story was quite thin so i really didn’t think it needed to be 2 hours considering there wasn’t much to the story. It would have been much better if they kept it to the 1.5 hour mark. Or at least add a bit more to the story so the pacing didn’t feel so slow.
Overall Score: 3.5/5 Hairy Anil Kapoors – A very good watch if you want to see something different in Bollywood. Engagingly emotional scenes, Anupam’s fantastic portrayal of Uttam and Urmila touching journey to help her father all combine to give many viewers their dosage of realistic, thought provoking and quality cinema. However it experiences issues with slow pacing, i’m unsatisfied with the courtroom drama and not all the Gandhi messages were well executed. However the lack of attention this film received in 2005 means i encourage people to watch it for the growing trend of cinema in Bollywood and of course for Anupam Kher.