Sunday, October 29, 2006

Munna Bhai, Gandhism and all of us today

"Lage Raho Munna Bhai" is possibly one of the greatest films on Gandhi ever made. I watched it a few days ago, on my computer. My father brought the DVD with him when he came to visit.

Initially, I thought the film was going to be humane but comic, like the prequel - "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S". And of course, being a hindi film, I know I needn't dig too deep to find faults..for instance, the actress Vidya Balan. I think she was awful in the film.

Arshad Warsi was fantastic, in his slapstick, crude humour that the junta must've ADORED. Sanjay Dutt was heart rendering. His character was humble, gentle, morally good and good-hearted.

So where does Gandhi come in? Gandhi was a quirky, but great man. Yes, he slept with naked women as an experiment, he was a terrible father and husband. But we all know that nobody is perfect, and it is undisputable that he gave his life for the country, and he gave a lot to us. Aside from his quirkiness, there was a lot he taught about truth, and about being good human beings.

Many books have been written about him, and by him. Many history teachers lecture on him in their classes. And many films have been made on Gandhi, and about Gandhi.

'Lage Raho Munna Bhai' was not only about Munna Bhai's love for Jhanvi. It wasn't just about Circuit (Arshad Warsi) and his mad sense of humour. It wasn't just about being funny. Above everything else, it was a film on Gandhi. And quite possibly, the best one made, on him.

Gandhi's beliefs and values were so beautifully woven into the otherwise very light story line, that it made his beliefs accessible to all. This film brought Gandhi's teachings to those people who don't have the luxury of going to a library and picking up a book, going to a bookshop and buying his work, or even going to a school and learning about him. His easiest teachings - Be nice to people, speak the truth, lying doesn't lead you anywhere except to trouble, violence leads to nothing but pain and sadness; these teachings of his were put into practice by a gangster. It made those teachings look like the easiest things in the world.

Munna Bhai, a gangster learns about Gandhi, and begins to hallucinate about seeing Gandhi. He applies Gandhi's teachings to his own life, and helps other people...all the while thinking that Gandhi is guiding him. But all along, its actually everything that he has learnt from Gandhi. It's not Gandhi that's telling him to be non-violent, and truthful and kind. It's Munna bhai, himself. It's a beautiful realisation of the audience, but Munna himself thinks he is going mad, because he's told Gandhi isn't actually there, and there are chemical imbalances in his brain that make him see Gandhi. The truth however, is that he has become the ambassador of "Gandhigiri", in theory and practice.

There is one scene in the film that made me add "and all of us today" to the title of this post. Munna Bhai has to go and learn something about Gandhi. First he tries to threaten university professors, he tries everything but realises that if he really wants to convince his love that he is a professor who has some knowledge about Gandhi, he'd have to go into the Gandhi Library and read. He enters the library and is shocked at what he sees - It's completely empty. It's dark, you can almost smell how musty it is in there. The smell of abandonment, of unopened books and unopened doors.

The film hinted that today, we don't appreciate Gandhi at all. I've heard people talk about him a certain way. I myself have spoken about him as being a bit of a weirdo. I remember saying something nasty about his experiments with the naked women. And yes, maybe what I said wasn't entirely wrong. But if I have the courage to say something derogatory about a man so great, I should also have the gaul to appreciate and acknowledge all the good he left behind. All that we have forgotten.

He was probably, the least "matlabi" person in the world. His only "matlab" was for the country. It's often said in his defence, "He was a bad father to his children, only because he was busy fathering an entire nation." His principles of truth, non-violence, and simplicity are priceless. His role in our struggle for independence is so significant - the non-cooperation movement, the civil disobedience movement, his fasts, the dandi yatra. His fight for equality, his non-violent aggression against untouchability. His selflessness cannot be denied.

We are all products of an Independent India. An India that has been unmistakably shaped in many ways, by Gandhi. But we don't really have the time, or patience or energy to follow most of his principles. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all of you who read this will feel like I'm doing an injustice to you by saying that you are matlabi, you are self-centered and you don't really care much for the truth, or for simplicity.

But let's look a little deeper into ourselves, and each other..

Can we really say that we're Gandhian from any angle? Can we really say, without lying to ourselves, that we've been selfless, kind, truthful, non-violent, and simplistic consistently?

I was told by someone who's always looked out for me, that I like to live in my little happy place, and that's why this world makes no sense to me sometimes, that's why I get hurt again and again. I was told that if I want to continue to live in my happy place, this world isnt for me.

My little happy place is a world where people care for eachother, are there for each other, don't use eachother for ulterior motives, dont think only about themselves. I genuinely believe that such a happy place can exist. But the truth I learn again and again, but foolishly and incessantly refuse to accept, is - it doesnt.

And perhaps the reason it doesn't, is because we've forgotten the simplest teachings of Bapu?


Anonymous Ganesh said...

If one's patriotic, it'll show. If one's a Gandhian, it'll show.

Films/Media influenced awakenings are just bollocks! Which is why i didn't like the Rang de film and this one. Being just films and a source of entertainment they are spot on, but when the hype about Youth Rights and Gandhigiri (I mean, what on earth is Gandhigiri!????) make their way into films what happens is it fuels an individual for a feelting second (coupla months, depends on the film-maker's PR exercise) and then pooof, it's gone.

October 31, 2006 at 12:41:00 PM GMT+5:30  
Anonymous Ganesh said...

oh ho! i lost the point i wanted to make! Well written, baby! I already told you, but anyway - Bravo!

October 31, 2006 at 12:46:00 PM GMT+5:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

again, a wonderful write!!

October 31, 2006 at 9:53:00 PM GMT+5:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice write-up. But completely disagree with your view on Vidya Balan. She was FANTASTIC in the film. What a range - from Lolita in Parineeta to Jhanvi in Munnabhai. Very few actresses today have such talent, stunning beauty, versatility, grace charm and poise, and freshness. She did complete justice to a light-hearted role. Could not have imagined the film without. She was especially magically in the night footpath scenes and the Pal Pal song.

November 1, 2006 at 10:35:00 AM GMT+5:30  
Blogger Sylvan Goddess said...

I beg to differ. She was good in Parineeta, but I'm afraid she was at her worst in this film.

November 1, 2006 at 8:21:00 PM GMT+5:30  
Anonymous maya said...

I really liked the movie, but what kind of annoyed me was how the Gandhi character would suddenly start speaking about himself and his principles and how we should keep him in our hearts. Bit jarring to hear him talk about himself that way.
Oh and I thought Vidya Balan was otherwise okay in the film, but I cringed whenever she yelled her "Good morning India" bit and the focus would be on her lipsticked(lipstuck?) mouth. What WAS that?!

November 2, 2006 at 7:54:00 PM GMT+5:30  

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