FILM Forget the many problem areas. “Welcome Back Gandhi” must be lauded for having its heart in the right place
If Rajkumar Hirani's “Lage Raho Munnabhai” was the commercial filmmaker's take on relevance and application of Gandhian way of life to tackle problems in modern day society, A. Balakrishnan's “Welcome Back Gandhi” (“Mudhalvar Mahatma” in Tamil) is a similarly idealistic, arthouse effort about how the Father of the Nation would've still triumphed had he lived today.
Never mind the raw supporting cast and amateur performances, the film needs to be lauded for its conviction in Gandhian values. But, there are many problem areas in this indie fairytale that pretends to be realistic. A satyagraha for rain actually brings rain, and no one, including Gandhians, can see the striking resemblance between the man on every Indian currency and the man called Mohandas who is cleaning toilets.
As a result, the film works in moments than as a whole as you watch one application of Gandhian thought after another in a modern day scenario yield results. It's a far cry from the sentimentality of Hirani's Gandhigiri and the film plays out as a series of episodes in a loose narrative with no larger conflict keeping it together.
Nevertheless, “Welcome Back Gandhi” has its heart in the right place. The actor playing Mohandas, S. Kanagaraj, is absolutely convincing in his body language, despite the rough edges in performance, and is singularly responsible for retaining your attention through several rough patches in the film.
And, there's Anupam Kher who plays the narrator as the Chief Minister of a model state who recollects his life as Gandhi's disciple at the ashram.
Director Balakrishnan, who had earlier made “Kamaraj”, employs Ilaiyaraaja's music to great effect, and the final product makes up for its rawness with sheer heart and spirit. It's encouraging to see filmmakers such as Balakrishnan persist and triumph in their vision to make films that are far from formula.
It's a noble, valiant effort that needs to be seen and promoted just so that another filmmaker is encouraged to invest in a film as honest as this, one that will invoke and appeal to the patriot in you, despite its idealistic failings.