Remembering Gandhi in our lives has now taken fashionable turns. The modest khadi now walks the ramp, filmmakers love him as their protagonist and every sculpture and artiste do a creative take on him, finds Neeti Sarkar
He may have succumbed to an assassin’s bullets in 1948. But his vision, teachings and philosophies live on. They have not just remained in the hearts and minds of Indians but have struck a chord with people from around the world with people portraying Mahatma Gandhi and his life through different creative forums.
Tuesday being Gandhi Jayanti, MetroPlus takes a look at the many ways in which the Mahatma lives beyond the pages of history textbooks.
Gandhiji has influenced pop culture around the world. From the critically acclaimed Gandhi made in 1982 by Richard Attenborough and Gandhi, My Father directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, to Bollywood blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai, which portrayed the reformation of thugs with the teachings and ideologies of the Mahatma and invariably re-introduced Gandhi to the youth of the nation, were all commendable and memorable films.
While films and theatrical productions based on Gandhi's life and philosophies have mostly adopted a sombre tone, the depictions of him on television are quite the opposite. “Almost a decade ago the TV series Clone High featured Gandhi as an energetic person whose biggest dream was to be loved by those around him, in contrast to his historical bequest of non-violence. That was really funny and refreshing,” recalls Jason Austin, a marketing manager.
“I cannot begin to imagine how the makers of Cartoon Network’s Time Squad came up with portraying showing Gandhi as someone craving to make it big in a career of tap dancing instead of leading the freedom struggle in India,” quips Aleesha Porwal, a graphic designer.
If TV series of yore could depict Gandhi in quirky and offbeat ways, cut to the new age shows like The Family Guy which features Gandhi doing stand-up comedy at a club. In another popular TV show Scrubs, Dr. Cox frequently refers to Donald Faison’s character as Gandhi. In How I met Your Mother, Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) makes Gandhi a reference point in conversations to his friends, who of course he quite obviously misquotes, adding to the fun quotient of the show.
Moving beyond Gandhi on the big and small screens, the Father of the Nation started what has turned out to have quite a cult following in the present age. On the runway and off it, fashion has taken cues from his simple attire. “Khadi has caught the fancy of many. Khadi pants, capris, dresses and shirts are not limited to casual wear anymore. They are a part of wedding ensembles. Khadi being Indian and an organic fabric has attracted foreign labels as well. Nobody can deny that Gandhi was the inspiration behind the round rimmed frames that Armani and other brands brought out. And thanks to the Anna Hazare movement, his topis gained popularity,” observes freelance fashion designer Sneha Sood.
While we learn about India’s freedom struggle and its leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, only in middle school, Gandhi is someone children hear about perhaps in playschool itself. “We host a fancy dress competition every year on Children’s Day and invariably at least half a dozen kids come dressed as Gandhi and their parents actually teach them a few of his famous quotes that they recite in front of everybody,” says Deepa M.P., a nursery teacher.
“Casting Gandhiji in the video game series ‘Civilization’ as a solo leader of the Indian Civilization or in ‘Celebrity Death-match’ were rather fun moves by the creators”, says avid gamer Mehul Sharma. “You don’t get bored of History this way,” he laughs.
The world has innumerable ways of remembering the Mahatma. In the heart of every big Indian city, there is an M.G. Road that is lined with designer studios, upscale cafes and pubs, and high-end retail stores, which are quite far removed from his ideal of simple living and high thinking.
Despite how people choose to portray him or chronicle his life, it perhaps wouldn’t have perturbed Gandhi for it was he who said: “My life is my message.”