Dr. Narendra Kaushik’s upcoming book on Mahatma Gandhi in Hindi cinema

A new book analyses how Bapu’s values have been portrayed in Hindi cinema over the last 100 years

“In India there are are two big things: one is cinema, the other is Gandhi. Both started their journey simultaneously. My interest in Gandhi was roused after reading Bapu’s autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth that was gifted to me at Gandhi Darshan in Delhi,” says Dr. Narendra Kaushik.

(Above) Sanjay Dutt in a scene in from “Munnabhai” franchise. A copy of Dr. Narendra Kaushik’s book

(Above) Sanjay Dutt in a scene in from “Munnabhai” franchise. A copy of Dr. Narendra Kaushik’s book  

A journalist-turned-professor, Prof Kaushik did his Ph.D. on “Gandhian values in Hindi cinema” and has now penned the book Mahatma Gandhi in Cinema. For Kaushik, Associate Professor, Journalism & Mass Communication, JECRC University, Jaipur, this book that has over 250 pages, has taken over three years to write.

Snippets of the book are now on the Cambridge Scholar Publishing website and after the lockdown copies in hard cover will reach bookstores. Based on his research for his thesis, he reworked the structure and manner of communication to make it relatable to students.

It's not a rosy image of Gandhi thought, as he has examined certain parts of his life, such as his role in Baghat Singh’s execution, differences with Subhas Chandra Bose, and his role in the Partition.

The book brings to light the transformation of Gandhi over the years. It’s not all a rosy image though, as he has examined certain parts of his life, such as his role in Baghat Singh’s execution, differences with Subhas Chandra Bose, and his role in the Partition.

An ardent film watcher, Kaushik, who began his career with the Mid Day in Delhi, says he watches movies at home on OTT platforms, and hasn’t been to a theatre in years.

Excerpts from a conversation

Would you say that Bapu has by and large been projected correctly in Hindi cinema?

It’s a mixed bag. Mahatma Gandhi’s principles found more resonance in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He exited the cinema screen after the arrival of superstar Rajesh Khanna and later Amitabh Bachchan. There was a revival of a sort after Lage Raho Munnabhai. But it did not last very long.

Filmmakers have portrayed truth, untouchability, swadeshi, and equality of religions more honestly. There are films like Raja Harishchandra, Phir Subah Hogi, Shriman Satyawadi, Satyakam, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Sujata, Achhut Kanya, Ankur, Manthan, Dharti Ke Lal, Jaag Utha Insaan, Padosi, Train to Pakistan, Road to Sangam, Lagaan, and Swadesh which conformed to one or more of his principles. But when it comes to violence, Hindi filmmakers have taken the most liberties. It’s understandable. The Bollywood of the 1970s, '80s and '90s sustained itself mainly on the lost-and-found narrative, and vendetta. Even Lage Raho Munna Bhai which resurrected him in 2006 takes liberties with non-violence.

If you are talking about biopics on Gandhi, there are none. Gandhi only covers his political struggle completely disregarding his childhood and adolescence. Benegal’s Making of the Mahatma focuses on his sojourn in South Africa while Gandhi My Father juxtaposes him with his eldest son Hari Lal.

What were the challenges in writing this book ?

There were quite a few. For one, reading about Gandhi is in itself a challenge. Almost every hour of Gandhi’s life is well-documented. There is so much information available that it becomes difficult to understand what to pick and what to leave out. Moreover, there wasn’t one Gandhi. There were multiple Gandhis.

For instance, on untouchability, the Gandhi before the 1920s was half-casteist, while in later years he became a crusader against untouchability. He did not allow his second son Mani Lal to marry Fatima, in South Africa, but in his later years he allowed his youngest son Devdas to marry Lakshmi, daughter of C. Rajagopalachari.

Tell us how films like Naya Daur and Lage Raho Munnabhai conveyed Gandhian thoughts?

Gandhi was against heavy machinery. He believed it would unemploy human beings. Naya Daur in fact, rolls out with a quote from the Mahatma on the subject. It juxtaposes bus (machine) against tonga (human labour) whereby the latter ultimately triumphs. Munnabhai goes by his conscience, tells truth to Janvi and exhorts others to speak the truth. A tapori (vagabound) resurrects Gandhigiri. The term may be an innovation of Raju Hirani but the concept is as old as Gandhi.

What is the relevance of the book at a time when right wing fundamental forces are instilling fear in the minds of minorities?

Gandhian ideology is much more relevant today than what it was in pre-independent India. The Father of the Nation made it incumbent upon the majority to look after the minority. It is high time that we go beyond these isms and wings and start looking at everything from a human angle. Gandhi did it. He belonged to neither of the camps. Though there is an attempt by both to appropriate him.

Which is your favourite Gandhi film?

Lage Raho Munnaibhai. Agreed, it dumbs down the message of the Mahatma. But in the process takes it to the hoi polloi. Moreover, it introduced the Mahatma to a younger generation. Shahrukh’s Swades and Dharmendra’s Satyakam are also class acts.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 7:05:59 PM |

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