IFFI 2023 | ‘Gandhi Talks’ movie review: Vijay Sethupathi’s silent film fulfils part of its mission

Although ‘Gandhi Talks’, starring Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swamy and Aditi Rao Hydari, veers off course at times, director Kishore Belekar deserves credit for daring to make a silent film with mainstream actors in an era of loud ‘pan-India’ films

November 24, 2023 12:32 pm | Updated 04:02 pm IST

Vijay Sethupathi in a promo for ‘Gandhi Talks’

Vijay Sethupathi in a promo for ‘Gandhi Talks’

An idea that becomes an obsession can pull one along through adversities and make one go great lengths to realise it, but it could also make you lose sight of other things that make a movie work. Filmmaker Kishore Pandurang Belekar, by his own admission, revealed at the premiere of his silent film Gandhi Talks at the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) that the idea of making a silent film has been with him for the past 23 years.

And, Belekar does go great lengths to ensure that the characters don’t have to speak, although at times, one can also see him struggling to convey something without dialogues and resorting to shortcuts, like closeup shots of text messages or characters breaking into sign language. Yet, Belekar deserves praise for sticking to the idea that he believed in, and being able to realise it effectively to an extent.

Gandhi Talks revolves around Mahadev (Vijay Sethupathi), an unemployed man who attempts everything in his power to land a job, but fails. When he accidentally meets Boseman (Arvind Swamy), a wealthy businessman, whose empire is about to fall apart, he hits upon an idea that could change his life. The backgrounds of the principal characters might bring back memories of that iconic silent film Pushpak, but that is where the similarities end. 

Part of what drives the narrative is A.R. Rahman’s music, which occupies almost the entire duration of the film, often acting as a stand-in for the words that have been silenced. It is not for nothing that the musician proudly called the film his “showreel” and a “gift for a composer” at the premiere. Also peppered across the narrative are quite a few short songs, five of which Rahman said he had composed just last week. 

‘Gandhi Talks’
Director: Kishore Pandurang Belekar
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swamy, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sidharth Jadhav
Run-time: 141 minutes
Storyline: Mahadev, an honest but unemployed man, takes a drastic step after meeting a bankrupt businessman

The title of the film appears as a lament for Gandhi being reduced to just a face on the currency notes (and sanitation campaigns), because the ideals that he lived by are hard to reach for. But, in reducing most ills of the society to just corruption, it traverses the simplistic track followed by some social messaging-oriented movies of the 1980s and 90s. 

Parallel to the poor man-rich man narrative runs a love story that begins promisingly enough. In what appears to be a spoof of typical Bollywood romantic scenes of a couple catching sight of each other for the first time, Mahadev catches a glimpse of Gayatri (Aditi Rao Hydari) through smoke emanating from a mosquito fogging machine in a crowded Mumbai chawl. But, then it traverses along the paths taken by usual romances. 

Actors Sidharth Jadhav, Aditi Rao Hydari, Vijay Sethupathi, filmmaker Kishore Pandurang Belekar, music composer A.R.Rahman at the premiere of ‘Gandhi Talks’ at IFFI

Actors Sidharth Jadhav, Aditi Rao Hydari, Vijay Sethupathi, filmmaker Kishore Pandurang Belekar, music composer A.R.Rahman at the premiere of ‘Gandhi Talks’ at IFFI

Vijay Sethupathi, as usual, eases into the role, and even makes one think that he has been acting in silent movies all along with the natural flair that he brings to the table. With his role as a quirky, petty thief, Sidharth Jadhav manages to stand out in a star-studded lineup. Made engagingly for most parts, the film loses its way in an extended sequence set inside Boseman’s palatial house, but it does manage to redeem itself to an extent towards the end of that sequence, although one cannot say that about the epilogue. 

Although Gandhi Talks veers off course at times, the film deserves credit for Belekar’s daring to make a silent film with mainstream stars in an era when the call is for louder-than-the-previous “pan-Indian” films. 

Gandhi Talks was premiered at the 54th International Film Festival of India

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