FRIDAY REVIEW

To evoke the Gandhi in us

RANA SIDDIQUI

VALUES MATTER Assamese director Jahnu Baruah PHOTO: ANU PUSHKARNA

VALUES MATTER Assamese director Jahnu Baruah PHOTO: ANU PUSHKARNA  

In Mumbai when director Jahnu Baruah was shooting for his film, "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara" under the statue of the Mahatma, Vishwaas Paandya, the film's executive director, noticed that the statue was swathed in dust. He asked a cleaner nearby, "Isn't the statue cleaned regularly?" He replied callously, "Safai hota hai saab, do baar. Do October aur tees janwari ko. Sarkari aadmi aata hai." (Government cleaners come here twice a year, on 2nd October and 30th January to clean it), recalls Paandya adding that the same dialogue has been used in the film too to make people realise what we do to our national heroes after their death.

And this is exactly what has happened to the Gandhian values too today. It has got paler by the day because of overshadowing violence, believes Baruah, a 10-time National Award winner whose intense films in Assamese are a social document, take for instance, "Halodhiya Soraye Bawdhwan Khai" and "Bora".

"I believe society is today detached from Gandhian philosophy. In the name of development and peace, we are backing violence. We take to fierce ways to solve problems. Take for instance, the insurgency situations, be it in Jammu and Kashmir or North East, people and political parties capitalise on arms to resolve the crises. We have all grown so impatient. In such a situation we do need a Gandhi today. My film is only a reminder to the audience that no matter how we solve our problem, we do need to retain humanity in that. Every day Gandhi is killed in our country and everyone is enough of a Godse among us," avers Baruah in New Delhi for the promotion of the film releasing this Friday.

Though at the same time, he says the film has nothing to do with Gandhi's assassination by Godse as such. He is used here as a metaphor, a philosophy. "It is a very contemporary story about a professor of Hindi, his Gandhian philosophy, the Alzheimer disease that he develops because of which he feels he is connected to Gandhi's assassination and his devaluation in today's society and his bond with the daughter," explains Baruah.

Not that the story was newly sprung in his mind. He penned it ten years ago with Anupam Kher in mind for the protagonist. "If Anupam had refused to play the role, I wouldn't have made this film. Other actors were replaceable though. I am happy that Urmila too agreed to do it. She is wrongly projected as more of a glamorous girl. She is a very intelligent and intense artiste."

No matter how such films fare at the box office, Barauh believes there is a ready audience for it. "We make 900 films a year and 80 per cent of them flop. This is because they fail to connect with people. If there is a good story, people do respond positively. I am sure my film will also find its audience."

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