Directed by Feroze Khan
Gandhi, My Father brings alive the Father of the Nation more as a human being than the deified Mahatma. There are faults in the perfect personality—how being a stickler to principles also made him a rigid and stubborn man, how his struggle for the nation took him away from his own son. Then there’s Harilal who starts off as an object of our sympathy for giving up his own dreams for his father’s values to soon show up as an undeserving wastrel. The film comes alive in playing off one personality against the other even as the audience keeps switching its sympathy between the two.
It’s an engaging and moving story but the narrative lets things down. The strategy of moving back and forth in time, from the June of 1948 when Harilal dies unrecognised in the Bombay hospital to the early days of his youth, makes the proceedings too dramatic and filmi. Similarly, the now-on-now-off relationship between the father and son comes across as more awkward than believable. As do the cutesy "happy family in the shower" scenes in Durban. The most moving moment comes towards the end when the Sikh tea stall owner hears of Gandhi’s death and cries for the loss of his bapu even as the decrepit, unknown Harilal can’t express grief on his own father’s demise. Or when Gandhi says in a matter-of-fact manner that he has had just two regrets in life, of not being able to convince his Muslim friend Jinnah and his son Harilal.