Gandhi Godse – Ek Yudh marks Rajkumar Santoshi’s comeback as a director after nine/ten years. A 360-degree turn from his last venture Phata Poster Nikla Hero (2013), this movie is a political and historical discourse on an issue which never results in a concrete conclusion. The assassination of ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi by Nathuram Godse. But here, is a fictional backdrop that had the revolutionary-turned-politician survive, how would a conversation between both ideologies pan out? Amidst two conflicting tenets, the movie strives to take a middle ground.
Gandhi’s life has been well documented. When it comes to his contribution towards India’s freedom struggle he certainly emerged as a hero. His ideologies on non-violence and peace are admirable. But before we analyse the film, I think it’s important to highlight a few historical events. Even though Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is considered a ‘father of the nation’. His role as a politician and leader perhaps did not match up to that stature. Here are a few reasons why: Gandhi supported the Khilafat Movement which essentially had nothing to do with India. Yet he was prepared to delay the country’s independence for this. Researchers claim that this is a campaign established by Indian Muslims, supporting Turkey’s leader. Where even several Turkish Muslims were not interested. Many Indians had even lost their lives.
Furthermore, the political party Congress not only supported the movement but also denied the Moplah genocide. During this, thousands of Hindus, including children, were murdered and converted. Women were sexually violated. Several Indian nationalists, including Ambedkar, rebelled against this. On Direction Action Day, the Muslim League decided to take “direct action” for a separate Islamic country after the British departed India. During these riots, several Hindus were systematically murdered or stripped of their faith. The ‘Mahatma’ only warned them to leave the district or brace themselves for death. He did not help them, per se.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to the fear of causing political unrest, the movie does not cover these major complaints against the revered figure. We see a perspective of what the freedom fighter would’ve done had he survived the assassination. Whilst this is interesting, I personally would have liked to visually understand more about what pushed Godse to that extent. How he transitioned from being a once admirer of his, to opposing him. On the cinematic side, I believe that the movie is quite attached to reality. Though the cinematography could’ve been crisper, the concept itself piques our curiosity. Even though the duration is just under two hours, it feels as though the second half is stretched out for the sake of a cinematic experience.
Even though disputations between them take place throughout the film, there are more scenes which showcase how he tries to understand the ‘real’ independent India by visiting villages and providing jobs. Godse is merely seen as a ranting convict who disproves Mr Gandhi’s ideologies. Though, at the same time, humanises (not glorifies) him. As such, Santoshi’s cinematic liberty is nuanced and sensitively presents the conversations. In spite of Nathuram making the deplorable decision to shoot him, his reasoning and complaints against the saintly personality also come across as rational.
At the same time, one can comprehend MK Gandhi’s ideologies and his principles of extreme non-violence. During the climax, there is a powerful scene where someone close to him, confronts and highlights his flaws. I personally like the fact that despite disagreements, there is a mutual understanding between them. The use of a prison cell is symbolic as it depicts the entrapment yet the realisation of how there is no escaping from democracy. Even during talks of Hindutva or presenting Godse as the proud Hindu he was, the filmmaker does not antagonise him nor incites Hinduphobia. He deals with it respectfully. The use of a prison cell is symbolic as it depicts the entrapment yet the realisation of how there is no escaping from democracy – which is what Gandhi Godse as a whole is attempting to achieve.
Employing AR Rahman to handle the music works in favour of the overall viewing experience. The soul-stirring score captures the movie’s intensity and emotions. These aspects are enhanced further by powerful performances by Antani and Mandlekar. Both have surrendered themselves fully to the role, where it comes across as authentic. Chinmay especially has the most demanding job as he has to create Godse from facts and creative briefs. But he surely rises up to challenge and is exceptional. He presents the role, not as a monster or a scheming villain, but as a revolutionary who is deeply hurt. Tanisha Santoshi makes a confident debut and does well. Likewise for Anuj Saini.
It is no easy feat for Santoshi or any filmmaker to make a movie like this. It requires precision and objectivity, which certainly comes across here. He is courageous, in such times where opinions and emotions are so extreme in each way, to spark a healthy debate through cinema. The ‘what if’ sentiment is stirred-up to a major extent, resulting in a thought-provoking experience. Even though Gandhi Godse – Ek Yudh is not a spectacular masterpiece, it is worth a watch.