Narrated in a series of flashbacks, “Gandhi My Father” begins with a dying
The movie’s highpoint is performance. It is incredible how a flashy Bollywood star like Akshaye Khanna has been tamed into a mellow and shy Harilal. This is probably his best role till date. Equally amazing is the way Darshan Jariwala, known for his comic, theatre parts, has been moulded into an imposing, controlled Gandhi. The women have little to do, but Bhumika Chawla as Harilal’s wife, Gulab, injects a spark into her character that cannot be easily missed.
The National Film Awards for 2005 have been just announced, a clear delay of two years. A member on the jury moved court alleging that the prizes were “fixed”. The petition was dismissed by the Delhi High Court a few days ago. Without passing my judgement on the jury’s choices – because I feel they are highly subjective depending on the mood and mind of the panellists – I firmly believe that there is much to be desired as far as selection of members goes. I have written several times that the Directorate of Film Festivals, which is in charge of the National Awards, must rope in big names. Often the Directorate fails here, because it waits, either by design or compulsion, till the eleventh hour to send its invitations. Most people refuse, because of their prior commitments. I remember the Directorate asking me to serve on the National Jury virtually hours before the screenings were to begin in New Delhi. And I was not even living in New Delhi! The result of such royal bungling is so damn predictable: the jury includes people not qualified to be there, and they can be somebody’s bored wife or even a politician. Now for god’s sake, what do they know about cinema! Sadly the National Awards continue to be a scandal.
Bollywood’s flirtation with the underworld and the unlawful is no less of a disgrace. Sanjay Dutt, who has been jailed for six years for possessing and later destroying an AK 56 assault rifle, continued to be associated with gangsters long after his earlier 16-month incarceration ended in 1994. In 2001, an audiotape of his conversation with a don surfaced. The actor escaped because audiotapes are not admissible as evidence in court. Bollywood hunk Salman Khan may also spend time in jail if the August 24 verdict on poaching blackbuck in Rajasthan goes against him. And now Monica Bedi, Abu Salem’s girlfriend, is all set to act in a Bollywood movie. She just walked free after being acquitted in a fake passport case. Salem is the principal accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb explosions, and is also said to have supplied the gun to Dutt. But Monica says she has nothing to do with Abu. Not any more, and has become a good girl. Bollywood stands innocent at least on this count.
The death of Ingmar Bergman was, to the point of sounding clichéd, a great loss to cinema. He was 89, and was living all by himself on the Island of Faro, off the Baltic coast of Sweden. Bergman used his own bleak life, with its divorces and unfulfilled relationships, as ideas, themes and plots for his films. Pain and suffering were often the hallmark of his cinema. He often tormented his viewers with guilt and the evils of religion. In his movies, the world is a place where faith is tenuous; communication, elusive; and self-knowledge, illusory at best, Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times Magazine in a 1983 profile of the director. “God is either silent or malevolent; men and women are creatures and prisoners of their desires.” Bergman moved from the comic romp of lovers in “Smiles of a Summer Night” in 1955 to the Crusader’s death-haunted search for God in “The Seventh Seal” in 1957; from the harrowing portrayal of fatal illness in “Cries and Whispers” in 1972 to the alternately humorous and horrifying depiction of family life a decade later in “Fanny and Alexander.”
Tailpiece: Abhishek Bachchan will not act in Apoorva Lakhia’s “Mission Istanbul”. The reason: Vivek Oberoi is also in the film, and the two actors avoid each other these days. Well, well. One is the husband, and the other the former boyfriend of Aishwarya Rai. I call this womanpower.
(Webposted August 8 2007)