Any film that slams Gandhi as something of a selfish, thoughtless prick deserves credit for audaciousness. Regrettably, though, Gandhi, My Father weakly opts for lionization at precisely the moment it should go in for the killshot. Based on Chandulal Dalal’s book, this sketchy biopic recounts the tale of Mahatma Gandhi’s oldest son Harilal (Akshaye Khanna), whose life in Dad’s enormous shadow was marked by bitterness, resentment, alcoholism, and shame. Writer-director Feroze Khan places the blame for Harilal’s misery and disgrace squarely on Gandhi, whose stubborn adherence to his beliefs (equality in the public and private spheres, sacrifice of individual desires for the communal good) caused him to stymie his son’s personal freedom and professional goal of wanting to study law like his father. Before dying as a bum merely five months after his paterfamilias passed away, Harilal was forced to abandon his wife and children to serve Gandhi’s cause in South Africa, became India’s first passive resistor, converted to Islam as an act of rebellion against his Hindu parents, and eventually devolved into a drunken, prostitute-visiting mess. Khan recounts this sad story with a bevy of melodramatic flourishes, and the heightened emotional mood helps enliven what turns out to be a repetitive, overly prolonged, and skin-deep narrative in which Harilal ditches, then rejoins, then once again ditches (and so on) his mom and dad. During Harilal’s sloshed escapades, Khanna occasionally seems on the verge of channeling Adam Sandler, and his performance’s blankness is more or less matched by Darshan Jariwala’s two-dimensional turn as Gandhi. Still, Gandhi, My Father might have overcome some of its more ham-fisted shortcomings were it not for the third act’s loss of focus (and nerve), with the film largely turning its attention away from Harilal’s ordeals and toward the noble efforts of Gandhi to liberate (and then prevent civil war from engulfing) India, a shift that, in light of the preceding condemnatory stance taken with the Father of the Nation, can’t help but come across as a mild cop-out.
- Eros International
- 128 min
- Feroze Khan
- Chandulal Delal, Feroze Khan
- Akshaye Khanna, Darshan Jariwala, Bhoomika Chawla, Shefali Shetty, Vinay Jain
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