Inarguably one of the foremost figures in Indian colonial history, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial advocator and political leader who led India in the nationalist movement against the 200-year long British regime. Venerated nationally and internationally for his philosophy of ‘satyagraha’ and non-violent resistance against the British rule in India, he has been hailed as the ‘Mahatma’ (meaning ‘great soul’) in recognition of his untiring contributions to Indian independence and freedom.
Every year, Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 is celebrated nationwide as Gandhi Jayanti to honour the national icon’s invaluable role in India’s freedom struggle. There have been several unique ways of honouring the legacy left behind by the ‘Father of the Nation’, from nationwide prayer services and cultural tributes to screen adaptations showcasing his virtuosity. As Gandhi Jayanti 2021 marks the 152nd birth anniversary of the national icon, here are some of the best films inspired by Gandhian legacy:
The 1982 biographical film directed by Richard Attenborough is the most acclaimed film based on Mahatma Gandhi’s life and struggles. Starring Sir Ben Kingsley in the titular role and Rohini Hattangadi, Roshan Seth and Candice Bergen in supporting roles, the film was a commercial as well as a critical success, hailed for its historical accuracy, direction and Kingsley’s award-winning performance as the Mahatma. The film went on to win eight Academy Awards out of a total of 11 nominations, alongside an arcade of prestigious awards such as BAFTAs and Golden Globes.
Gandhi, My Father (2007)
Starring Darshan Jariwala and Akshaye Khanna as Mahatma Gandhi and his son, Harilal Gandhi respectively, the 2007 biopic explores the delicate and troubled father-son relationship shared by the duo amidst India’s freedom struggles. Inspired by Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal’s biographical account Harilal Gandhi- A Life and Feroz Khan’s play Mahatma vs. Gandhi, the film manages to capture the intricacies of the strained relationship of the historical figures, combining the gripping dramatic flashbacks with the film’s painstaking attention to detail.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)
The 2006 comedy-drama is a unique cinematic representation of Gandhism (termed ‘Gandhigiri’ in the film) through the story of Munna Bhai, the lovable ‘gunda’ who dons the guise of a Gandhi historian to win over Jhanvi, the radio jockey. Directed by Rajkumar Hirani and starring Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan in leading roles with Dilip Prabhavalkar playing Gandhi, the film is an original concept of applying Gandhian precepts to our lives, managing to honour Gandhi’s legacy in a unique oddball fashion.
The Making of the Mahatma (1996)
The 1996 drama-biopic starring Rajit Kapoor as Gandhi is unique in its humanizing of the national legends as it subtly depicts the intricacies of the Mahatma’s early life in South Africa in an austere yet compelling fashion. Directed by Shyam Benegal, the film is a joint Indo-South African production adapted from Fatima Meer’s book The Apprenticeship of a Mahatma. The film was honoured with National Film Awards for Best Feature Film in English and Best Actor in 1996.
Hey Ram (2000)
The Kamal Hassan direction is a unique interpretation of India’s freedom struggles as it depicts the violent colonial history of India alongside a semi-fictional narrative involving Gandhi’s infamous assassination. The 2000 historical crime drama featured a stellar ensemble cast including actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Kamal Hassan, Hema Malini and Rani Mukherjee with Naseeruddin Shah playing Gandhi. The film is narrated from the perspective of an apolitical archaeologist Saketharaman Iyengar (Kamal Hassan) as he gets inextroicably involved in the violence of communal riots, assassination plans and vengeance. The film was commercially and critically acclaimed despite controversies regarding Gandhi’s portrayal, and won National Film Awards for its unique artistic depiction of the pre-independence era.
Also read: Run-up to partition: Gandhi’s Hinduism