Gandhi – My Father

October 14, 2007
By

We always think about Mahatma Gandhi as the freedom fighter, fighting for India’s independence, leading millions of people in protest against the British, liberating the country in his own unique way. What about Gandhi the person, a husband and father of four children?

The movie Gandhi My Father takes a close look at one of Mahatma Gandhi’s life’s biggest personal regrets. A rare movie that talks about his family and the problems in his own personal life. That he was able to rise above them in achieving what he did is just an illustration of his being the great man that he was.

It isn’t easy being great. It is harder being a father when you have greater things to achieve. This movie is about Gandhi and his relationship with his eldest son, Harilal Gandhi.

The movie starts off with a young Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala) before that incident at Pietermaritzburg which made him plunge into the fight for civic rights. He is a lawyer. He is happily married with kids. All but one are with him. The one who isnt, his eldest son, is in Rajkot. Hari Lal.

HariLal (Akshaye Khanna) gets married to Gulab (Bhoomika Chawla) without taking his father’s permission, and Gandhi being the strict father that he is, is offended. Harilal soon comes to South Africa, and gets involved in Gandhi’s work. He in fact becomes the first Satyagrahi in South Africa, and goes to jail. But somewhere inside him there’s this desire to be free of his father who makes all decisions, even the decision to send Gulab back to India even as he was still in jail. He wants to study, become a lawyer, lead a happy family life where he makes money to feed his family. He wants to take his own decisions.

He quits. And goes back to India. Only his abilities don’t match his ambitions. He fails his matric (10th grade) exams three times, and is unable to find any job. So much for becoming a lawyer. His household, meanwhile, is running with money coming from South Africa. Gandhi still wants him to join his movement and he keeps refusing.

Meanwhile Gandhi is done with South Africa and returns to India.

I know i couldnt be the ideal son you wanted, but you are responsible for that. I wasn’t always like this. My hands shake as i write this. I am sorry. Harilal writes in a letter to his father.
Gandhi tells Ba (Shefali Shah) – “My son is brave, but wrong. The good thing is that he is willing to fight for his principles, even if it is against me”

Harilal goes his separate way. Only to commit fraud at his job. The job he got because of is father’s name. Soon people start banging on the doors trying to recover the money they trusted him with. Gulab soon leaves him because she cannot support his corrupt dealings anymore. His son dies soon. Then she dies.

Gandhi asks him to move in to the ashram. Life seems to be getting back on track.

Not for long. Some industrialists involve Harilal in a corrupt scheme involving Gandhi’s name. He is in heavy debt. People lose their life savings investing in this fraudulent venture. Eventually Gandhi has to publicly disown Harilal Gandhi.

Things get worse. He converts to Islam. Gandhi is hurt, but still loves him.

Harilal or Abdulla, they both mean the same thing. Son of God. If he changed his religion, that doesn’t mean that our love for him should grow any less. He tells Ba (his wife – Kasturba)

Things go out of hand soon. Eventually Harilal converts back to Hinduism. But that doesn’t change things much. He is still a drunken, depraved mess of a man who has no clue what to do with his life. Ba dies with Harilal’s name on her lips wishing he was with them.

India gets Independance, though not the one Gandhi wanted. Millions are killed in the rioting all over the country. Gandhi has two regrets in his life – Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Harilal Gandhi.

In his last days, Gandhi keeps wondering if things would have been different had his son been with him. Harilal is nowhere to be found. Gandhi dies felled by a fundamentalist bullet, and Harilal watches the funeral of his own father from the sidelines.

He dies a few months later, unknown, unsung, and unidentified. A man who couldn’t bear the burden of being the son of a great man. A man who tried to chart his own destiny but whose name wouldn’t let him lead a normal life. A man who couldn’t be the son of the father of the nation.

Related Reading:

Father to the Nation, Stranger to his son
Mahatma Gandhi – Wikipedia
Gandhi on his son converting to Islam
Deccan Herald on this movie

Interesting Fact:

Harilal was born when Gandhi was 19. By the time Gandhi was 31, he had four sons.

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22 Responses to “ Gandhi – My Father ”

  1. Shefaly on October 15, 2007 at 5:40 am

    Good review.

    Wasn’t Gandhi married in a child marriage?

  2. rambodoc on October 15, 2007 at 6:11 am

    One more movie I missed out in the past. Good review!
    I think yes, Shefaly, he was married as a child.

  3. Shefaly on October 15, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Rambodoc: Thanks. In which case his having fathered a child by the age of 18 is no surprise.

  4. madhurisinha on October 15, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Good Review AD.
    If only Mahatma would pour his heart out directly to Harilal instead of Ba.

  5. pr3rna on October 16, 2007 at 7:23 am

    I loved the movie.Must see for all parents and children. One can see the other side of the story.

    Very true Prerna! – AD

  6. mahendrap on October 17, 2007 at 9:48 am

    I am simply glad that they’re making such movies. There was this one, and the other – Chirosakha He, about Tagore’s sister-in-law. Unfortunately, familial obligations have prevented me from seeing Gandhi My Father, and Chirosakha He hasn’t been screened in India…

  7. Interval on October 31, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Need to watch the original Gandhi movie to appreciate this:

    http://interval.in/videos.php?id=1573

    To watch all the latest Bollywood flicks, go to http://www.interval.in

    Relax, take a break at Interval.
    Enjoy!

  8. Sasha R. on February 11, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Yup, Gandhi was married at the age of 13 to a girl named Kasturba… I think they were both the same age. There was one quote that stuck in my memory… something like this…

    “We were both thirteen. … the wedding meant no more than wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with family”

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