Releasing on 3rd August 2007, Gandhi My Father is a powerful study of the nature and sufferings of the patriarchal relationship between Gandhi and his unfortunate eldest son Harilal. The film’s UK and international release aptly coincides with the current international and UK domestic climate of Gandhism, as India celebrates 60 years of Independence from British rule, and the teaching of Gandhi and his principles is placed back on the national curriculum in British schools.
Tushar Gandhi joined director Feroz Abbas Khan, producer Anil Kapoor and lead actor Akshaye Khanna at the London location to endorse and support the biggest film to emerge from Indian cinema this year that so profoundly explores, for the first time ever, the personal tragedy behind one of the world’s greatest men.
Writer and advocate of the principles of his great-grandfather, Tushar Gandhi arrived in London to show his heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for the film, which has already received huge international acclaim from critics and public figures such as Nelson Mandela, Sienna Miller, Will Smith and Goldie Hawn. At the press conference, he told of his huge admiration for the sensitive filmic portrayal that has been presented by the film’s director and thespian of Indian theatre, Feroz Abbas Khan, and producer and Bollywood veteran, Anil Kapoor. Tushar stated: When I first heard that the film was being made, I was a bit anxious, as it delves into such an intimate subject for our family, and there was a fear that it would be exploited. But when I found out that Feroz was making it, I was totally reassured. I never cry in films, but when I saw this one, I wept throughout.
My grandfather, Manilal, was very close to his brother, Harilal, so my family was extremely affected by the issues that the film uncovers. Seeing the film was the first time that I had witnessed how and what happened back in my family’s personal history. It feels like Feroz has shot the film in real time – it is so accurate. There could have been the temptation of Feroz becoming a voyeur into our family affairs, but he has made the film as if he were a part of our family. This film is essential for anybody who believes in family ties and the importance of community. Nowadays, we don’t talk with each other, but to each other. I thank the filmmakers for allowing me to be a part of this creation, and I will be obliged to them forever.
By referring to Gandhi as ‘Mahatma’ (the Great Soul), it is a way of saying that no one can emulate him. This film shows him as a human being, a father, a sensitive man. The strength of this film is that we see Gandhi as a person, in the kinds of situation that every human being faces.”
Gandhi My Father is directed by world-renowned thespian of Indian theatre, Feroz Abbas Khan, on whose acclaimed stage play, Mahatma v/s Gandhi, the film has been based. On deciding to realise such affecting subject matter on film, he described, “Because of the limitations of time and space in theatre, when you enter into a subject of this nature, with so much scope, a stage play is too limiting. What has emerged is something far greater than just a film. There were some people in India that were against the film’s release and, for the first time, I realised how fiery one group of people can become. Five well meaning people based in Patna, who do some very worthwhile work, had heard about the film, they got anxious, and wrote to the prime minister to look into this film, and their anxiety was expressed by the media. You can take their objections as information, rubbish or the democratic right to freedom of speech.”
The film has been produced by prolific Indian film actor, Anil Kapoor, who has a 30-year history of hit films and industry accolades under his belt. On speaking about the film – his first venture into production under his Anil Kapoor Films Company banner – he was compelled to tears, telling, “The story was so moving. My family have never wanted me to produce and I told my wife and kids that I would only produce this film if they said yes to me. Knowing how much it meant to me, they told me to go ahead and make this film.”
When told how Gandhi My Father will raise the profile of Indian cinema across the entire globe, Anil commented, “I have travelled all over the world and seen amazing films from all over, often thinking, why can’t Indian cinema make a film like this, of international standard? That’s the vision that I had for this film, just as I have for all of my future films.”
One of Indian cinema’s finest actors, Akshaye Khanna, has championed his acting career with his deft portrayal of Gandhi’s eldest son, Harilal, and described how it has been his most challenging role to date: “Researching the role was extremely hard, as there is very little material or documentation about Harilal Gandhi, compared to the vast amounts that have been recorded about Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi). My focus was to get a glimpse of the spirit of Harilal Gandhi and his character. I got that glimpse through the letters that I saw, from Harilal to his father, and to his mother, Kasturba. This is a film that spans 42 years of their lives. The underlying emotion is the constant love Harilal and his father share with each other. If you don’t love someone, you don’t keep trying to connect with them, in the way that Gandhi and his son continued to do.”