Indian filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi, best known for his films such as The Legend of Bhagat Singh, returns to direction after ten years with his latest release Gandhi Godse Ek Yudh. Based on the play [email protected] written by Asgar Wajahat, the film explores the possibility of debate and discussions between Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (better known as Mahatma Gandhi), and Nathuram Godse, who killed Gandhi. It releases across cinemas in India on January 26.
Gandhi has been hailed as one of the greatest leaders of India and it is only recently that the curiosity around Godse and his intentions grew in the country. What made Santoshi decide that he should make a film that pitches the two leaders in front of each other?
Santoshi recalls he was working on one of Wajahat’s plays titled Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Jamyai Nai when he came across the play [email protected]. The filmmaker immediately loved it and wanted to adapt it onscreen, but the playwright was not too sure. “He ( writer Wajahat) thought it was not cinematic material but I immediately knew this should be made into a film.”
Santoshi then explains why he wanted to make the film. “Godse was a victim of injustice. After he shot Gandhi, he not only admitted that he did it, but also explained why he did it. He talked about it in the court, but his voice was muffled. It was only a few years ago that the court allowed it for people to know.” Books have been printed detailing Godse’s court statement and his brother, Gopal Godse also wrote elaborated on why he killed Gandhi, but their sale was banned for a long time in India.
Santoshi adds, “Similarly, Gandhi has been accused of many things and he never got the chance to clarify so I thought this situation where both the leaders share their views, as per their real ideologies (may find audience and should be created on the screen). Maybe people will watch and discuss, and then reach a conclusion regarding the two.”
Talking about the casting of the film, the director says that the idea was not to bank upon big stars. “Our only investment was truth, no big artists or stars.” He also says that only those who agreed with the film and the idea were cast for the film.
Gandhi Godse Ek Yudh is being touted as a film that gives equal opportunity to both leaders as they get into an ideological debate. However, the film actually tilts towards Gandhian views and gives very few chances to Godse for explanations. Most of the encounters with Gandhi leave him dumbfounded instead. On his part, Godse is rarely seen questioning Gandhi to his face, though he often vents out his complaints against him when Gandhi is not in the frame.
Santoshi, nonetheless, claims his effort was to make a balanced film. “We did not make it about a hero or villain. We just wanted to respresent both sides with complete truth and respect. Let us say, opposition parties often oppose the decisions made by the government just for the sake of it. We believe that opposition parties must be ready to support the government on decisions that will benefit the people at large. The purpose should be to serve the citizens of the country, not simply oppose anything and everything from the government’s side. Discussions and debates are very important.”
“I never feared backlash. Our intention is very noble. I hope even those people who watch it just for cinema (and not the socio-political views), they find it entertaining engaging as well as informative. I want people to watch it and enjoy. I remember after the members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) watched it, they said the film should be screened at schools and colleges so that the young people understand.”
(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity).
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