"It takes merely a day for someone to become Nathuram Godse, but it takes an entire lifetime to become a Gandhi," says Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Rajkumar Santoshi's recently released Gandhi Godse Ek Yudh.
The film depicts an ideological battle between Gandhi and his assassinator Godse, and in effect presents a narrative from Godse's perspective, giving him the stage to explain himself, to present his own ideologies and to defend the assasination on the basis of 'saving Hindutva, saving the Hindu Rashtra and saving the Hindu Dharma.'
Basically, the film appears to elevate the image and stature of Godse from the bad guy, the assassin and radical to that of a "nationalistic patriot', and Gandhi as an 'anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim, anti-Hindutva figure.' The narrative is fictionalised in a way that Gandhi and Godse come face to face, after the former survives the latter's attempt to assassinate him and insists on meeting Godse in order to 'forgive him.'
But Godse never considered it to be a mistake in the first place. 'I was only doing what any proud nationalist would do. You're against Hindus, Hinduism. I will always be grateful to you for giving a direction to the country towards freedom but that's about it. Right now what you're doing by siding with the Muslims is unpardonable and you must die," says Godse to Gandhi, when they meet for the very first time inside the Central prison jail.
The film moves on from there and the two are shown to engage in dialogues on ideology, nationalism and policy. Within the restricted time-span of 110 minutes, the film deftly touches various issues, yet, it seems it only scrapes through. The film tries to ignite an unbiased debate between the conflicting ideologies of Gandhi and his killer via a dialogue between the two on diverse issues, yet, somewhere the screenplay keeps tilting off and on, more on the side of Godse than Gandhi's. But there is no denying that a crisply written script and a watertight editing carry the viewer along with its lead characters all the way right till the end. You do not want to miss anything here, because there is no unnecessary drama anyway.
The focus here is Nathuram Godse, not Gandhi. Even when the spotlight is on Gandhi, it is through Godse's eyes. At best, the intention of the film seems to be to show Godse in different hues - for a man who has all through history primarily been known as Gandhi's assasinator, there must be a reason for what he did; he must be a well read man with an ideology (mainly driving on Islamophobia, as evident in the film), someone who was ready to die for the nation and he should be someone who must be respected for what he did.
This seems to be the premise of the film and the intention. The film highlights Gandhi's leadership in various struggles across the country, raises questions about his celibacy and then right at the end, shows how after spending time with Gandhi and learning more about him, Godse undergoes a change of heart - he saves Gandhi from another assassination attempt that takes place inside the jail while the two are serving their term. Really? It just seems so hard to believe.
Written by Rajkumar Santoshi (this is his comeback films after a long hiatus) the film seems to echo the sentiment of the currently ruling political party. "Remember Gandhi, one day the entire nation will be coloured in saffron," says Godse to Gandhi in the film. In the role of Gandhi, Deepak Antani is convincing as ever, but Chinmay Mandlekar seems too over-the-top to be identified as Godse, despite his stark resemblance to the assasinator. His high pitch and excessive dramatics, takes away from the ingenuity of the character.
Towards the end, Santoshi shows how there could have been a world where the ideologies of both Gandhi and Godse would have co-existed. Even if the idea in itself might sound too far-fetched, it would have been interesting nevertheless to see how that would have panned out.
Film: Gandhi Godse - Ek Yudh
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Cast: Deepak Antani, Chinmay Mandlekar, Tanisha Santoshi