What makes a very good cinema? Any student of the art would tell you that basic requirement is a good subject. If we stretch it a little further, a good subject with a very strong characters (what else was Sholay all about, except a dozen strong and memorable characters) and a deft narration of the latter’s life sketch within the boundaries of the former is what makes for a good, compelling cinema.
Now, let’s throw a cursory glance at Gandhi – both the subject and the character. Without an iota of doubt, Gandhi is a prime example of both a very strong idea, with multiple layers to it, and an equally strong, with or without any deliberate or inadvertent bias, character. It is one of those rare combination that has evoked intrigue and interest in film-makers spanning generations. And mind you, you don’t have to be an Indian to be attracted towards the idea.
Gandhi the idea is like one of the many Shakespearian stories that routinely get interpreted and re-interpreted by film-makers across the globe. (Eg: Vishal Bharadwaj making Maqbool out of Macbeth).
Fortunately or otherwise, speaking against Gandhi generally never manages to bring any society to standstill! Simply because, like the man himself, Gandhians never resort to smashing multiplexes or issuing death Fatwas against the makers of films that question Gandhi over any issue. It is this virtuous conduct of Gandhians that gives courage to film-makers to explore the subject in its entirety.
Furthermore, like most of the simple and endearing stories ever told, Gandhi, the idea, too has a beginning, a middle portion and a climax.
It makes the idea a virtual goldmine for a story-teller. For, because of the ready-made structure of the story, the film-maker can afford to spend a lot more time on the exploration of the various layers of both the subject and the character. In other words, the energy, time and attention that would have gone into “putting all the things together within the parameters of a good narration” can now be put into giving more shades to both the subject and the characters – thereby making the subject rich in emotional and intelligence quotient!
No wonder then, even in fun film like Lage Raho Munnabhai, the idea never becomes frivolous. In fact, even a ‘hep’ term like ‘Gandhigiri’ (evoking strong, but only vocal or written, protest from old-school Gandhians) has not managed to take away the gravity of the idea. It has merely helped in propagating it faster!
That is in fact another strength of Gandhi, the subject. It can not only be put in any context but also can be expressed in any form. It would not be surprising if the idea would sound just as true and as believable even in an underworld film by Ram Gopal Varma. (I hope he is not reading this; knowing him, he might just go ahead and make RGV ki Gandhi)
So then, if an idea and its central character offers such fluidity to anyone who wants to explore them, why would there not be so many interpretations.
Gandhi, the idea, is timeless. Don’t be surprised if there is a new Gandhi every decade. It would only be worth it, even for those who care for Gandhi only when he gets on to a piece of ‘green paper’. As long as they help us unravel God’s best script even further, we should not be complaining either.