Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (I Did Not Kill Gandhi) Review
Professor Uttam Chaudhary (Anupam Kher) is a retired Hindi teacher and widower living with his daughter Trisha (Urmila Matondkar) and young son Addy (Addi). After he begins to suffer increasing bouts of memory lapses, including forgetting his wife has died and that he no longer teaches, his family assume he is merely entering the early stages of Alzheimer’s. It soon emerges that it is much more, however, after a traumatic childhood memory causes him to start hallucinating as he convinces himself that on January 30th, 1948, he killed Mahatma Gandhi.
A well-acted and thoughtful drama from multiple award-winning director Jahnu Barua, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara is far from your average song and dance-laden Bollywood blockbuster, offering no such interruptions and even no lead romantic pairing. It aims to be a professionally-made, polished effort with a story and style that goes against Hindi cinema’s mainstream rules and succeeds for the most part. However, in getting across its serious subject in a refined manner, the film still attempts to be a commercial/arthouse hybrid in the same vain as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (released in the same year), which at times doesn’t do it any favours. While the movie successfully tugs at the heartstrings with its sensitive portrayal of Uttam Chaudhary’s mental decline and frightening dementia, it is also bogged down with occasionally loud and undefined secondary characters and concludes with a rather ridiculous mock courtroom scene that oversteps the realms of believability. Also hindering MGKNM is Bappa Lahiri’s often overly-grandiose score which would suit a typical OTT Bollywood musical, but is intrusive in an intimate picture such as this. In addition, a lack of sync sound in the movie hampers the actors somewhat with their vocals in the dubbing missing that sense of realism and spontaneity.
Looking to the film’s many good points, however, there is much to savour – particularly from the high-quality performances on display. Best known to Western audiences from his appearances in Gurinder Chadha’s comedy hits Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice, Anupam Kher turns in a wonderful effort in this, his home production. Having appeared in around three hundred Hindi movies in his career, usually in supporting villainous or comedic roles, it is refreshing to see him a lead role with his straight acting talents fully exploited. One actually wishes that even more of the film’s short - by Indian cinema standards - running time was devoted to his character, letting the audience see the deterioration of his sanity through his eyes as well as through his daughter’s (played by one-time Bollywood sex symbol Urmila Matondkar), whom the narrative devotes most of its time to. Matondkar also delivers an admirable performance, though not nearly as memorable as her show-stealing histrionics in 2003’s horror thriller Bhoot (‘Ghost’).
Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara has a noble message to spread, not only about old age, mental health, but also of Gandhian values and does so in a mainly well-meaning and unpretentious fashion. In a year that saw masala no-brainers such as No Entry and Kya Kool Hai Hum (‘How Kool Are We?’) thrive at the Indian box office while accomplished, criticially-acclaimed dramas such as Black and Parineeta made little impression on the masses, MGKNM also predictably sunk without a trace in 2005. Still, nit-picking aside, it is a fine human drama well worth watching and will doubtless eventually find an appreciative audience, however big or small, looking for some quality cinema out of India. It certainly does exist, as is proof here.
Distributor Yash Raj Films have here churned out yet another DVD with sub-par quality. Once again, it has used a PAL-to-NTSC conversion for the video, so expect the usual ghosting and poor sharpness that comes with the territory. Otherwise, the anamorphic picture is fine with no shimmering, artefacts, scratches or blemishes to speak of and has good colour and contrast rendition. The audio fares worse, however, as it has been horribly pitch-corrected with distortion side effects noticeable throughout the film, spoiling an otherwise perfectly good 5.1 Dolby Digital track.
No new material has been compiled for the extras on this cheaply-made release, with all the additional material derived from promotional television featurettes, including TV ads, a 20-minute ‘Making Of’, glimpses from the movie’s low-key premiere and a dreadfully ill-suited pop remix music video, all of which hold little repeat value. Something also worth mentioning is that all the audio for the special features has been improperly converted from 2.0 stereo to 5.1 surround with a bad remix job leading to all the sound coming out of the right-hand speaker when played back through two-channel equipment. The English subtitles provided are well-translated with mostly good grammar and only a couple of typos.
Having only been released in cinemas a little over three months ago, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara is a typically rushed DVD release from Bollywood (Indian distributors are desperate to tackle piracy) and as such does little justice to the film, especially in the way of extras – a director’s commentary would have been a particularly welcome addition. And going by the shabbiness of the disc’s transfer and sound, its steep RRP of £19.99 makes any recommendation for a purchase pretty darn unlikely at that price, despite the many good qualities the movie itself has to offer.
7 out of 10
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