Story: Mahatma Gandhi survives Godse’s attempt to assassinate him in this fictionalised story. The duo comes face-to-face in jail and debates their respective ideologies.
Review: MK Gandhi’s assassination and whether Nathuram Godse was justified have always been moot, especially of late. Rajkumar Santoshi’s latest offering attempts to present both sides through a face-off between the event’s main characters, Gandhi (Deepak Antani) and Godse (Chinmay Mandlekar).
The movie begins with the India-Pakistan Partition and the communal violence that ensued. It quickly establishes the Hindu and Sikh populations’ gripe against Gandhi for their suffering. Nathuram Godse’s anger and Bapu’s assassination also follow soon enough. However, the film’s pace dips after that, and the narrative drags all of the first half to set the context. It covers some crucial events, such as Gandhi’s fast unto death for Hindu-Muslim peace and the conditions to end it.
The discussion on Gandhi vs Godse has raged on since 1948, but the film is pallid in presenting their debate, as such, as they are cooped up in the same jail cell. The protagonists’ respective ideologies, actions and stances find a space, but their war of words is not compelling enough. Through the Gram Swaraj Movement, the outing also touches upon social issues such as untouchability and casteism and Gandhiji’s attempts to address economic or humanitarian exploitations and forge equality and justice. These are cursorily portrayed through incidents strung one after another and used to establish how a narrative and public sentiment can be manipulated.
Deepak Antani and Chinmay Mandlekar share a striking resemblance with Gandhi and Godse, respectively. Both the actors’ mannerisms and diction are on point. Other historical figures, including Jawaharlal Nehru (Pawan Chopra), Babasaheb Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel (Ghanshyam Srivastav), etc, are also portrayed well. Gandhi Godse also introduces Tanisha Santoshi as Sushma and Anuj Saini as Naren. While the former shows promise, the latter is passable.
Rajkumar Santoshi’s direction keeps the drama gripping intermittently, but the film’s treatment, Rishi Punjabi’s cinematography, with the light play and macro videography, deserve mention. The events during Partition are recreated skilfully, as is the historical milieu. Asghar Wajahat’s dialogues are impactful, especially Gandhi’s quotes like, “Sarkarein hukumatein karti hain, seva nahin.”
The film does take a critical look at some of Gandhi’s ideologies, such as celibacy. His vision of Kasturba Gandhi telling him that he had wronged her personally, mention of Jayprakash Narayan, Harilal (Hiralal) and Manilal Gandhi or Godse reminding him of other leaders provide some accountability.
AR Rahman’s music heightens the drama, both Vaishnav Jan To and Raghupati Raghav.
The alternative reality or history is an interesting take if viewed just for the reimagination. Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh is watchable if you can patiently sit through the first part because the second half is gripping. But, it may disappoint those invested in the nation’s history.