Happy Independence Day in Advance! Like I said, I am tossing these posts out on a more or less daily basis until the 15th. Partly because it’s a big holiday that deserves to be celebrated, partly because I want to give options to those of you who are not interested in my JHMS scene by scene. These aren’t “real” posts (except for Rang De Basanti, I can’t skimp on that one), they are just quick little idea posts about the films, so don’t expect me to go super in depth here.
Personally, I like the original Munna Bhai better (review here). Because for me, it is all about the father-son relationship. But I can see why Lage Raho Munna Bhai was more successful and is the favorite for most people. Because it’s all about the father-son relationship in a different way, the father of a nation and his children.
That’s the question, right? You give birth to a nation, and then what? Are they done with you? Do the people move on to new modern teachers for a new era? Or do they find a way to apply your teachings to their times?
That’s what sets this film apart. It doesn’t deal with the Independence movement as something from the past, it asks how that can be used and related to the present day. By all of Indian society, not just our gangster hero and our saintly heroine, but the young woman getting married, the middle-class man who lost his father’s money, the retiree looking for a pension.
Okay, all of India can relate, but it is our unlikely gangster hero who relates the most. And that’s what makes this film fly, having our gruff slang talking aging gangster discover a new way of living through Gandhigiri. Because Sanjay is just so amazing in this role. Raw and real and all heart. He may be the forgotten lowest of society, but he has an open heart, which is all Gandhi needs to find a place.
And the message of Gandhi, as translated through this film, is perfectly in keeping with what is needed in India today. Passive resistance. Tell the truth, face your problems head on. But fight the problem, not the person. If someone stands in your way, send them a “Get Well Soon” card because their minds are clouded. Try to teach them to listen, teach them a better way to be. Give them love, not hate.
That’s what the “ghost” of Gandhi tells Sanjay. Not anything detailed and specific about his life, not a series of facts, because that’s not the “real” Gandhi. The “real” Gandhi is in his message of love to the people left behind. Maybe someone who wasn’t Sanjay, some intellectual who was studying Gandhi to get a degree or write a book wouldn’t see that. But Sanjay is a big open-hearted guy who never thought about books until he had to in order to win over the woman he loves. He went into it with fresh eyes, and he found the true message, left for modern India from past india.
Oh, and Vidya is there too. Being awesome, the way she does. And Jimmy Shergill and Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani and Dia Mirza. It’s a stacked cast, and that’s on purpose. We need to really feel all these individuals and care about them. So we can see how they are tied together.
That’s the other way this is a Gandhi/Independence movie. Gandhi gives the message, and it unites everyone into one movement.