Happy Independence Day! Post 4, Lage Raho Munna Bhai

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.

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14 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day! Post 4, Lage Raho Munna Bhai

  1. Hey Margaret!
    Nice post. I really like the Munnabhai series. Sanjay was really amazing and I enjoy Munna-Circuit bromance a lot. I missed Sunil Dutt, like had he lived, there would have been some really amazing scenes between father and son.
    And it had an endearing cameo by Abhishek. He looked so good!! The astrologer angle resolution was brilliant.

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    • Abhishek is maybe the best as surprise fiances. This and Hum-Tum, he just made you love him in only a few minute scene.

      On Sun, Aug 13, 2017 at 10:33 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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      • So true that!! Hum tum had this whole love story set up of Rani-Saif but frankly none would have minded if Rani ended up with Abhishek. He was so darn good. Rani-Abhi had the best chemistry in the last decade I feel.

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        • Years ago, my sister showed a friend of hers Hum Tum and Kal Ho Na Ho and afterwards the big question was “In Indian films, why does the hot guy always die and the boring guy live?”

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  2. Think I’ll still get very sad again even if I watch it today at the point where Munna slaps Circuit in the pouring rain and storm and then later again cry like a little girl kid when he says sorry and they kiss and hug and make up under sunny skies on the calm beachfront.

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    • I like the father-son stuff in Munna Bhai MBBS, but even I have to admit that the Munna-Circuit relationship is the real heart of the films.

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      • There were rumors going of a third part in the series titled Munna Chale Umrika which then had to be shelved after all his court stuff. Really hope Hirani goes back to that after his biopic. Munna+Circuit finding their way in the US amid the culture shock among other things is ripe for mining laughs in the way only Hirani can do tastefully and with the usual social messages.

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  3. I liked how this film influenced real life. Gandhigiri gained a lot of momentum up north. Jadu ki jhappi not so much but the rose thing really picked up. Sanjay Dutt! He’d be the biggest star had he not had his troubles with the law. Or would he? I was looking up some celebrity pics and Google Images had quite a few about Sanju Baba’s marijuana use.

    His preferences are pretty well known and I know half his fanbase consists of marijuana users (myself included). This did make me wonder though– Do we like Bapu because he was a teetotaller and a saint (he really wasn’t but image is everything in public life, isn’t it?) Would we have accepted him had he been, you know, not a teetotaller? We do like our bad boys but do we really accept them as icons?

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    • Feels like Sanju’s troubles with the law were kind of a symptom of everything else going on with him, and if it wasn’t jail it was going to be something else that interfered with his work (drugs, marriage problems, Madhuri, blah blah). But oh man, he was a special kind of something onscreen back then! Sadak, Khalnayak, even Dushman, just cannot take your eyes away from him. And he isn’t handsome exactly, he is just impossible to ignore.

      Would we call Bhagat a bad boy icon? Or just a different kind of saint? Certainly he is more cinematic than Gandhi, with the action scenes and the cool disguises and stuff.

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      • Bhagat got sanctified like everyone else who dies does in this country. We have a saying “marne ke baad sab ache ho jate hain!” (after death, everyone’s a great person)

        We’d never know what he’d have been. he might have been the leader that prevented a partition, the one that took independence by force, the one that heralded a new and confident India. I mean come on, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think Indian guy? it’s definitely not ‘hot headed revolutionary’ is it? It’s probably bogged down engineer who’s always going to pick family responsibilities over his own desires. Thank the Gandhiwadis for that label. Bhagat was a sardar! He acted like one.

        It’s the bhagat image that our films have been chasing all this time. The angry young man character across our films is Bhagat. NOT GANDHIJI! LOL

        As for Sanju Baba, god i just want to give him a hug every time i see him. I have this weird fantasy where I want to smoke a joint with the late 90s Sanju Baba!! He was SOOOOOO magnetic!!!

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        • YES! When I have new people at my movie nights, I start them out with K3G and slowly build to over bigger themes. If I have time to get there, one of the things I make sure the know is that Gandhi=not successful in popular/populist films. He may be what most of the rest of the world thinks of with Indian culture, but he was way way less influential on Indian film/pop culture than other figures. And then I say the same thing about Aish versus Madhuri.

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          • True. Bapu may have an apolitical image historically but he is a political leader in our minds. This is why Munna Bhai became so popular because suddenly people found that good old Bapu could be cool and relatable. But then we went back to wanting angry young heroes.

            Aish-Madhuri– I dont even know why you’d do that! Aish is all paid Bollywood media. Madhuri is all hardwork.

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          • So many people walk in my door going “Oh yeah, Indian film, Aishwarya Rai right?” Oh wait, now they say “Slumdog Millionaire”. Not sure which is worse.

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