Strange are the ways of Bollywood; and especially us media people.
When a entertainer like CASH arrives at theaters, we exclaim - "Yaar, par woh story, woh soul kahan hai?" And then, when a story like GANDHI MY FATHER comes, we exclaim - "Yaar, par woh entertainment kahan hai?"
What's happening? I seriously don't know! Is it the herd effect? Or have we stopped believing in listening to stories and appreciating visuals? Worse, have we media people started taking ourselves too seriously? Ok, so there is a job to do, but then for a change can we sit as an audience and look at a movie rather than trying to be a pseudo-critic who is paid to do a job which involves fancy paraphrasing skills and making readers laugh by 'oh-so-hilarious' reviews!
Agreed that the film is about a man and his son, but how can one ignore references to the work that the man was involved in. Especially so when throughout the man's life, his son's contribution to the freedom struggle was apparent too, either in a constructive or destructive manner?
GANDHI MY FATHER takes a viewer through an episodic journey of a man and his son with their relationship being told from both sides. Yes, it is not a linear narrative as you may have expected. Also, there may not be much continuity between scenes. But all this is expected when a story spans almost 50 years. The transition has to be shown in as logical manner as possible yet making sure that all important events in the time span are covered. Now this may mean jumping 5-10 years in a sudden move but that should hardly be considered as a hindrance.
What works tremendously in favor of GANDHI MY FATHER is its simplicity. The scenes are written in the most simplest and comprehensive manner as possible without passing a judgment. Don't expect a full stop after a scene, as in case of other commercial films, when a story writer and director bring a scene to a conclusion before moving on.
In GANDHI MY FATHER it is the other way round as a scene ends with a comma, exclamation and mostly a pause while letting a viewer empathize with a situation rather than take sides and feel justified. In a journey of life and relationships Darshan Zariwala [Gandhi] and Akshaye Khanna [Harilal] share some powerful moments together in spite of any explicit confrontation raising the scene over and above it's real worth.
As stated earlier, GANDHI MY FATHER is a kind of film which you venture into a theater with a different kind of mindset altogether. You go in there because you want to know about a story which has never been told, see the other side of Gandhi which has never been revealed and witness the 'behind the scenes' struggles of a family during India's journey towards independence.
Otherwise how would we have known that Gandhi, especially in his young and middle age, had an amazing sense of humor which was mainly centered on satire? Did you know that once he exclaimed that his wife was nothing but his mistress (watch the movie for knowing more about this)? Or he didn't disown his son but gave him not less than a dozen opportunities to reform?
The person to whom your heart goes out is Akshaye Khanna. As clichéd as it may sound but from frame one, what you see is Harilal and not the Akshaye Khanna you know. Those who claim Akshaye to have stuck with his HUMRAAZ, 36 CHINA TOWN and NAQAAB kind of roles need to have a dekko at his impeccable act here. His entire body language and mannerisms deserve biggest applause. Watch him being in awe of his father in the initial scenes or his drifting apart inch-by-inch with every interaction of theirs.
The cake is taken by three sequences where it is impossible not to shed a tear - when he cries on realizing his wife's death, when he meets his mother [Shefali Chhay