Keeping it Real: Rajkumar Santoshi's next 'Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh'

Having returned to filmmaking after 10 years with Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh, Rajkumar Santoshi is now gearing up for a slew of historical films and comedies
Rajkumar Santoshi
Rajkumar Santoshi

What if Mahatma Gandhi had survived the bullet shot by Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948? The political turmoil that would have ensued, the ideological wars that would have been fought, leading to
a confrontation between the Mahatma and Godse–– Rajkumar Santoshi’s latest directorial, Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh, reimagines all of this and more to look back on how one of the darkest days in the history of independent India has shaped the country’s present.

For Santoshi, making the “part-truth, part-fiction” film, an adaptation of writer Asghar Wajahat’s 2022 play Gandhi@Godse, was about finding “truth and reason” by presenting both political figures on screen in an “unbiased” manner.

A still from 'Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh'
A still from 'Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh'

“I felt it was an important subject because there are many questions being raised on both Gandhi and Godse. There are followers of Gandhi who worship him like a god, but in the last few years, one can see people’s admiration for Godse as well. There are also those who criticise them vehemently. I wanted to put the ideologies of both in front of people without any bias or prejudice,” says the director.

The film––starring Deepak Antani as Gandhi and Chinmay Mandlekar as Godse––that Santoshi calls his “most difficult creation in his over three-decade-long career”, opened on January 26 with a lukewarm response, and has reportedly collected less than `1 crore till now.

But box-office numbers have rarely fazed Santoshi. His most popular film to date, the 1994 comedy Andaz Apna Apna, starring Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, too had bombed on release but has achieved cult status among film buffs over the years.

“My decision to make a film depends on my frame of mind and the kind of subject I am dealing with at the time,” Santoshi says. A close look at his filmography reveals that he has a penchant for comedy and patriotism-driven action, two genres he has alternated between throughout his career.

He started with Sunny Deol’s Ghayal (1990), an action drama. After a quick comic detour with Andaz Apna Apna, he directed a slew of films such as Pukar, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakee and Halla Bol, which were heavy on nationalist fervour, making a return to comedy only a decade and a half later. In 2009, he delivered the blockbuster hit Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, and then Phata Poster Nikhla Hero with Shahid Kapoor in 2013.

The latter, however, flopped, pushing Santoshi to take a sabbatical. “I was not happy with the films that were being made those days. The market was dictating creativity and most stars wanted scripts to be written around them. How can that be possible?” he says.

The director did start work on a historical action drama, Battle of Saragarhi, with Randeep Hooda, but the film got stalled when Dharma Productions announced Akshay Kumar’s Kesari, which was based on the same premise.

“I shot Battle of Saragarhi for 20 days, but unfortunately Kesari was announced and my investors backed out. But I will definitely make the film next year, also because I don’t think Kesari did justice to the subject,” he says.

The director now has Partition drama Lahore: 1947 with Sunny Deol, which is expected to go on floors on March 1, after which he will revisit comedy with a yet-to-be-titled film.

“I have worked out a two-hero-two-heroine musical comedy similar to Andaz Apna Apna. Considering it is positioned among the 100 best films in the world, clearly, the format works,” he says.

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