What if Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh was a buddy film? Imagine Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Nathuram Vinayak Godse as roommates with differing ideologies. One has the Bhagavad Gita on his nightstand, the other sleeps with Manusmriti on his chest. They fight over putting up a poster of Tolstoy or Savarkar. Godse suffers through Gandhi’s bad jokes.
Gandhi doesn’t take Godse’s rebukes to heart. On some afternoons, they forego their naps to have heated debates on the making of modern India. But they make up every evening, over cheap drinks at a neighbourhood bar. I was imagining all this, while watching Rajkumar Santoshi’s return to the big screen after 10 years. Why? You may ask. Because the plot, although inventive, was not arresting enough.
Gandhi survives. Godse gets arrested. In post-independence India, other things are happening too. Hindu-Muslim riots are erupting every other day, mosques are being demolished and turned into temples and the underprivileged are being exploited. JB Kripalani, Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, BR Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel argue over the direction modern India should take.
All of this is great fodder but Gandhi Godse oversimplifies it to the level of a nukkad natak. When Gandhi meets Godse in his cell for a ‘vicharon ka yuddh’, the discussion is less of an ideological debate more of a debunking WhatsApp forwards against Gandhi. Godse feels very one-note, harping about Akhand Bharat and how India was always the land of rishi-munis. He blames Gandhi for the Partition, for not favouring Hindus and for forcing everyone to follow his whims. Then he does it again and again, in different words.
Still, Gandhi Godse’s heart is in the right place. Its sunlight-filtered frames radiate optimism. The questions it raises are relevant but their answers merely scratch the surface. The arguments by both Gandhi and Godse sound like part of a school play. The film, however, does ace at telling an alternate history. Gandhi leaves Congress and devotes his time towards gram swaraj. He mobilises the underprivileged castes to fight against oppressors.
What could have been an in-depth study of a growing country, is filled with preachy dialogue and excessive melodrama. The actors, however, deserve applause. Deepak Antani is Mahatma Gandhi in body and spirit. His toothless laugh is adorable and his meek, non-confrontational personality brings a lot of gravitas to the character. Chinmay Mandlekar feels at home playing the radical Godse after his performance as the dead-eyed Bitta Karate equivalent in The Kashmir Files. He embodies the character well and conveys through his eyes. Their debates might be dull but both Antani and Mandlekar have great chemistry on screen.
When it comes to the screenplay, a lot of happenings happen but nothing makes the viewer sit up and take notice. The film jumps from one reimagined event to another and doesn’t ponder on any. Like a drab history lesson, Gandhi Godse meanders on and on. And all this while, I could only think that Gandhi’s second assassin, played by Ajit Sidhaye in the film, has a striking resemblance to Ben Kingsley.