July 29, 2011
Rakesh Ranjan Kumar
Raghuvir Yadav, Neha Dhupia, Avijit Dutt, Aman Verma, Nalin Singh
I really really don’t understand why this film was made! I mean, the title suggests that the script writer has found a clever way of weaving together the lives of India’s apostle of non-violence and Germany’s ambassador of cruelty. What we get instead is footage of the Mahatma either writing to Hitler or delivering homilies to his followers, which is alternated with scenes from Hitler’s last days. Gandhi is known to have sent two letters to Hitler, trying to dissuade him from following a path of violence, and on this sliver of history rests an entire nearly-two-hour film. Also thrown into the cooking pot is Balbir Singh, a Punjabi soldier in Subhash Chandra Bose’s forces sworn to Hitler, walking aimlessly along the French-German border with a ragtag bunch of colleagues, reminiscing about home and wondering what role they could possibly be playing in India’s battle for independence.
The separate stories of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Adolf Hitler have been told so many times by now that any new film on them needed to come armed either with brilliant treatment or a whole new line of thinking about their lives – this film has neither. Nothing, and by that I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING new emerges from Gandhi to Hitler. Did the film maker really think we didn’t know that Hitler was betrayed by Heinrich Himmler towards the end, that he married his mistress Eva Braun shortly before committing suicide, or that his most trusted lieutenant Joseph Goebbels also shot himself?! And what point was being made by inserting Balbir’s parallel track into this film? So okay, he and his wife end up following completely different ideologies (she is a follower of the Mahatma’s dictums on ahimsa) but take us further than that, please! As if it isn’t tiresome enough to witness Balbir’s wanderings which seem to serve no purpose in this movie, we are treated to Border/LoC Kargil-style flashbacks to his lady love in Punjab embellished by song and dance.
Considering the intriguing title, Gandhi to Hitler is a huge disappointment. Especially because the film gets its look and the casting of its principal players reasonably right. Avijit Dutt as Gandhi emulates the Mahatma’s voice, demeanour and posture well enough. Raghuvir Yadav is unexpectedly appropriate as the moustached, quick-footed Hitler of the photographs and footage we’ve all seen. But the insubstantial script leaves them looking like they’re doing little more than mimic the physical characteristics of the historical figures they are playing.
The makeup, hair and overall styling of all the lead characters is impressive, particularly Dutt, Yadav and Neha Dhupia playing Eva Braun. What’s also interesting is that all the Germans in the film are played by Indian actors speaking Hindi and thankfully, not trying to do German accents … that could have been a noteworthy experiment, if only the film had been blessed with some substance, a worthwhile storyline and a better supporting cast. As for the editing, it’s inexplicable – there’s a major jump at one point where a soldier from Balbir’s group disappears and is found dead by his colleagues in a cottage, his body lying beside a cowering local woman who has been apparently gangraped by French outlaws. Why and how did our desi boy go there? We are not told. Do I really care? Nope!
Rating (out of five): 1/2
CBFC Rating: U/A with two cuts (one featuring Gandhi treating an injured goat, the other showing some women feeding a buffalo – the Censors asked for these scenes to be removed since prior permission had not been sought for the use of animals in the film)
Running time: 115 Minutes
Photograph courtesy: http://www.dearfriendhitlerthefilm.com