Sixty three years post India’s independence, what has happened to the instructions of the father of the Indian country? India is the world’s largest democracy, what is it that we pride ourselves on? Where are the ideals of Gandhi today? - You already know the answer to that. These are some questions that Lalit Vachani documents in his film “In Search of Gandhi” - A film that attempts to trace the remnants of Gandhi and his ideals in the very place in which he was born. In road-movie style this film rides through the geographical locations...
Think Gujarat and you think of mass killings, violent demonstrations, militant ideas, social hypocrisies and Narendra Modi. Think Gujarat and you sometimes (or rarely ever) visualize the land of Mahatma Gandhi – the noble spiritual leader who lived with the idea of non-violence and impartiality as the supreme law of life. Sixty three years post India’s independence, what has happened to the instructions of the father of the Indian country? India is the world’s largest democracy, what is it that we pride ourselves on? Where are the ideals of Gandhi today? - You already know the answer to that.
These are some questions that Lalit Vachani documents in his film “In Search of Gandhi” - A film that attempts to trace the remnants of Gandhi and his ideals in the very place in which he was born. In road-movie style this film rides through the geographical locations and physical sites of Gandhi’s salt march in Gujarat – the march where a multitude of men joined him in his appeal for independence. Interspersed with real stills of Gandhi’s non-cooperation campaign in 1930, the film captures real stories of people who constitute the democracy of India today.
Lalit Vachani stops by to talk with a number of people - men and families dislodged by industrialization, women who survive in the little village of Dandi, the caretakers of Sabarmati Ashram (Gandhi’s dwelling), people who take pleasure in the luxurious city life, and the last living follower of Gandhi and his ideals. The answers are unsurprising. It was here in Gujarat that Gandhi had first dreamt for India, a democracy as an institution in which power is shared by all. And it is the same soil in which people today live in escalating states of deprivation and discrimination. All of whom are asked state the same universal obvious – Here the Gandhian ideals are dead, they were never to live. These have been replaced by politicians who go about their lives promising to build bridges, where there are no rivers, they’ll tell you. Out to search for Gandhi and his ideals, Lalit finds the ideals of Narendra Modi instead - A leader who’s vision of India has no place for secularism and tolerance. Here even the very last living devotee of Gandhi claims that the Muslims are the true demolishers of peace. Shanty villages, displaced homes, makeshift shelters and religious segregation mark the soil of Gandhi today.
Surely Vachani’s documentary is not a subject that is earth-shattering. We know the facts about intolerance and inequality in India, as simply as we know how to tell the difference between day and night. There aren’t too many fresh insights or baffling specifics. But the film is still a success. It is strong and evocative filmmaking. The word documentary might have brought images of dreary screenplay, unimaginative scripting and poor impact about 10 years ago. But documentary filmmaking has gone through munificent changes today. Lachani’s documentary is as effective and engaging as any other form of captivating cinema. The concept of tracing Gandhi’s ideals along the path of his salt march is distinctive by its own. It tells the same stories that we already know of, but with a forceful bang. Only a futile cynic or someone who’s dead as stone wouldn’t feel compelled to get up and set things straight for the country and its people – give them a roof, show them unity and confirm human affection.
There are frequent films about Gandhi that set off discussions and attempt to reinforce the spirit of Gandhi’s instruction – this film is a notable achievement in the same field. The film is one of the ten films that constitute Why Democracy? – A world-wide documentary project using film to start a global conversation on democracy. The film tells true stories, displays brilliantly judged details, brings about awakening, and makes you respect Gandhi more than you did before. It was Mahatma Gandhi who had said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” The people of his native now believe that Gandhi himself would grab a gun if he were a part of the world that we live in today. But Narendra Modi, the man who never ceases to play the communal card is the one of all who seemingly digresses. Widely opposed by many, as the leader responsible for most of the carnage in Gandhi’s Gujarat, Modi was once quoted saying, “I believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals.”
With the color of communality covering thickly the land of Gandhi today, surely you’re joking Mr Modi(man)!
Some of the documentaries that are a part of the Why Democracy’s project can be watched HERE.