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Lage Raho Munnabhai

by Dilip D'souza

Lage Raho Munnabhai is a superb film: clever, funny, fast-paced and never a dull moment. Yet I think its best virtue is what it did for one Mohandas Gandhi. I use that “one” deliberately, for this is an increasingly forgotten — and if not forgotten, reviled — man in India. In an era when a Times of India poll (October 30 2007) asks “Did Gandhi divide the country on caste lines?” and finds more people clicking “Yes” than “No”, the film put Gandhi back into public consciousness. It made people think about him and his message, and managed to do so without being ponderous at all. That’s the spirit, I believe, that was the soul of the Citizens for Peace / Times of India “Peace Mela” on October 2.

Held at Horniman Circle and in front of the Asiatic Library — the heart of Mumbai, in some ways — the Mela celebrated Gandhi with multilingual poetry reading and music, skits performed by children and dances by upcoming artistes, stalls and exhibits and much more. Names such as Jagjit Singh, Javed Akhtar, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan, Vivienne Pocha and many more appeared on stage, performing and speaking with passion. Yet the reason I think the Mela warmed to the spirit of Gandhi is that it also touched on the hard issues. Gandhi did not simply preach some airy-fairy romance about peace. What made the man was that he was unafraid of facing up to the thorny wrangles. Not that he always solved them, but he had the courage to look them in the eye and examine what they said about his people, about himself. The Peace Mela had some of that as well. Iqbal Niyazi directed a powerful, moving play about the July 2006 train blasts in Mumbai. Teesta Setalvad and Harsh Mander spoke about the continuing tragedy of Gujarat. There was more. And with all those things, Vivienne Pocha’s song Run for Life took on new meaning. Life is more than touchy-feely “harmony”. It is also about hostility and hatred, prejudice and perversity; but it is about confronting those things — in ourselves above all — and searching for answers. That was Gandhi’s message. On his 138th birthday, it was good and fulfilling to remember.


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