A scene from Gandhi My Father, a new film that explores the turbulent relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his first-born son. Photo- Telegraph UK.
To Martin Luther King, he was "the little brown saint of India - the first person to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction". Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, compared him to Buddha.
The world has heard a lot about Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement that eventually gained independence for India from the British. But we know little about his family life.
A new film 'Gandhi My Father' depicts the Mahatma as a difficult patriarch whose ideals shaped a nation but hurt his family.
As one commentator points out: "He loved his son and family, but he loved the nation more." It's a distinction that makes for a compelling film.
The film traces the disintegrating relationship between the Mahatma or ‘Bapu’ (father) as he was fondly known, with the eldest of his four sons, Hiralal.
What emerges is the uneasy tensions in the family’s South African residence where Gandhi practised as a barrister up to 1915. The patriarch’s firm insistence that Hiralal abandon his education and wife Gulab in order to assist him in his fight against the inequitable apartheid system, leads to resentment by the young Hiralal.
Post 1915, the entire family relocates to India where resistance to British imperialism is gaining momentum. Hiralal tries to assert his own independence but he is thwarted by opportunists who use the Gandhi name to establish fraudulent companies and discredit the freedom movement. The Mahatma publicly disowns his wayward son and Hiralal sinks into alcoholic depression.
Supporters of Gandhi in India have tried to ban the film unsuccessfully as it portrays their revered hero in poor light. The contrast of human strength and weakness lies in the fact Gandhi almost single handedly with no military force at his disposal mobilised the masses through his non-violent means and won against the imperialistic British, but failed to help his own son with understanding, love and care when he needed most.
This is a gut-wrenching story that would have affected the man who carried a larger-than-life persona.