Mother India to Lagaan: Gandhi still influences Indian cinema?

Nov 1, 2012 14:49 IST

#HowThisWorks   #Indian cinema   #Mahatma Gandhi  

New Delhi: Jay Prakash Chowksey, who explores Mahatma Gandhi's influences on cinema in his upcoming book Gandhi Aur Cinema, says he was inspired to write it after reading an interesting anecdote about the 'Father of the Nation' in Charlie Chaplin's autobiography.

"I read Chaplin's book some 25 years ago. An interesting anecdote from it stayed with me where he recounts his meeting with Gandhi in 1931. They discussed Gandhi's ideas about machines. Chaplin later made 'Modern Times' which was inspired by this conversation," Chowksey told PTI.

The author, who has written on Raj Kapoor and Indian cinema and is actively involved in television and films, says he kept reading about Gandhi and decided to pen his thoughts into a book.

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"I had gone to give a lecture in Gujarat Vidyapith. Director Kundan Shah was also there. After the lecture, the Dean and my other friends told me that I should write. That's how it started," Chowksey recounts.

The book, which has been translated in English by Meenal Bhagel, is published by Morya Arts and will be launched in Mumbai by Chowksey's friend and scriptwriter Salim Khan this week.

"In the book, I explore the theme that beginning of cinema in India was also the beginning of Gandhian era. Gandhiji returned from South Africa around the same time when Indian cinema was taking its first steps. Gandhi's impact can be seen on everything from literature, drama, poetry to cinema of that time," he says.

Chowksey narrates how films like Devaki Bose's Chandidas, a love story between a Brahmin and a washerwoman, Kidar Sharma's 'Jogan', starring Dilip Kumar and Nargis, Mehboob Khan's Mother India and V Shantaram's Do Aankhe Bara Hath' were influenced by Mahatma's vision.

Himanshu Roy produced Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani starrer Achhut Kanya for Bombay Talkies. In 1937 Shantaram made Duniya Na Maane about a marriage of unequals while Bimal Roy made films like Sujata, Bandini and Do Beegha Zameen.

Rajkumar Hirani's Lage Raho Munnabhai was a modern take on Gandhian philosophy while his 3 Idiots was inspired by his ideas about education, feels Chowksey.

He also counts Aushosh Gowarikar's Aamir Khan starrer Lagaan and Shah Rukh Khan starrer Swades among films that are influenced by Gandhi.

"There is a sequence when Aamir Khan who is the captain of a cricket team takes a low caste man in his team while Swades word comes from Gandhi and the protagonist's name is Mohan," he says.

Chowksey has also written about Pt Jawaharlal Nehru's contribution to cinema.

"Nehru also encouraged cinema. Chetan Anand's 1946 film 'Neecha Nagar was not getting any buyers so the financier kept the negatives in his godown. Nehruji rescued the picture and got it released. With that film Nehru's era begins in cinema and ends with aptly titled 1964 film Haqeeqat about India-China war," says Chowksey.

PTI