Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Quite a few Eponymous bio"graphic"s of leading political figures have been made in India. Prominent and oft-watched among them is the October 2nd premiered "Gandhi", where the protagonist is well portrayed by a slightly portly Ben Kingsley (the "port" being the only critique in an otherwise rather flawless performance by the Kingsley who was originally named Krishna Bhanji).

In Hey Raam, Gandhi is portrayed by yet another leading Indian actor, Naseeruddin Shah whose gift of the gab accentuated that of the veteran political leader of India's national movement. In "Sardar", the role of Patel is offered on a plate to Paresh Rawal, who we rather know for his not-so-raw but refined comic instincts. Rawal plays a Wall Dravid and adapts well to a different wicket, batting for Vallabhbhai as Patel in the movie and does a great job of it.

Recently, I was lucky to see Mammooty embedded in the role of Ambedkar in the eponymous movie. An eye-opener for me ( I have resolved to read quite a few original volumes of Ambedkar's work from now on regularly), Mammooty's meaty performance as Ambedkar was equivalent to a 24-Karat one. His facial expressions, his demeanour, his constant frame and weight change during the course of the movie, makes him the perfect fit to constitute the role of framer of India's Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar would have been flattered by the resemblance of Mammooty to himself in this film and also to the near-exact reincarnation of the Mass Conversion scene to Buddhism which was re-enacted by Jabbar Patel for the film.

In "The Legend of Bhagat Singh", Ajay Devgan attains "Vijay" as the young revolutionary even while singing "Des Mere Desh Mere Meri Jaan Hai Tu" manly to Rahman's tunes. Devgan's expressive eyes, his "fire under the calm" constitution, fiery dialogue delivery and perfect blend with his co-stars in the film, makes him a "SantuSht" choice by Rajkumar Santoshi.

Paresh Rawal does not lag behind the above mentioned names in "Sardar" either. The Sultan of Slapstick swerves from his stereotypical comic roles and plays a serious Sardar Patel in yet another decent film on India's national leaders.

Nehru, on the other hand, has been played by an actor who has always been chosen to represent him. Roshan Seth's near resemblance to India's first Prime Minister has landed him in several enactions of Nehru, the most memorable would be in the tele-serial, "Discovery of India", where he is the narrator.

Jinnah was cynically depicted in "Gandhi" and played equally clinically by Alyque Padamsee, the ad guru. Attenborough has however been criticised for depicting Jinnah in a rather diabolical manner in the movie. I havent seen the Christopher Lee version of Jinnah yet to make a comment.

In my opinion, if asked to choose the best among this lot, I would go for Naseeruddin Shah's Gandhi in Hey Ram, purely because of the manner in which Gandhi is so accurately portrayed, as a dry yet powerful man. Sample the dialogue between Girish Karnad's character (Saket Ram's father), when Gandhi says, "Nethikku, we will meet". Karnad replies "Bapu, Nethikku means yesterday in Tamil, Naaliki means tomorrow". Gandhi replies, (one eye on Patel and Nehru in the far corner),"No wonder, they tell me that Gandhi is always mired in the past". :-)!

1 comment:

vjanand said...

VRS, Turn on the word verification on to prevent spams such as the one above. --Vijay.