Fifteen years ago, a mainstream film coined the word Gandhigiri. Revisiting Rajkumar Hirani’s masterpiece on Gandhi Jayanti:
Lage Raho Munnabhai is that rare comedy that engages your mind, heart, emotions and, of course, sense of humour. You don’t see too many films like that in Hindi cinema– one that lets you have fun while it gives you a lesson on Gandhian values.
With a superbly crafted screenplay and fabulous dialogue (Rajkumar Hirani –Abhijat Joshi), director Hirani starts out with the idea of making you chuckle, and while you stop for breath, gives you a thought to hold on to. Of course it is too simplistic—the film is placed in a universe untouched by the kind of maniacs that plant bombs in trains; and where people are essentially nice, it is easy to talk of Gandhian values. But then who talks of peace and non-violence in the movies these days? For that, Lage Raho’s few hiccups can be overlooked.
After Munnabhai MBBS (2003), the golden-hearted gangster (Sanjay Dutt) is back with his devoted sidekick Circuit (Arshad Warsi), with his “no tension Bhai” mantra. Now Munna has gone and flipped for Janhvi (Vidya Balan), a radio jockey and it’s Circuit’s job to ensure that Munna wins the quiz that will allow him to meet her— he does that by kidnapping a few history professors! But to impress the bunch of old men Janhvi shelters in her bungalow, the fake Professor Murliprasad Sharma, has to do his own reading, and Mahatma Gandhi enters his soul.
Gandhi (Dilip Prabhavalkar—odd make-up) appears to him, with solutions to all life’s problems— Munna’s and those of others who listen to Jahnvi’s radio programme (like in Good Morning Vietnam and Salaam Namaste, everybody listens to the radio!) From “Dadagiri” Munna moves to “Gandhigiri” and finds that it works like a charm. Lucky Singh (Boman Irani) is after Janhvi’s bungalow, and sneakily grabs it. Munna and the old folks have to use Gandhian tactics to win the battle. But it’s not as solemn as it sounds—Munna, Circuit and Lucky Singh (the irrepressible Boman Irani in his element) make it hilarious, and occasionally moving.
In real life, only the real Mahatma could make Gandhigiri work. In this day and age, satyagraha or passive resistance could get a protestor a bullet in the head, but it’s the idea that counts. And the genuine hope of giving non-violence a chance.