Grandma's Tales

November 27, 2006

Munnabhai and Gandhigiri

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:28 pm

I finally got to watch Lageraho Munnabhai. The DVD had good picture quality but kept freezing from time to time, so as a movie experience it wasn’t much. But the movie has its points. It proves, if proof were needed, it’s the supporting cast that gives a movie – especially one that is anecdotal – its edge.

Years ago, I attended a theatre workshop in Calcutta (that’s what it was then) conducted by Shombu Mitra. I’ve forgotten the details but a couple of things he said about characterisation stuck with me. “It’s not the appearance, the costume or the props that makes you see a character as a king. It’s the way his subject walks in, bows and speaks with reverence that establishes his authority.”

It’s the same with Munnabhai. We knew, more or less, what Sanjay and Arshad were going to do. They would be predictably good. But this movie is not about the lead actors. It’s about the small incidents that get resolved through Gandhigiri. It’s about these sub-plots that, like side dishes for a plate of rice, add flavour and give strength to the narrative. They give substance to the theme and prove the filmmaker’s argument that Gandhigiri works.

And wisely, the director lavishes care on the actors doing cameo roles in the mini plots. Take the spitting incident for instance. The guy with a bucket and towel starts by showing helpless anger, which turns to revulsion at what he’s bidden to do. He sports a phoney smile every time he cleans up after the big guy and finally, when the turnaround occurs displays genuine happiness. Voila! What a performance!

So is it with the guy who’s forced to confess to dad that he’s lost a lot of money. And Lucky, except when he tends to go a bit overboard is superb too. These are the people who make it all so believable. Yes, they did that. Or why did people try those methods in their attempts for justice?

Will Gandhigiri work? I asked my husband, an ex government officer. He laughed so much I thought he might have an attack or something. “But it worked for that pensioner who starts stripping!” I said when he stopped to catch his breath. He laughed again, but finally conceded, “Yeah, it might, mind you, just might, in one in a thousand cases. Even here, it has to be one-on-one and the guy who’s applying Gandhigiri should be a monument of patience.” He paused and asked with narrowed eyes, “Are you planning to try it on me?”

Coincidentally, I also watched Catch Me If You Can this week-end. In this movie, DiCaprio, a teenager, passes himself off as an airline pilot, a Harvard-educated doctor and finally as a lawyer. He does it all with his wits (and an extra-ordinary eye for detail) alone; there’s no side-kick to organise things for him. The first two covers are blown, but the third one manages to stay tight. DiCaprio retains his lawyer identity. How, how? The obsessed FBI agent Hanratty (Tom Hanks) wants to know. He promises the boy that he would find out somehow. He doesn’t. You would never guess the answer. Hanratty is the chaser, the admirer and in the end, the Father figure the boy so desperately needs.

Again, will Gandhigiri work? Just read this:

Justin Wurth, 18, Duane Barry, 19, and Tyler Pearce, 19, have been accused of breaking into a small US church just before midnight Nov. 12. Police said they stole money and electronic equipment, smashed windows and computer monitors and sprayed a fire extinguisher in the church gym. The youngsters are accused of taking away several hundred dollars worth of gift cards, Xboxes and controllers, a DVD and a VCR players.

Members of the church have decided to punish the three teenagers with love. They are putting together “love baskets” full of electronic items for each one of the suspects. “We’ve also made mistakes,” said the pastor. “But god forgives us.”

Will this gesture help to keep the kids off crime? Make a guess.



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