Director: Sanoj Mishra
Cast: Om Puri, Sanjay Mishra, Rishi Bhutani, Anupam Shyam.
Many of us have many a times wondered while watching a film in a theatre how on earth a film so debilitatingly inert could have been made. And if, at all, someone did dare to write a script, cast actors and filmed it, how did the film get funded and, finally, make it to theatres?
Whatever manner director Sanoj Mishra managed to make Gandhigiri, it doesn’t seem like an exercise that entailed any labour of love, either for subjects, or filmmaking. But it does feature Om Puri, who, as we all know, is game for all the craziness that comes his way in the leading role.
Mishra must have imagined that by invoking the spirit of the Father of the Nation, he had a winner on his hands, since, after all, didn’t Rajkumar Hirani-Sanjay Dutt duo catapulted to national fame with Gandhigiri in the Munnabhai series?
In Gandhigiri, a bunch of rogues — Bakait Singh (Sanjay Mishra), Bansi (Brijesh Karniwal), Natwarlal (Mukesh Tiwari), Yuvraj (Rishi Bhutani) and Jayanti (Meghna Haldar) — indulge in petty crimes due to various unfortunate circumstances. But they are all happy in their own world taking a swipe at the country’s rich and corrupt elite and decrying the society at large. Denouncing deep inequality and the vanity and pride of those who consider themselves a cut above the rest, they gang up under Bakait Singh’s leadership to further walk on the wrong path.
Enter Rai Saab (Om Puri), the benevolent NRI who returns from Mauritius to sermonise on Gandhigiri in his motherland. Obviously, his return to the ideals and principles of “the greatest soul on earth” Gandhi meets challenges he is not prepared for. He lands up in his native place in Uttar Pradesh where his first encounter with the group of thugs is foiled by the timely intervention of Inspector (Amit Shukla). In his true Gandhian approach, Rai Saab decides to bring all of them to his haveli to make them see reason, and realise the importance of Gandhi’s values in today’s age and time.
Now, this is a small town where every man is a criminal all out to fleece and loot, sadhus seem to be full of evil intentions, and politicians make both ends against the middle, to say the least. While Rai Saab has a quick-fix solution to every problem at hand caused by these criminals with his brand of Gandhigiri, his endeavours to reform them look feeble and a complete waste of time.
Mishra skillfully tries to build tension until the moment when everything snaps and goes insane, followed by a series of repetitive violence. All the actors, barring Sanjay Mishra and Om Puri, reveal their true selves as noisy, destructive, overgrown children in the midst of some jarring music and cacophony.
More problematic are the characters themselves who become so increasingly unbelievable in the extent to which they make Rai Saab’s life a living hell. But it’s not that they frighten you with threats or actions; they screech and annoy you like bratty teens, while Puri amps up, and camps it up at times.
So, if you are wondering you would get a glimpse of what is the importance of Gandhiji’s values in today’s corrupt world, or, if anyone can lead a peaceful life by implementing those values in day-to-day life, you are in for a disappointment.
The film fails to capture the dangerous tone required to make us feel in any way invested in what’s happening onscreen. It collapses, failing to assure us on a basic level: the actions of the characters seem unconvincing, and they appear as if they’ve been manhandled into place to make the plot work. For us, the torture gets worse and worse, and we care less and less....