Essay on Gandhi Movie Summary

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What would it be like to situate Gandhi in today's pragmatic times? Would the Gandhian way of life have any value in this “developed modern civilization,” Gandhi was critical of? This has been shown with a touch of humor in Raj Kumar Hirani’s film, Lage Raho Munna Bhai. The movie beautifully answers these questions, by locating Gandhi in popular culture.

The movie, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, strives to revive the values and principles of Mahatma Gandhi in the hearts of the people, the cast of the film include SANJAY DUTTA (Munnabhai), ARSHAD WARSI (Circuit), VIDYA BALAN (jhanvi), DIA MIRZA (Simran), BOMAN IRANI (lucky Singh), and DILIP PRABHAVALKAR (Mahatma Gandhi). The sequel of Munna Bhai MBBS was exceptionally well received and went on to collect more than twice what Munna Bhai MBBS had collected. Lage Raho Munna Bhai made an estimated Rs 130 crore at the box office because it connected well the Gandhian philosophy to the audience locating it through the popular culture. The film educates the young generation about the principles of non-violence and peace and is possibly the most prominent Gandhi reference in pop culture.

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Popular culture is generally recognized as the vernacular or people’s culture that predominates in a society at a point in time. It involves the aspects of social life most actively involved by the public. As the ‘culture of the people’, popular culture is determined by the interactions between people in their everyday activities: styles of dress, the use of slang, greeting rituals, and the foods that people eat are all examples of popular culture. Popular culture is also informed by the mass media (Tim Delaney, Connecting Sociology to our Everyday Life, 2012).

Cinema has perhaps the greatest potential to be the most effective mass media instrument. Besides providing cheap entertainment for the masses, it can easily become a means of mass instruction and mass education (Siddhi Bahadkar, movies and the role they play, Youth ki awaz, 2010). The moral values conveyed through the medium of cinema have a lasting effect on the audience. The audience also has a moral, emotional involvement in the course of events, and the roles of various characters, their language, and style of speaking do leave an impression on the spectators.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has developed a persona in popular culture that towers over any other figure in India’s historical pantheon. There has been a range of depictions of the Mahatma, from the symbol of peace and non-violence to a great politician ( Aakash Karkare, From Freedom Fighter to Action Hero, Scroll. in, 2017). His philosophies have been used by popular culture to reflect on the modern situations that life presents and the way people handle these situations. Popular culture has adopted Gandhian philosophies and ideas with a warm heart which is reflected through the means of cinemas, literature, fashion, etc.

Raju Hirani’s 2006 Bollywood film, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, starring Sanjay Dutt, a part of Hirani’s Munnabhai series on the life of a Mumbai underworld don, coined a street term to describe Gandhian principles and philosophies – Gandhigiri, Gandhi’s ideas with a Mumbai lingo, to help ordinary people solve their problems. Munnabhai played by Dutt is possessed by the spirit of Gandhi and he goes about conducting his life truthfully and non-violently. Like Gandhi, he preaches the benefits of cleanliness and other things to people. He even urges them to cooperate and co-exist in society, all the while maintaining the street credentials of a bhai.

The movie, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, themes around how Gandhian ways are relevant even in today’s modern world. Gandhi has been shown as a symbol of truth and non-violence, where all of Munnabhai’s quirks were about his courage to be truthful and nonviolent (The Times of India, Munnabhai shows Gandhigiri would work in today’s turbulent times, October 02, 2019). Gandhi used truth and nonviolence as two of the most prominent weapons to win a fight. He always emphasized the concept of truth and nonviolence in his philosophies. The concept of Gandhigiri came from basic emotions like goodness and compassion and to be like him would require tremendous discipline. The movie depicts how people should not be force-fed his philosophies. What matters is how people get influenced and feel in a certain way to follow his values and principles. It shows how if a violent gangster were to meet a nonviolent man, how it would affect his attitude. The movie made Gandhi speak to Munna in the kind of language that Munna would speak, to give Gandhi a modern touch.

Gandhi called his overall method of non-violent action Satyagraha. But for Gandhi, non-violence was the word for a different, broader concept, 'a way of life-based on love and compassion.' In Gandhi's terminology, Satyagraha- a Truth-force was an outgrowth of nonviolence. This method of Satyagraha could win over any situation if applied cautiously. The movie shows by example that Gandhi’s ways could work in our times. There are scenes like a man spitting and the owner of the house wiping the spit and smiling back at him instead of yelling. The idea was to shame the person with goodness, something that Gandhi believed in instead of fighting, winning people over with kindness. Another scene shows Munna filling the house of his rival Lucky Singh with flowers and trying to win the fight with nonviolence. Munna silently sets up his camp outside the house of Lucky Singh and protests without harming anyone to make him feel guilty so that he gives up on his ego and co-operates with him. Another brilliant example of the non-violent tactics that the film highlights is to shame the corrupt official for his acts in front of people. A senior citizen whose pension gets blocked by a corrupt clerk, demands a bribe to get it released. As per Munna’s advice, he goes to the clerk and starts taking off things including his clothes, and puts them on the table listing out the cost of each item to cover up his bribe. This creates a huge commotion around and a visibly embarrassed clerk has no other option but to release his pension. As a Gandhian satyagraha technique of publicity, Munna uses the platform of radio to aware people of how Gandhian values can be applied in today’s context and change the way of looking at life and the attitude of dealing with things with those values. He did not only preach to people but also adopted these values in his life as well by turning his idea of Dadagiri to Gandhigiri.

The movie successfully depicts the Gandhian way of winning a war while keeping in mind his values and philosophies and shows his ideas haven’t faded even in the popular culture but have been overshadowed by the extreme characters of modern-day life.

Many appreciated the movie and it received high praise from many critics for offering a respectful cinematic acquaintance and the other being instructive but inspiring. However, many saw it critically. Ajit Duara argues in The Hindu that 'the accomplished cultural sophistication and political genius of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has to be dumbed down to the astoundingly moronic levels of 'Lage Raho Munnabhai', while filmmaker Jahnu Barua notes, 'Gandhian philosophy is serious business and Lage Raho Munna Bhai is not the right way to show it' (world heritage encyclopedia, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 2010). The movie, however, fails to provide an alternative perspective on how to remain calm in case of loss of faith in Gandhian philosophy, what to do when satyagraha, non-violence, and truth fail to pursue the opponent, as Munna points out in the movie, Gandhi told to maintain compose and present second cheek when someone slaps you on one side but didn’t tell what to do after getting slapped on the second, which can be misleading for the audience. These critiques provide another perspective of people looking at Gandhian philosophies as a matter of historical importance and of greater significance which cannot be easily portrayed in the popular culture.

Despite the criticisms, the film had a strong cultural impact in India, popularizing Gandhigiri and stirring popular imagination leading to several Gandhigiri style protests in India and the US. It was the first Hindi film to be shown in the United Nations. The film won seven awards including Film Fare, Screen, and Zee Cine awards, and was nominated for many more (NEWS18, Films inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, August 14, 2013). For the first time in Madhya Pradesh the jail department introduced a scheme for teaching prisoners Gandhigiri and patriotism through a three-day counseling session through Bollywood flicks before their release, including a special screening of Lage Raho Munna Bhai (Hindustan Times, Teaching ex-convicts Gandhigiri through Bollywood flicks, October 04, 2018).

Through the example of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, we can say that Gandhi’s values are based on reason, humanity, and goodness. They are more relevant today given the kind of stress we live with. Today the chances of getting into everyday conflict are far more enhanced, and thus, to deal with that with some amount of humanity and choose to not fight over, it would make a difference. Gandhi’s ways were unusual and will continue to work forever.


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