Indian film is rare Gandhi project

Kapoor producing adaptation of Khan play

LONDON — Bollywood thesp Anil Kapoor is making his producing debut with “Gandhi My Father,” one of the few Indian films to deal directly with the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

Pic, helmed by Feroz Abbas Khan, is based on Khan’s earlier play “Mahatma vs. Gandhi” and tells the story of the tortured relationship between Gandhi and his eldest son Harilal, who would come to be disowned by his father, convert to Islam before returning to Hinduism, and eventually descend into alcoholism.

Pic, with a budget of roughly $5 million put up entirely by Kapoor, is purportedly only the second Indian feature to focus on the figure of Gandhi in a main role.

While numerous Indian pics have included the Mahatma in cameo roles, such as Ketan Mehta’s “Sardar” and, more recently, Rajkumar Hirani’s “Lage raho munnabhai” (best director at the Intl. Indian Film Academy awards in June), very few have dealt with the iconic leader head-on.

The most well-known cinematic portrayal remains Ben Kingsley’s Oscar-winning turn in Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi,” which also scooped the picture and director Academy Awards in 1983.

“This film has a totally different feel and look. It will provide the Indian point of view about Gandhi,” says Kapoor. “I feel it will show the human side to him behind the iconic.”

Eros Entertainment, the London-listed Bollywood distrib, is handling the pic’s day-and-date global release Aug. 3. Both Kapoor and Khan were in London for a press confab July 25 to launch the pic’s international preem.

Pic’s bow is close to the 60th anniversary of Indian Independence on Aug. 15 and looks certain to raise the interest of Indian auds with its attempts to go beyond a hagiographical portrait of the figure.

“We’re pretty sure it will provoke a lot of debate with Indians, not just about Gandhi, but also about themselves,” Khan says. “Some people don’t even know that Gandhi had so many children, much less that he had a son who went in the direction he did.”

Darshan Jariwala plays Mahatma Gandhi, with Akshaye Khanna in the role of his troubled son.

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