India, 1948. When the Bombay police encounter a dying tramp, they need his father’s name to admit him to hospital. Who is he and why is he muttering ‘Mahatma Gandhi’? This admirable bio-pic of the troubled relationship between Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala) and his eldest son, Harilal (Akshaye Khanna), explores the ideological gap and emotional tensions between the two men. It maps the disintegration of their association from the early South African years to post-1915, when they moved back to India and Gandhi immersed himself in the ‘Quit India’ movement. Isolated and depressed, Harilal died an anonymous death as an alcoholic in a Bombay hospital.
Though the film is sometimes sententious, its understated performances and lucid direction are balanced and effective. It could be about any fraught father-son relationship, but this has a deep emotional resonance as it is steeped in truth and history. The film has already sparked controversy in India, where it is considered sacrilege to question Gandhi’s integrity. It addresses the question: was ‘Bapu’, the father of the Indian nation, a good father to his own son? Moving, credible and tragic.