Here at long last is a Hindi film that loves India so unequivocally that it goes and paints the entire world brown. Every single character in Gandhi to Hitler, whether a dreaded Third Reich minister, a marauding Russian Red Army soldier, a trigger-happy French infantryman or a patriotic Azad Hind Fauj volunteer, is portrayed by an Indian actor.
What?s more, the film uses what looks suspiciously like the Garhwal Himalayas and the Punjab countryside as stand-ins for sundry European locations. Bollywood?s long-nurtured expansionist designs assume alarming proportions in this spectacularly daft account of the last months of Adolf Hitler?s life. For this film, India is the world.
The intentions are lofty enough, but Gandhi to Hitler has the feel of a Z-grade quickie destined to be quickly consigned to the dustbins of movie history. The concept is hare-brained and the execution ham-handed and that?s putting it mildly.
Taking off from two epistolary appeals that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi made to the Fuhrer during World War II, the film seeks to underscore the contrast between the Mahatma?s non-violent struggle against the British and the Nazi ?an eye for an eye? philosophy. As if we didn?t know!
It is utterly silly and unintentionally funny. You want to laugh, but you squirm. The trouble with a film like Gandhi to Hitler is that its makers seem to hate the audience just as much as they claim to love Mahatma Gandhi?s pacifist teachings. Why else would they foist this monumental monstrosity on us? The film piles one agonizing sequence upon another with gay abandon and deadly earnestness without the slightest hint of a let-up at any point in its two-hour-plus run time? The audience would need a bomb shelter to escape the relentless onslaught.
Gandhi to Hitler, directed by Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, meanders aimlessly from Hitler?s bunker to a forested battle zone to congregations addressed by the Mahatma (played by Avijit Dutt) and intersperses all this with documentary footage of the Allied Forces? attacks on Nazi Germany in the dying stages of the World War. What is it that this film is trying to tell us? There is no way of guessing. If there is a point that it?s trying to make, it?s too well concealed for ordinary mortals.
While the Mahatma Gandhi?s perambulations in the film with his followers add no real value to the film, the focus seems to be on painting a rather sympathetic, human portrait of the Nazi dictator.
History's most hated despot is played by a far-too-twitchy Raghuvir Yadav. You hate him all the more. The Nazi rogues? gallery is overcrowded. Hitler's mistress Eva Braun (Neha Dhupia), trusted associate Joseph Goebbels (Nalin Singh, co-producer and writer of the film), Magdalena Goebbels (Nikita Anand) and architect and Reich minister Albert Speer (Nasir Abdullah), among a host of others, float around the bunker as if life is one big party until the lights finally go out.
As ill tidings filter in from the battlefield, Hitler, on his part, raves and rants, releases steam by thumping on tables and other pieces of furniture, comes close to shedding a few tears and even shares some moments of tender affection with Eva. Hitler?s love story has never been told with such cavalier disregard for history and the viewer?s sensibilities.
One strand of the film ? it deals with a group of runaway Indian soldiers stranded in Germany during the War ? could have yielded a full-fledged drama. But Gandhi to Hitler botches up this sub-plot by throwing in a half-hearted love story about a young Gandhian wife pining for her absent warrior-husband and a raucous Holi song celebrating the three colours of the Indian flag. Like everything else in the film, it has no apparent rhyme or reason. Watch Gandhi to Hitler at your own risk.