Feroz Abbas Khan first dealt with the subject of Harilal Gandhi in his 1998 play Mahatma vs Gandhi.
Khan with Darshan Jariwala, who plays Gandhiji
Harilal’s life was marked by the greatness of his father as much as the Mahatma’s iron-clad discipline. It eventually left the rebellious son a destitute drunk who died shortly after his father was killed.
Now, the renowned Mumbai theatre director revisits the tumultuous life of Gandhiji’s first born and makes his debut into the racy world of Hindi cinema with Gandhi, My Father, produced by actor Anil Kapoor. Despite the number of movies based either on Gandhiji’s teachings or directly on his life, Gandhi My Father is the first to inspect the trouble-ridden and intensive relationship between the Father of the Nation and one of his own children. Here, the director walks us through the literary, cinematic, theatrical and personal influences that shaped him and his film, starring Akshaye Khanna as Harilal.
Harilal Gandhi—A Life: Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal’s biography of Harilal is the only work of its kind on Harilal Gandhi. It is a phenomenal scholarly work that goes into great detail about the life of this man, and it has formed the very factual foundation of my film. Another work of Dalal’s, his two volumes on Gandhiji, called ‘Gandhiji Deen Vari’, was another great resource. It is a day-to-day account of Gandhiji’s life from birth to death and only misses some 298 days in the middle.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I can’t get over ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’. I have been deeply affected by the concept of magic realism. Marquez’s work, especially the way he constructs his characters, is unparalleled. His methods always stay with me in the subconscious, and I keep using aspects of it in my work.
Ratan Thiyam: In theatre, it doesn’t get better than Ratan Thiyam. Thiyam’s Chorus repertory in Manipur does some of the finest theatre work in the country. He is deeply inspired and the way he uses myth to tell a modern story has impacted me very deeply. No one makes use of choreography, voice culture and the stage like he does. It’s staggering.
Kumud Patwa: She’s my mother-in-law. She is a living example of everything Gandhiji stood for. She is the yardstick by which you can measure a Gandhian way of life. She is all about giving, without ever wanting anything in return. She is an educationist, parent and social contributor and, to me, a shining example of Gandhian principles.
Akira Kurasawa: Cinematically, I love everything of Kurasawa’s, but especially his ‘Rashomon’. He was a man who was so profound and deep yet emotional, making you think and moving you at the same time. He layered emotions and details with amazing dexterity and taught me the relativity of truth.
‘Gandhi, My Father’ released on Friday.