The Mahatma on screen

To commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is organising ‘Mahatma Gandhi 150’. The festival, organised in association with Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, will be on from April 9 to 11.

Seven films chosen to be screened at the fest are Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, The Making of the Mahatma by Shyam Benegal, Koormavatara by Girish Kasaravalli, Gandhi, My Father by Feroz Abbas Khan, Gandhi Devi by Naganatha Madhava Joshi, Welcome Back Gandhi by A Balakrishnan and Mahatma Gandhi: Twentieth Century Prophet by AK Chettiar.

The festival will be inaugurated by Nagatihalli Chandrashekar (Chairman of Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy) and Prof KM Shivaraj — a Gandhian scholar, who will be the chief guest.

It is a rare opportunity for film-goers to watch Mahatma Gandhi: Twentieth Century Prophet as it is believed to be a rare film. According to film historian Sridhar Murthy, this film was said to be lost for a long time. In 2006, an abridged version made in 1998 and dubbed in English, was discovered at the San Francisco State University by historian AR Venkatachalapathy. Later, another copy was found in the University of Pennsylvania. However, the original documentary and other language versions have not been found so far.

Studies show that Chettiar started work on the documentary in 1937. He set up a company named ‘Documentary Films Limited’ and started collecting archival footage of Gandhiji. He visited many places in India, London, South Africa and acquired large amounts of archival footage. In addition, he himself shot many contemporary scenes of Gandhi. After three years, he accumulated about 50,000 feet (15,000 m) of film footage. Editing the footage began on January 1940 and eventually, 12,000 feet (3,700 m) and the documentary was released on August 23, 1940. It received widespread coverage from the Indian press and a few international newspapers. The documentary originally had voice-overs in Tamil, which was later dubbed into Telugu. After initial screening, it was withdrawn from cinemas due to government censorship. Chettiar also recorded some of his experiences during the making of the documentary in a series of articles for the magazine Kumari Malar (published by him) in 1943. This was later published as a book titled Annal Adichuvattil (In the footsteps of the Mahatma). After Independence, the documentary was dubbed into Hindi and re-released.

Welcome Back Gandhi is the Hindi version of Tamil film Mudhalvar Mahatma. Directed by Balakrishnan, the film deals on how Gandhiji would react to the current situation in India, if he returns.

Girish Kasaravalli’s Kurmavatara is a metaphorical exploration of Gandhian values and ideals. The film got him the National Award as the best Kannada film, based on the short story by Kum Veerabhadrappa.

Gandhi Devi is based on a story written by historian Dr Suryanantha Kamath. It delineates on the values professed by Gandhiji, including truth and tolerance.

It is an attempt by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to bring films to address the concerns of Mahatma Gandhi in terms of cherished values of humanity like equality, compassion and peaceful existence. “These films feature the life and times of Gandhiji.

Films will be screened at Khincha Auditorium, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, on Race Course Road. Admission is free, on a first-come-first-served basis,” says HN Suresh of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.


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