ASIANatomy
Pure Asian Entertainment: Film, TV, Anime & Manga

Love, Hate, and The Mahatma

  • Aug 20, 2009
Rating:
+4

Bollywood films ( those wonderful movies from India) have the reputation of being mindless fluff--of being nothing more than pretty people singing and dancing while falling in and out love for roughly 3 hours, and from  my admittedly brief exposure I must agree that there is a great deal of validity to this assertion. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that when it's done with so much panache and infectious good humor, after all they've got to get those butts into those theater seats and they certainly are doing that. Nope. You can't argue with success. It's just that they seem to avoid tackling serious subject matter at every possible opportunity, and perhaps that's understandable. There are certain subjects that are so tender within the very soul of this nation that even after the passage of 70 odd years they can still inflame the public's passions. HEY RAM is a film that deals with one of those subjects, the one that is perhaps the most sensitive of all because it is the most complex; religion. 

When you talk about in religion in India you aren't just talking about some simple theological matter. It goes far deeper than that--at least as far back as the Mogul Empire which was established in approximately 1398 when Tamerlane came into the country and set one of his sons on the throne. That empire lasted until the British started to weasel their way in somewhere in the 18th century and the problem didn't go away simply because Mogul rule was replaced with British rule. The roots run deep. When HEY RAM played the theaters in India it was a dismal failure at the box office because no one was willing to book it and consequently it played on very few screens. Everyone was justifiably afraid that its subject matter would lead to lead to violence among Hindus and Muslims.

HEY RAM opens in 1946 and Indian independence and the ultimate partition of Pakistan is at hand.  We meet 3 friends, Saket Ram (Kamal Hassan) a Hindu, another Hindu friend Lalwani, and their mutual Muslim friend Amjad played by Shah Rukh Khan. At first it seems as if we're going to see just another Bollywood flick as the 3 launch into a giddy, drunken musical number. But the tone of the film turns on a dime when Saket Ram returns home to Calcutta the very day the violent riots between Hindus and Muslims break out. Tragically his beloved young wife Aparna (Rani Mukherjee) is gang raped and murdered and Saket himself is swept up in the murderous mobs seeking retribution. He finds himself both witnessing and committing unthinkable acts. That night is a kaleidoscope of depravity, and after experiencing a blood soaked old Muslim man mistaking him for an angel sent to save him-- and the old man's blind granddaughter groping her way toward her own death, he (Saket) can take no more and staggers back to his apartment and his slaughtered wife. But even at his own doorstep there is one more horror--a sacred white elephant standing, swaying, over the body of its lifeless mahout. Before reaching that point there was one other encounter for Saket Ram, and it was a life changing one. He met a wild eyed rebel Sriram Abhyankar (Atul Kulkarni). It's Sriram who first planted the evil, insanely logical notion in Saket's grief stricken brain that the cause of all this death and chaos was one man, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi--The Mahatma. Sriram and those who felt as he did (and they were legion) believed that not only had Gandhi given away a large part of their native land to become the Muslim state of Pakistan, he had also stolen away Hindu India itself by giving power over them to a Muslim Prime Minster (Nehru) and his government. It was the ultimate act of betrayal--it was treason, and he must die for it.

This is the set up for HEY RAM a film which, as are most Bollywood films, is about love and loss, sacrifice and pain, love and redemption, but without any of the joy and the laughter and the songs ,dances, and gorgeous costumes that have endeared these films to many while causing other to roll their eyes in dismay. It's is the story of a man whose life is shattered by the violence brought about by a man of peace. I could tell you more about what it is, but I'm afraid that in doing so I might make it sound BETTER than it is. It has very high aspirations, some of which are met but most of which are not. It wants most of all to be the story of redemption but it fails to be totally satisfying for two reasons.

Reason number one is that not enough time is spent making us feel that Saket is really a guy who needs redemption anymore than anyone else out there does--and from what we've seen in this movie a LOT of people need redemption, most of them a great deal more than he does. His main flaw seems to be that he simply gives up on life and just drifts through it,  the way the body of a drowned man in a river is pulled along where ever the current takes him--whether it's into an unconsummated marriage with a much younger wife who adores him or into an assassination attempt that doesn't even seem to  vaguely interest him. There's no passion, or even a sign of life in him. We never see the look of the feral animal who truly believes that The Mahatma must die, instead it's almost as if he just happens to have his hand sticking out at a time when someone places a gun in it. The whole thing is more coincidence than anything else. Reason number two is that his redemption comes pretty quickly, but on second thought I'm willing to cut them some slack there even though it does strain credulity a bit to believe how quickly he changes his mind when one considers how wishy washy he has been throughout his entire life. The film has other flaws I haven't begun to touch on. The primary one is that Saket's passivity serves to make the film's slow pace even slower--painfully slow at times, and American viewers in particular will find this hard to endure.

I've gone on much too long but I'd like to say one last thing. When I realized I was watching a film that was potentially about the man who assassinated Gandhi, I wanted to turn it off. I didn't want to run the risk of even possibly understanding what might have been going on his mind or worse, feeling any sympathy for him. I suppose I should be ashamed.
Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma Love, Hate, and The Mahatma

What did you think of this review?

Helpful
15
Thought-Provoking
15
Fun to Read
15
Well-Organized
15
Post a Comment
April 18, 2010
For some reasons, I'm not into anything Indian. I must be a racist ;-) Considering your last paragraph, you're not too bad. I had been in India and there are good and bad out of the experience. Indian music and dances just don't turn me on. This film sounds interesting but I suspect it's actually your take on it :-)
April 18, 2010
Too bad you don't like the Bollywood movies because I love them--well some of them. I prefer the ones that are set in India to those set in Britain or the U.S., and I like period pieces the best. I'm attracted to almost anything that isn't American.
 
April 15, 2010
Another great review! I will have to check this one out. I haven't seen a Bollywood film in a long time!
April 15, 2010
You're not a virgin then? What have you seen?
April 15, 2010
LOL! I would still call myself a virgin. I haven't watched Bollywood films since undergrad college, and I don't count "Slumdog Millionaire." I can't remember the titles...that's how long it's been!
April 15, 2010
No, I wouldn't sount SLUMDOG either since it was directed by Danny Boyle. Did the fiolms you saw have a lot of singing and dancing or did you see the more serious ones?
April 15, 2010
They were the light hearted singing and dancing ones. There might have been one serious one thrown into the mix, but it was so long ago I can't be sure.
April 15, 2010
I like the period pieces like ASOKA and JODHA AKBAR although OM SHANTI OM was a lot of fun and that was set in the 70s and the present. ASOKA and OM SHANTI OM had more singing and dancing than the other but there's one number in JODHA AKBAR that's stellar. all 3 films are reviewed here.
April 15, 2010
I'll have to check them out as well as the reviews soon. I'm saving the titles now, so I can look for them later. :)
April 15, 2010
Also recommend are 3 other srious Hindi films, EARTH, WATER, and FIRE. I haven't seen them but they come highly recommended by serious movie goers and critics alike.
April 15, 2010
Thanks, saving those titles as well.
April 16, 2010
They're 3 of my favorites thus far. two star Shah Rukh Khan and the other Hrithik Roshan.
 
April 14, 2010
Excellent review as always, I may need to start giving more of these a chance.
April 14, 2010
Some may not even call this flick "Bollywood" in the strictest sense since it lacks all the glitz and glamour--not to mention the song and dance number. But since it's a Hindi film it's easier just to put it under that banner. Thanks for commenting, Alex.
 
August 20, 2009
wow! I thought I already read this. I must've been mistaken. Great review, Karen. I really still feel that this is for me...
August 20, 2009
Maybe you did. I rewrote a small part of it on ammie and them dumped the one I had over here and posted the new one. Sometimes that's easier to do than it is to make edits on existing material. Weird, huh? Did you ever get any farther along in ASOKA? I know it's not everybody's cup of tea.
August 20, 2009
not yet. But I plan to tackle it this Friday evening since I won't be going anywhere and I can give it my full attention. I do see what you mean, sometimes not often, I experience glitches while editing...
August 20, 2009
For awhile it was nothing BUT glitches.
 
1
More Hey Ram reviews
Quick Tip by . May 01, 2010
Caption
Drama about a man who lost his wife during the Bombay riots and how it affected his life.
About the reviewer
karen ()
Ranked #6
I am the poster child for inertia. Where ever I am is where I plan to stay FOREVER.   So much so in fact that it took me decades to understand the punchline about why   the chicken … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

You
QUEENBFLIX
Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this movie

Wiki

Tags

Movies, Drama Movies, Drama, Religion, India, Bollywood, 1946, Shah Rukh Khan, Gandhi, Kamal Hassan, Partition, Rani Mukerjee, Assassination Of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Tamil

Details

Genre: Drama
Release Date: February 18, 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 3hrs 6min
First to Review
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
ASIANatomy is part of the Lunch.com Network - Get this on your site
()
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since
reviews
comments
ratings
questions
compliments
lists