ORANGE, Calif. – Capitalizing on his newfound fame in Hollywood, Bollywood star Anil Kapoor arrived here at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts of Chapman University April 24 to introduce American audiences to a slice of Indian pride and cinema as nearly 400 guests attended a private screening of his production, “Gandhi, My Father.” While the Hindi version had been released in India in 2007, the English version of the film officially premiered in the United States the day before at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
“This movie is very near and dear to my heart,” Kapoor told India-West in an exclusive interview. “Most people know the story about Gandhi, the leader. But a lot of people don’t know about his personal life as a father. In a way, he failed as a father, but he gave us freedom. He sacrificed his family to give us freedom.”
Directed by Feroz Abbas Khan and starring Akshaye Khanna, the Kapoor-produced film delves into the personal relationship between Mahatma Gandhi (played by Darshan Jariwala) and his son Harilal (played by Khanna). Kapoor stated he hoped the movie would shed new light on the life of Mahatma Gandhi without taking away from his contributions to India and the world.
“After people watch this movie, they are going to have to make a decision between Gandhi and his son,” Kapoor said of the over two-hour movie. “Nobody really knows this story. In some places people are aware, but not as much as they should.”
It was a story Kapoor came across when he attended a playhouse in India to watch the stage production of “Mahatma vs. Gandhi.” While the character of the movie is different from the play, the Bollywood actor-turned-producer was captivated by the stage production and wanted to bring the factual story to the silver screen.
Also based upon the biographical sketch, “Harilal Gandhi: A Life,” written by Chandulal B. Dalal, “Gandhi, My Father” pitted father against son in various film locations in South Africa and India.
“I saw the play and knew of the story,” Kapoor said. “I learned of the emotional state (of Harilal and the relationship with his parents) through letters exchanged between Kasturba and Harilal. The story is entirely factual and the entire Gandhi family helped me bring this story to life.”
That story has now been finally brought to life in the U.S., almost two years after the Hindi version of “Gandhi, My Father” released in India. With each scene shot twice – once in Hindi and again in English – Kapoor was at last able to bring the English version of the film for its Hollywood debut at the IFFLA here April 23.
Kapoor’s only son, Harsh, is an aspiring screenwriter and currently attends Chapman University’s Dodge College, which led school dean Bob Bassett to invite the Bollywood actor to screen “Gandhi, My Father” at the university’s Marion Knott Studios.
Prior to producing “Gandhi, My Father,” Kapoor made his producer-debut in 2002 with the comedy “Kadhaai Ho Badhaai” and followed it with the critically-acclaimed thriller “My Wife’s Murder” in 2005.