The scene is a usual one. The camera pans from the trees and thatched roof houses,set in an unnamed western Maharashtrian village,to a small school with neatly dressed children sitting on well-worn benches. A new history teacher makes an appearance,and as he chattily makes acquaintance with the crowd,he reacts with anger to a little sweet-faced boy. The boy bears the surname Godse.
The short film And Gandhi Goes Missing by filmmaker Devondra Jadhav talks about prejudices held in the minds of Indians regarding the surname,particularly after the assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by Pune-based revolutionary Nathuram Godse. The film also tackles the larger issue of prejudice regarding race,caste,creed and religion,still rampant in rural India, says Jadhav. The film revolves around the life of school boy Sadashiv Godse and his history teacher,and how their lives run parallel with the lessons in the class.
Shot in and around Mumbai,the 20-minute film was recently screened at Pune Short Film Festival. Jadhav also won an award for his direction at the festival.
The idea about making a film based on a certain stigma attached with the surname Godse came to Jadhav when a friend,GK Desai,also one of the producers of the film,narrated an incident. I saw the potential in the story and decided to make a short film, says Jadhav,who has earlier worked on over a dozen television shows for both Hindi and Marathi channels.
One of the challenges,Jadhav says,was to make sure that he did not tread that line between creativity and politics/ religion. Even with the script,we have not made a statement in favour of the actions taken by either of these strong personalities, says the 38-year-old director.
Elaborating on it,he talks about one particular scene in the film where the teacher is talking to his class about Gandhijis philosophy of non-violence. When one of the students asks why such a person was assassinated,the teacher reveals the name Godse,making the children view their own friend with confusion and accusation.
The incident,which could have been cleared by the teacher,is fuelled further by his own biases,which the children pick up, says Jadhav.
Having showcased the movie in over a dozen film festivals all across the globe,including the Kala Ghoda Film Festival in Mumbai and the Cairo International Childrens Film Festival in Egypt,Jadhav also screened the film for some of Nathuram Godses descendants. And they really admired it, he says,adding that Mahatma Gandhis grandson Tushar Gandhi also appreciated the film.
Happy with the slow but steady appreciation that the film has gathered,Jadhav has his hands full with two more short films on similar lines,And Netaji Is Alive and And Sardar Fights Back,revolving around the lives of Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,respectively.