My daughter came one day from school with standing instructions from her teacher to see Lage Raho Munnabhai. The movie is a must see, something the whole family can watch together and has rapidly become the unexpected box-office hit of the year.
The film, “Lage Raho Munnabhai” (“Carry on Munnabhai”) follows the trials of an engaging Mumbai gangster who tries to pass himself off as a professor of Gandhian studies to win the heart of a radio talk show host. A specter of Gandhi, invisible to everyone but him, starts to haunt him, persuading him to abandon his life of crime and adopt a Gandhian existence. Soon the thug is preaching the message of nonviolence to his bewildered criminal associates.
The film’s practical advice on applying Gandhi’s philosophy to modern problems has particularly delighted audiences. The best way to get a corrupt official to pay your pension, without handing over a bribe? Strip off your clothes in the pension office and shame him into submission. Need to stop your neighbor’s spitting on your doorstep? Get down on the sidewalk and clean the mess yourself.
Its success surprised even its director, Rajkumar Hirani, who admits he doubted whether in modern India a film about Gandhi could ever be commercially viable. “I was very worried. A younger generation scarcely know who Gandhi is, and those who do know think he is boring historical icon,” he said.
In the end the film’s true hero is Rajkumar Hirani, who has written, edited and directed the film. Like the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life, this Munnabhai edition is a film for people of all ages, timeless in its appeal as it aims straight for the inherent hope and goodness in all of us. It shows the Gandhi in all of us, shows things we have to choose to ignore. It makes you feel good about yourself and what you have.
We live in a cynical world, but even in such times, sometimes a person, book or film comes along and shows you a tiny crack in the wall behind which there is a lot of light, and suddenly your heart is full of happiness. Lage Raho Munnabhai is one such film that makes you laugh, makes you cry, and also makes you feel good to be a human being.