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Post-Brunch Intelligencer

Midmorning ramblings on the state of the species

On Gandhigiri

Posted by Nath at 9:22 PM
I recently got around to watching the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Minor spoilers herein.

Here's the plot in a nutshell: a gangster (the titular Munna Bhai) poses as an expert on Gandhism to win the attention of a radio host. Basically, Shrek-meets-Mrs.-Doubtfire.

Over the course of the film, Munna Bhai evolves from a psychopathic gangster into a hallucinating psychopathic gangster who uses Gandhigiri (as he calls it) to solve various characters' sitcommey problems. The film apparently made quite an impression on the public's mind when it was released, and brought the teachings of Gandhi back into the limelight. This is a good thing, of course. I give the filmmakers credit for trying to get people to ask themselves the sorts of questions they should have been asking all along. However, as the credits rolled, I couldn't help but think that the movie had missed the whole dang point.

The characters were all for Satyagraha -- as long as it got the job done. The instant it stopped working, Munna Bhai appeared to have no qualms about siccing his revolver-wielding maniac of a sidekick on whoever stood in the way of a happy ending. If you're going to preach about truth and non-violence and such, you have to stick with them even when they fail.

Many people agree that non-violence is basically a good thing. So why are most issues resolved through violence, or the threat thereof? It's because (outside Munna Bhai's fairly-tale world) truth and non-violence generally don't work. Morality has a cost. If you choose to stick to your morals, be prepared to lose. Perhaps a loss with a clear conscience is worth more than a victory; perhaps not.

What about Gandhi, then? Was even Gandhi a true Gandhian? Maybe. Honest, objective information about him is not easy to find. My personal gut feeling, however, is that he was too smart to completely believe all his teachings. Gandhi succeeded (to the extend that he did) because he was a keen strategist. For example, I don't think he starved himself to shame the British into capitulation. His hunger strikes were probably bargaining tools; if the British refused to yield before his death, the British would have a lot of bloodthirsty, rioting Satyagrahis to pacify.

Perhaps, at some point in human history, a true Gandhian lived and died. If he did, however, his name and his cause have long been forgotten. History books don't talk about Satyagrahis who've failed.
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