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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.


Posted by Blogger Revealed at 31 January, 2007 17:10:
But I think he was losing it towards the end. He became more a cantankerous megalomanic old man than the crafty strategist that got him to the position that he enjoyed in Indian politics. Like you said, it's hard to judge the man as there are hardly any non-'historic' comments on his life. The ones I go by are largely family lore, though that is as subject to prejudice as anything else, I realise.

Posted by Blogger Nath at 04 February, 2007 01:31:
He may well have been losing it towards the end -- I have almost no evidence one way or the other. I'm sure I'd become a 'cantankerous megalomanic old man' if a sixth of the world referred to me as 'father of the nation' -- not very good for one's humility, that sort of thing.

However, it might just have been that he took on a problem too big for him after independence. Fighting a nation's deepest prejudices is a lot harder than driving away some has-been empire.

Posted by Blogger Revealed at 05 February, 2007 15:29:
A classic case of biting off more than you can chew? Mebbe. Also I think the first was a slightly false victory which increased his confidence a lot more than it outta have. At least that's my take on it. Like you said I have no evidence whatsoever :P. But that's the most fun part of making up sweeping hypotheses, right?

Posted by Blogger Atanu at 04 March, 2007 10:34:
The stupidity of Gandhigiri is fairly easy to point out. I have analysed it as a conflict between Enemy Lovers and Leg Breakers.

Posted by Blogger Nath at 04 March, 2007 11:22:
Interesting. Our conclusions are similar, but I don't completely agree with your reasoning; largely because of this:

"Assuming that a LB is a rational being..."

I don't think that is a safe assumption.


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