When I watched Road To Sangam (2010) online, I had only one regret that I could not watch it earlier. It’s a movie to be watched by every true Indian, every true Muslim and every true human-being. To the misfortune of the Indian audience, it was not even taken notice of when it was released. I really pity that meaningless and mindless movies score on the box office due to the pre-release hype generated for them and outstanding movies like Road To Sangam are not even given a look. Like high-profile and overhyped movies like My Name Is Khan (2010), this movie also raises the issue of the image and the other connected issues of the Indian Muslims in the light of terrorist activities. However it is totally different from the other movies on this theme as a very novel story has been chosen for it which is touching, inspiring and thought-provoking. This movie is an eye-opener for the Indians in general and the Indian Muslims in particular.
A motor workshop owner, Hashmatullah (Paresh Rawal) gets a job of repairing the engine of a very old truck without being aware of the fact that this is the truck which has carried the remains of Gandhiji’s body for dispersal in different rivers of the nation and now only one such urn is remaining which is to be carried to Sangam (the amalgamation point of Ganga and Yamuna at Allahabad) for the dispersal of its contents there. Before he could accomplish the job, his community leaders call a strike of the Muslims in protest to the arrest and torture of local Muslims as the aftermath of some explosions in the city. He himself is the general secretary of the concerned committee but once coming to know that the job undertaken by him is related to the remains of Gandhiji, he refuses to become a part of the strike and thus invites the wrath of his community-men. Being a liberal and right-thinking person and taking the inspiration from the life of Gandhiji himself, he finally succeeds in carrying out the job as well as make his community-men understand his point-of-view.
This novel idea pertaining to the dispersal of the ashes of Gandhiji has been developed quite proficiently, linking it to the Muslim-psyche and the activities of the fundamentalist elements as well as the negatively thinking elements in the community. How less educated and ill-informed youths are misguided, is shown quite realistically but it raises hope that the right-thinking Muslims can change the scenario if they come to the front and speak to their community brethren fearlessly on related issues. True, the police atrocities and the tilted mentality towards the Muslims are also responsible for the already deteriorated and further deteriorating situation in our country, still the Muslims can themselves introspect and look at several things objectively to find out what is right and what is wrong. That insight itself will guide them to move in the right direction. It’s always easy to misunderstand others as well as misread the things prevailing. However the movie emphatically underscores the positive and hope-providing fact that proper observation and correct understanding of the things is also very easy. Only the windows of the mind are to be kept open. The open-minded people (who are always there) can come forward and bring about a positive change in the scenario, provided they throw off the burden of fear of the fundamentalists and the vested interests which appear to be mighty but actually may not be.
Though Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) had spread the teachings (mainly truth and non-violence) of Gandhiji but it was a comedy movie with several cinematic liberties. Road To Sangam does the same job in a profound way and quite realistically. The complete narrative appears utterly real with all the characters looking like real flesh and blood human-beings. The movie touches as well as inspires deep into the heart. It also tries to see the historical events and the historical men in their proper perspective without any biases.
Gandhiji’s philosophy of humanity is still relevant which discards all the differences of the mankind whether on the ground of sex or religion or cast or creed or race or province or language or the like wise. Through the character of Hashmatullah, it has been propagated once again and this propagation is, in fact, very effective. Though the long dialogues send an air of preaching, the actions of the hero support the talks and do not allow them to appear hollow. The message is pretty clear to the Indian Muslims – ‘You have to be the change you want to see in the world.’
The movie is full of touching and impressive scenes and dialogues. The main protagonist’s telling his son that you may miss visiting someone in his time of joy but never miss visiting him in his time of sorrow, is a great lesson. The scene in which light is generated in the workshop through candles to proceed with the work when the power has gone off, stresses the fact through the symbol of candles that we can light the candle of hope even when there is total dark.
One more notable thing is that the moviemaker gives his message in an undertone instead of a hard-hitting or ‘calling a spade a spade’ approach which is the correct way to deal with the sensitive subject-matter and definitely a more effective one.
The narrative takes some time in taking off but once taken off, there is no laxity. Despite the exemplary message, it is not weak on the entertainment front and is very very interesting. The editor could have shortened the length by 15-20 minutes. However the length is not felt very much because there is no boredom.
The art director and the cinematographer have done a splendid job by creating the middle class areas of the city on the screen with a high degree of reality. Everything appears in such way that the viewer gets a feeling of witnessing in person whatever is visible on the screen.
The performances of all (including the great-grandson of Gandhiji – Tushar Gandhi) are highly admirable. However it’s Paresh Rawal’s movie who carries it alone on his strong shoulders. He has made himself deserving to be considered among the greatest Indian actors through his talent and toil. In this movie, his hard work speaks for itself.
The music of the movie (by Sandesh Shandilya and others) is also good. The very old prayer – Lub Pe Aati Hai Dua Bann Ke Tamanna Meri and the Qawwaali – Hum Subah Ke Bhoolon Ko (sung by Vijay Mishra, Ghulam Qadir Khan & Ghulam Murtuza Khan) are specially mentionable. The devotional songs dear to Gandhiji have also been incorporated suitably and emphatically.
Summing up, producer Amit Chheda and writer-director Amit Rai have done an outstanding job. It’s a movie pronouncing the message of the Mahatma, the message of humanity without any overtones or rhetoric. It had won several international awards but not the viewership of the Indian audience. On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, I recommend this movie as a must-watch for every right-thinking Indian. Nobody willing to watch meaningful and purposeful cinema should miss this masterpiece.
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