Does this new film about the death of Gandhi, one of India’s most famous sons, give any new information on this most enduring of conspiracy theories?
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
From John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana’s deaths to the moon landing, history is full of conspiracy theories that ignite human intrigue and refuse to die away.
Some of us are capable of spotting patterns where others cannot, making assumptions and building arguments with no regard to how bizarre they might sound.
Though these theories can be built on emotional arguments, alternative interpretation or data bias and not fact, there are some that offer legitimate, evidence-backed scepticism on conventional stories. When they gain the momentum of popular belief – no matter how peculiar – they can stir sentiment, grow, adapt, evolve and dwell perennially on the fringes of society.
Now, a new movie tackles one of the most controversial, and emotionally charged events in history, one that shook not just a country but the entire world; an event that has had its official account bombarded with intense speculation and criticism for over 70 years.
The Gandhi Murder, released in the UAE on 31st January, takes a look at the days leading up to the death of Mahatma Gandhi on 30th January 1948. The movie explores the theory that India’s police force and ruling politicians were fully aware of the plot to assassinate the Indian activist.
The film is set in a time when India was experiencing a violent upheaval in the wake of the partition of the British Indian empire, creating two independent territories of India and Pakistan.
In the midst of the chaos was Gandhi, who, despite being the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, campaigned for peaceful dialogue. His stance didn’t endear him to certain parties, which ultimately led to his assassination from the hands of right-wing activist and ex-journalist Nathuram Vinayak Godse.
Seventy years after that fateful day, Gandhi’s passing continues to elicit speculation and questions from all layers of society.
“This is a film based on real events around Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, at a time when India was divided on sectarian grounds, especially after the partition,” Dubai-based producer and the film’s co-director, Pankaj Sehgal, told Gulf News.
“Gandhi was trying to bring people together, but unfortunately many people didn’t believe in the concept of togetherness. At that time, some police officers knew about the assassination plot. They were aware of it, but chose not to act.”
Due to the film’s edgy tone, the producers decided not to screen the movie in India, citing security issues following alleged threats, further complicated by the fact that India is entering election season in April and May.
“It is shocking that without even seeing the movie, people have made their own assessment of whether it is pro- or anti-incumbency” added Pankaj, who co-directed the film with Algerian Karim Traidia.
Films such as The Gandhi Murder aren’t attempting to answer conspiracy questions, but rather add to the legend of the man whose influence lives on even after his passing and who helped shape India as we know it today.
“Our intent is to show Gandhi’s immense contribution to India post-independence, which is something that very few people understand. They don’t understand that his assassination was bigger than any of his other contributions.”
The thing about conspiracy theories is that they offer alternative explanations to either the motives or orchestrations behind an event. By their very nature, they must exist alongside conventionally accepted narratives for the event, and without ‘a smoking gun’ or definitive indisputable piece of empirical evidence – they endure for as long as there are people to carry their belief.
Starring: Luke Pasqualino, Stephen Lang, Jesus Sans and Om Puri. Rating: 15+. Running time: 120 minutes