Pankaj Sehgal Writer Director ‘The Gandhi Murder’ Reveals More
The official trailer of the new film that questions the real story behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi revealed. ‘The Gandhi Murder’ is written and co-directed by avid history lover, Pankaj Sehgal along with Golden Globe-nominated Algerian director Karim Traidia, claims that this politically-charged film set in post-partition India will delve into areas that have rarely been touched upon by Indian history books: “I love history, but when I was a kid my history books only covered Gandhi’s role in pre-Independence India, but not much else is covered… 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… India was on the verge of a civil war,” said Sehgal, who believes that Gandhi’s murder silenced the communal frenzy that was threatening to erupt.
In a conversation, Pankaj reveals more about the film and himself.
Thank you for interviewing with us. My very first question to you is what made you touch such a sensitive subject?
Thank you for the opportunity. The reason why we took up the subject is the fact that it is a sensitive matter, and surprisingly there was no thorough investigation of why Mahatma Gandhi was brutally assassinated immediately after his death. It took the Indian government two decades to launch an investigation on the affairs, and then too, it was a half-hearted effort on technicalities.
So, when did the idea came in mind and what was the thought process?
I was provided a rough script by the writer and was surprised that there likes so little we as Indian, or Indian diaspora know about the events that are an integral part of our history. And the divisive path India was trudging on that led to the assassination are once again visible everywhere. Somehow, human beings are unable to live in an inclusive environment. We find so many reasons to identify ourselves differently from the next person, on the basis of ethnicity, gender, social background, family background etc. We are unable to see that the differences are just material, the core fact is that we are all humans. And yet, the struggle goes on.
Where do you think Indian politics stand today?
India is facing a lot of challenges. There is a government that is bound towards a religious ideology. That is always dangerous and foreboding. There are serious challenges to minorities, as is the case in any country where religion controls or manages politics. I wonder why we never learn. And I am not saying that one or the other party is at fault. I feel it is always the fanatics that create the challenge.
Walk us through the struggles and complications during this project.
For starters, it was very difficult to plan the shoot. India would permit the movie with its storyline to be shot in India. M.K. Gandhi remains a very sensitive subject, and we felt it was wiser to shift the location, which we did, and decided to shoot in Sri Lanka. That, however, meant that a lot of the sites had to be recreated, which was a challenge in terms of cost and timelines.
What was the most challenging part of directing the film?
We had over 34 nationalities involved, including the cast and crew. And we were working on tight timelines, with two units operating on a daily basis, which as a big challenge. Further, Sri Lanka means monsoons, and therefore outdoor shooting was always weather dependent.
Do you think this film could be played in schools as well?
Sure. However, it has some graphic details of the partition of India and Pakistan. Therefore, parental guidance is recommended. However, we were careful to avoid any profanity in the language. It is a historic film, on divisive policies that led to the breakdown of the social fabric in India of 1947-48. However, it is as true today, as it was when the events took place. Inclusive societies always perform better than those that divide.
Indian films are working on a lot of social issues lately like Pad Man and Toilet. Do you think films can actually help bring a change in Indian society?
Some of these issues are taboo to talk about in some regions of India. However, it is not just the movies. Social media is bringing about a sea change in society. But for sure, it is critical to address social issues and bring them to the table for discussions. Meaningful movies create meaningful topics for discussion.
What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?
Budgeting, I think. Nothing works like clockwork, howsoever disciplined is the team.
What is harder? Getting started or being able to keep going?
Getting started, of course.
What outcome are you expecting from the film?
I hope we are recognized as a bold movie production company, that is not biased, and not afraid to speak the truth. And hopefully, critical acclaim.
Some words about film for your audience….
This movie is a history lesson on wheels, about events that unfolded in Indian history and led to the assassination of one of the most discussed statesman the world has known: Gandhi. The movie draws through a sequence of short events a parallel between the lives of Lincoln and Gandhi, and how their inclusive policies led to their brutal assassinations. Of course, Rabin was also assassinated in a similar way, just as the world was so close to finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine row. The movie is a reminder of how quickly the devil takes over once every man is for himself.