British audiences may know him as the devoted father in Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice, but to Bollywood film fans Anupam Kher is one of the industry's finest character actors. Having portrayed everything from comical fools to mean villains, it's usually the more complex and fragile roles at which the veteran excels. A perfect example of this can be found in Jahnu Barua's poignant drama Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, in which Kher plays an Alzheimers-stricken Indian academic who believes he killed Gandhi.
When retired Hindi professor Uttam Chaudhary (Kher) begins suffering periods of forgetfulness, little do his daughter Trusha (Urmila Matondkar] and son Addy (Addy) realize that the problem is actually the onset of Alzheimer's disease. But as his memories start to fade, a childhood trauma surfaces in which Uttam recalls being accused of murdering Mahatma Gandhi. Disturbed by his claims, his children go about searching for the truth, a journey that takes both them and the audience on an exploration of the human psyche.
Realistic and refreshing in approach, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara is the kind of thought-provoking, non-musical film Bollywood is capable of making but sadly rarely does. It's only thanks to Kher's efforts as lead actor and producer that neglected issues like senile dementia and the erosion of Gandhian ideologies in contemporary India have made it to the big screen. Boasting mature treatment from Barua, and a moving performance by Kher as an intellectual who becomes a prisoner of his own mind, this movie has the potential to appeal to diverse audiences. It's just a shame it doesn't have the wider release it deserves.
In Hindi with English subtitles.