Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review of Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File

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Cast: Vinay Pathak (Gour Hari Das), Konkana Sen (Lakshmi), Ranvir Shorey (Rajiv Singhal), Tannishtha (Anita), Saurabh Shukla (Special Secretary – Freedom Cell), Rajit Kapoor (Mohan Joshi), Vipin Sharma (Ahirkar), Vikram Gokhale (Chief Minister), Rahul Vohra (Editor), Ganesh Yadav (Home Minister), Vinay Apte (MLA Olwe), Asrani, Vidya Malwade, Mohan Kapur (Doctor), Murli Sharma (Godbole), Neha, Achint Kaur, Tapasvi Mehta, Siddarth Jadhav (Tout)
Direction: Anant Narayan Mahadevan
Produced by: Bindiya Khanolkar, Sachin Khanolkar
Screenplay: Anant Narayan Mahadevan, CP Surendran  
Music: Dr. L Subramaniam
Cinematography: Alphonse Roy
Edited by: Sreekar Prasad
Sound Designer: Resul Pookutty
Re-Recording: Anup Dev
Release Date: 14th August, 2015
Duration: 111 minutes
Language: Hindi

Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File – A film by National Award Winning Filmmaker Anant Narayan Mahadevan. When I watched this film during Jagran Film Festival in July 2015 at Delhi, I did feel that I watched one of the best films of my life. After watching it for the second time in theater on our 69th Independence Day, I reiterate that, Gour Hari Dastaan is indeed one of the best movies I have watched in my life. Impeccable directing by Anant Mahadevan.

What is so special about Gour Hari Dastaan: One might wonder, what makes this movie special. There are so many factors, I would certainly mention a few of them, although I would also ensure that I don’t steal your right of experiencing the same by watching it on screen.  

One of the factors is that it is a biopic on Gour Hari Das, a freedom fighter, who is now 84 years old and living in Mumbai. It is his story of fighting with lots of patience and persistence for his own rights against the bureaucracy, red-tapism, corruption etc. prevailing in our country. 

The Real Gour Hari Das (Image Courtesy:
Another factor is the way this story has been treated, conveyed and directed by Anant Mahadevan. Certain details are covered in such a natural manner, which is certainly going to leave you spellbound. Terrific acting by ensemble cast who have put soul into every character: Vinay Pathak as Gour Hari Das, Konkana Sen as Lakshmi, Ranvir Shorey as Rajiv Singhal, Tannishtha as Anita are all just awesome. A few other actors who had very less screen time, but still left a deep impact via their performances viz. Saurabh Shukla, Rajit Kapoor, Vipin Sharma, Vikram Gokhale, Asrani, Vidya Malwade, Mohan Kapur, Murli Sharma, Achint Kaur. Veteran Dr. L. Subramaniam’s music needs no mention and is so good. Even the release date is so well-timed, eve of 69th Independence Day and it is indeed dedicated to an unsung hero (and many like him) who was part of freedom struggle. It has received so many accolades and awards in International Film Festivals. In short, Gour Hari Dastaan is a perfect combination of ethos, pathos, logos, story, direction, acting etc. This film is going to move you, touch your hearts. Rather, every Indian is going to love this film.

The Review: Gour Hari Dastaan is the story of Gandhian Freedom Fighter Gour Hari Das (Vinay Pathak). The film begins with Andre Gide’s quote: “To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.” This quote actually sets out the whole tone of the movie. Gour Hari Das, an unsung hero of our freedom struggle, who first fought for the country, but later on had to fight against the country.

The initial frame of the movie shows a teenager trying to escape on railway tracks with a train running parallelly. Background dialogues mention that the freedom struggle is not only fought by Nehru or Gandhi, but these young people are also fighters. They were making mention of Mahatma Gandhi’s Vanar Sena who was part of freedom struggle. Vanar Sena was basically children’s army, who used to pass on the secret messages to revolutionaries. Gour Hari Das joined freedom struggle at the age of 14 in 1945, was also part of this Vanar Sena, fought for country’s freedom, went to jail.

Frames move to the decade of 70’s where Gour Hari Das is shown in his house with his son Alok. Alok wanted to have his father’s Jailor Certificate, which could have fetched him Engineering college admission in special quota assigned to freedom fighters. But college principal denies to acknowledge Gour Hari Das as a freedom fighter on the basis of this certificate. Disappointed Alok vents out his frustration at his father and asks in doubt – “Were you actually a freedom fighter”. Here begins the story of Gour Hari Das versus India’s systems. Alok decides to go abroad for his studies and further career. But Gour Hari Das consistently continues writing to the Indian Government to grant him Tamarapatra (Certificate of him being a Freedom Fighter). Standing along with him is his wife Lakshmi (Konkana Sen Sharma, what a performance by her!), a strong pillar of support. Lakshmi’s unconditional support reflects so beautifully through her body language. She is neither judgmental for her husband’s 32 years of fight nor for her son’s flying abroad for better prospects.

For Gour Hari Das, it was a matter of restoring his own identity. When asked by others whether it is his fight to get the freedom fighter’s pension, he soulfully conveys, no, it isn’t about pension or any sort of ego. He was part of the freedom struggle, who fought from Balasore (Odisha) and was jailed for almost 90 days. This was so much part of his identity that if the Tamarapatra was not given to him, he felt that his identity itself was at stake.

Journalist Rajiv Singhal (Ranvir Shorey) is trying to cover the story of Gour Hari Das in Mid Day for which he is questioned by his boss, who wants him to focus on gay rights, the stories which could sell more. Rajiv does not pay heed to his boss and wants to further explore the truth associated with Gour Hari Das’ story. Anita (Tannishtha), Rajiv’s colleague, supports him to explore the truth.

Gour Hari Das’ dastaan continues. It is his struggle for 32 years, knocking 321 doors, writing 1043 letters to different officials, climbing 66000 steps, pleading 2300 times in the Post-independence period to prove that he was the freedom fighter who was even blessed by Mahatma Gandhi and jailed for fighting against Britishers. He visited government offices, influential politicians, ministers, media, jail officials etc. During this turbulent journey, he was called ‘fraud’, ‘thief’, ‘crazy’, ‘eccentric’ by others. But he continued his journey with strong determination. But it took away from him 3 decades of lifetime to finally get justice.

One has to watch the movie and experience his journey. It is amazing to see his perseverance. A dialogue which stayed with me was: “I feel The British did lot of good, atleast we knew, who the enemy was?” The tragedy which is depicted in this film is that Gour Hari first fought for the country’s freedom, but in spite of getting freedom, later on he had to fight against the country.  

Gour Hari Das with Wife (Image Courtesy:
 Beautiful moments, many of them brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps:
·         Real Gour Hari Das on screen at the end of the film
·         Gour Hari Das taking out the laminated copy of Jailor’s Certificate to give it to his son Alok.
·         Gour Hari Das’s filing all the papers systematically and carrying it wherever he goes and knocks doors, be it media, be it government officials, be it home minister etc. He calls it ‘The Freedom File’.
·         Gour Hari Das’ typing letters to various officials.  
·         The manner in which Lakshmi, son Alok and daughter-in-law Neha break the news to Gour Hari Das in regard to government sanctioning his Tamarapatra
·         Gour Hari Das’ expressions when he actually got his Tamarapatra in his hands
·         Gour Hari Das’ denying an offer of having tea with the Minister and telling him, half of his life was spent on fighting for the country, and rest of his life was wasted in fighting against the country.
·         Gour Hari Das looking at the boys at a traffic light with a deep sigh when the boys were trying to sell Indian Flag for 5-10 Rupees.
·         Gour Hari Das taking his foot back, when he saw the reflection of Indian Flag on water in road.
·         The Climax Scene

National Award-Winning and other prestigious award winning Team of Gour Hari Dastaan: Anant Narayan Mahadevan, Konkana Sen Sharma, Tannishtha, Vikram Gokhale, Rajit Kapur, Saurabh Shukla, Sreekar Prasad (Editor), Anup Dev (Re-Recordist), Resul Pookutty (Oscar-Winning Sound Designer), Alphonse Roy (Emmy Award-winning cinematographer), Dr L Subramaniam (Grammy Nominee), Producers-Bindiya Khanolkar & Sachin Khanolkar.

Made its presence felt in various film festivals

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of Gour Hari Dastaan

 Gour Hari Dastaan, a must-watch film by every Indian. Perfect blend of ethos, pathos, logos, impeccable direction, acting by ensemble cast, excellent screenplay. This film is going to move you, touch your hearts. One question which pops up in mind –“When will we be free in real sense, and what will we do with this freedom?” This movie is beyond any rating, I want to give it 5+.

Rating: 5/5 (Excellent)