indian cinema heritage foundation

Salute to an Immortal Spirit

25 Jan, 2024 | Archival Reproductions by Cinemaazi

The Mahatma is dead. Long Live the Mahatma!

Never before in the history of mankind have so many mourned the death of one man. Never before has one man meant so much to so many.

To India, Gandhiji was the Father of the Nation: our Leader and our saviour; the revolutionary who taught us national self-respect; the unarmed general who led the nationalist army in our battle for freedom. Out of dust he made us into men.

To Hindus, Gandhiji was the supreme Man of God who saved Hinduism from corroding influence of orthodoxy and unreason, and reaffirmed the basic fundamentals of the Hindu faith in the light of reason, humanism and tolerance.

To millions of untouchables (whom he gave the endearing title of 'Harijans' or Children of God), he was the Great Liberator, who raised these oppressed unfortunates from the degradation and misery into which hundreds of years of social slavery had plunged them. He brought them back into the Hindu society on terms of equality and worked all his life to improve their social and economic condition, to atone for the sins of Hindu or orthodoxy that had ostracized them.

To the Muslims of India, he was a loyal and steadfast friend– in South Africa where he befriended and worked with many Muslims; during the Khilafat movement when he threw the weight of the entire national agitation into a cause which was of primary interest only to Muslims; right up to his last days when, first in Calcutta and then in Delhi, he staked his life for the safety of the Muslims. His final martyrdom was, indeed, in the service of Indian Muslims.

To journalists and writers he was a shining example of fearless and impartial exposition of truth. He edited and published the only paper of its kind in the world–without an inch of advertising.

To the world, torn by conflict and threatened with extinction in an atomic war, he brought the only hope of deliverance from perpetual fear through his doctrine of Ahimsa or Non-violence.

It will take volumes merely to catalogue the services he rendered to many different causes– humanitarian, social, political, economic. And far more powerful pens were required to sum up his saintly personality.
hile directly he influenced such a wide range of national activity, indirectly his impact on Indian life was still greater. By giving us back our national self-respect and our pride in our cultural heritage, he released vast reservoirs of creative energy into cultural and literary channels. Neither literature nor drama, music nor films, has missed the blessed impact of dynamic personality. Progress in every department of cultural activity can be traced back to his inspiration.

To the eternal shame of our film industry, our films could not come anywhere near the Mahatma's lofty standards of art. He had, therefore, no sympathy for, and little interest in films. And yet more than one film, knowingly or unconsciously, wholeheartedly or half-heartedly, carried his message of non-violence, peace and unity to the millions of cinegoers.

On his death many procedures and directors have showered tributes on his sacred memory. Eloquent pledges have been taken to dedicate the films to the sacred task of carrying forward the mission of the Mahatma. Knowing the non-Mahatmic activities of most of these producers and how shallow and hypocritical their devotion to Gandhiji's ideals is, we have no such illusions. But if the supreme martyrdom of the Mahatma can shame a few of them, at least for sometime, to produce CLEANER and better films and to think more of public morals and less of private profit, then we would say the film industry is not entirely dead and damned.

This article was published in March, 1948 edition of  'filmindia',  a monthly English magazine covering Indian cinema whose editor was Baburao Patel.


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