Rajkumar Santoshi’s Gandhi Godse: Ek Yudh presents an imagined reality in which MK Gandhi survives bullet injuries and engages in a discussion with his murderer, Nathuram Godse, in jail. Gandhi then faces a fresh murder threat, by a different set of people. Just before the imagined assassin pulls the trigger, however, Godse swiftly grabs him, spins him around and heroically saves Gandhi’s life. The film ends with Gandhi and Godse emerging from jail together and their supporters chanting for their respective icons: “Gandhiji Zindabad!” “Godseji Zindabad!”
History rarely gets such insensitive and shocking treatment in the name of creativity. Santoshi claims the film is an attempt to show a clash between two conflicting ideologies, represented by Gandhi and Godse. But, in essence, the film serves as a tool for the Hindu Right. The film makes Godse, a hardcore member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, look equal—if not superior—to Gandhi and adds to the ongoing efforts to reclaim the assassin as a patriot and an icon of new India.
This is not what the film promises when it begins. It opens with an announcement: “An incident that shook the soul of India took place in 1948. This film is an imaginary extension of that tragedy. Face-to-face are Mahatma Gandhi and Nathuram Godse, and there happens a gruesome battle of ideas. We have presented the views of the two without any partiality and with full honesty and respect.” But the promised “battle of ideas” soon gets subsumed by an imaginary murder plot that makes Godse morph into Gandhi’s saviour.