Mahatma Gandhi in Pop Culture

Mahatma Gandhi in Pop Culture

By AKHIL SOOD | | 26 September, 2015
Much beyond his historical and political impact, Mahatma Gandhi lives long in our consciousness through his many great appearances in pop culture too, as this list shows.
Gandhi (Film)
Forgive our youthful dumbassery (or our ahead-of-the-curve grasp of metafiction), but when we first watched Richard Attenborough’s classic biopic Gandhi, at the innocent age of four or five, we though the man essaying the role of the Mahatma was, in fact, the Mahatma himself. That’s how convincing Ben Kingsley was as Gandhi. Imagine our surprise, then, to discover that not only is Kingsley an altogether different person, he’s also English. This film is, without hyperbole, a masterpiece, presenting (sort of accurately) the great freedom struggle of India that Gandhi orchestrated in his sharp, mild mannered way; and the stylistic treatment is bound to stir up some kind of emotional patriotism among zealots and skeptics alike. 

Gandhi: My Life is My Message (Graphic Novel)
The punchy, fast-paced narrative charting the life of Gandhi in this 2013 graphic novel (written by Jason Quinn and illustrated by Sachin Nagar) makes it a fun, fascinating read. What’s more, while his virtues and all the work he did are adequately highlighted, the book also shows Gandhi as an actual human being, making him relatable, instead of painting him as some sort of all-encompassing saint, a trap many reverential works on great historical figures fall into. 

Propagandhi (Music)
The measured approach that Gandhi chose to adopt as a strategy to upstage the British may be somewhat at odds with the politics of punk rock and what it stood for in the 1970s and ’80s: extremism and sticking it to the Man. That doesn’t necessarily diminish his impact; it merely sparks conversation. In that spirit, Propagandhi is a politically charged Canadian punk band that’s been espousing left-wing virtues and railing against injustices of many different kinds, from human rights violations, sexism and homophobia, to non-vegetarianism, both through music and activism, for some three decades. Nevertheless, the hardcore punk leanings of their older sound do not evoke any feelings of peace or ahimsa whatsoever.  

Romain Rolland (Books)
Romain Rolland, the French philosopher, was a peer of Gandhi, making his book Mahatma Gandhi: the Man Who Became One with the Universal Being revelatory, enlightening as well as contextual, as Rolland sheds light on the spiritual quality that made the Mahatma who he was far before universal greatness was bestowed upon him, in this 1924 publication. 

Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy (Theatre)
The assassination of Gandhi by Nathuram Godse is a significant event in the history of India. This two-act Marathi play, written by Pradeep Dalvi and based on the book May It Please You Honour by Gopal Godse, is a controversial production that faced many obstacles in the ’80s and ’90s since it presents Godse’s point of view about the incident and the trial that followed. Philosophically, it raises delicious question about right of reply, intent, action, punishment and other cool words, so for that reason Godse merits a spot here. 

Seinfeld – The Old Man (Television)
In an attempt to be a better person, Elaine, one of the lead characters of this iconic TV sitcom, decides to spend time with the elderly, assist them, give them company. The old lady she visits has a frightening goiter that freaks the s**t out of the not-very-evolved Elaine. She also discovers that, back in the day, the old lady had had an affair with “Mohandas”, and there are photos to prove it. We can say with some amount of certainty that it’s a fictitious account on a fictional show with very little grounding in reality, but the left-of-field appearance of Gandhi on the No Hugs, No Learning Seinfeld is hilarious in its absurdity, and also symbolic of the overarching influence of the man — even Nietzschean sitcoms aren’t spared. 

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