I loved this movie. Great fan of Mahatma Gandhi, harmony and unity as I am, it was a treat for me to watch Road to Sangam. It is a 2010 Bollywood low budget movie whose story is based in Allahabad. The film opens with several engaging scenes of the old part of the city which looks pretty much like the part of Delhi I live in. The protagonists; Hashamatullah (Paresh Rawal) and Mr. Kasuri (Om Puri) are introduced to the audience while a nice Sufi quawwali fills you with delight.
Hashmatullah (Hashmat) is a respected mechanic in Allahabad who is expert in repairing engines. One day he gets a contract from the government to repair a very old Ford V8 engine. Hashmat accepted the work and promised to finish it within the stipulated time. But he didn’t know the reason why the government wanted to get this old machine repaired. Soon after, communal forces began to spread their venom in the city. The main mosque in the city issued a decree restraining all the Muslim shopkeepers from opening their shops in order to protest against alleged persecution of the Muslim community by the government.
After a few days, by chance, Hashmat came to know that the engine entrusted to him for repair was that of a lorry which will take the last urn of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes to the Sangam (a confluence of three rivers; Ganges, Yamuna and the invisible or mythical Saraswati). Gandhiji had a wish that his ashes should be immersed in all the rivers of India. Therefore, his ashes were divided in 20 parts and sent to various corners of the country. One such urn was left forgotten, yes! forgotten!, in a bank locker in Orissa (it is a fact, by the way, see below for more information). Gandhiji’s great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, finally got hold of the urn and decided to immerse the ashes in Sangam. Same old truck was being repaired for the carriage purpose.
Realizing the importance of the work he was doing; Hashmat went to the mosque committee (of which he himself was General Secretary) and asked for the permission to resume work. His request was turned down by the rich and influential chairman of the committee Mr. Kasuri and his sidekick maulana (played by Pawan Malhotra). Keys of Hashmat’s shop were confiscated by the community members. Disappointed, he decided to sit on fast in front of his shop until the keys were returned to him. This was Hashmat’s non-violent protest; an approach advocated by Gandhiji. Such an approach recently became famous as Gandhigiri (after the term was used in the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai).
Eventually, keys were returned to Hashmat and he began to work on the old engine. He managed to make Muslim community members to understand that communal forces have their own vested interests in dividing India. In the end the entire community took part in the procession of ashes to Sangam.
As usual, Om Puri is superb in the movie —though his role is much smaller. Paresh Rawal, I am sure, will end up being in the league of Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Another contemporary actor who could claim to be in this magnificent league is Boman Irani. I enjoy watching Rawal and Irani (though I did not like Rawal when he played villain during 1980s and 1990s).
Music in the movie is very nice and soothing —especially the Sufi quawwali and Allah Ishwar Naam Tero (a rearranged version of the bhajan liked very much by Gandhiji). Script is tight and engaging. Direction of Amit Rai is good. Cinematography is average but that doesn’t harm film’s impact on viewers. Made in a budget of 3.5 crores -it is a brilliant movie. Tushar Gandhi played a cameo and many secondary actors are people of Allahabad from the locality where film was shot.
I researched a bit and found Shanti Kumar writing about remaining ashes of Mahatma Gandhi in his book Gandhi meets Primetime. Shanti Kumar writes:
Soon after the publicity surrounding the Nikki Tonight controversy subsided, Tushar Gandhi was again in news when he scattered the last remaining ashes of his great-grandfather at the holy site signifying the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in the north Indian city Allahabad. On January 30, 1997 -the 40th anniversary of Mahatma’s assassination- in full view of television cameras from around the world, Tushar Gandhi emptied the ashes from a copper urn into the river, as prescribed by the traditions of a religious ritual that many Hindus perform as the last rites of a departed relative. The copper urn containing the remnants of the Mahatma’s ashes had been lying forgotten for decades in a vault of the State Bank of India in the eastern Indian city of Cuttack. When the urn was accidentally discovered in 1995, Tushar Gandhi filed a case in the Indian Supreme Court and won the right to possession of the ashes.
After collecting the urn from the bank vault in Cuttack, Tushar Gandhi made a much publicized 600-mile journey to Allahabad in a special railway train. The urn was displayed for one week to allow members of the public to pay their last respects to the Father of the Nation, before his ashes were diapered in the holy rivers for one last time.
Road to Sangam is a good movie and I would recommend it to my readers. Please do let me know your feedback in case you get to watch thing movie. Thank you for reading!