If Gandhi to Hitler weren’t so stupid, Oliver Hirschbiegel, who made Downfall, the controversial German film about the last days of Hitler, would have been apoplectic. The scenes of Adolf Hitler in his bunker in Berlin, with the Red Army at the outskirts of the city, are a straight rip-off from his movie—not just the narrative and conversation, but the lighting and art direction as well.
Only the actors and language are different. Hitler is presented as a five-foot-nothing South Asian nutcase, raving and ranting in Hindi. Director Rakesh Ranjan Kumar should have been careful here. He is in danger of contradicting the Führer’s crazy racial theories. Can Raghubir Yadav, who plays Adolf, pass off as an Aryan? Does Neha Dhupia, who plays his mistress, Eva Braun, look sufficiently blonde and blue-eyed? And as for the actors who play Joseph Goebbels and Albert Speer, heavens, Herr Hitler would have had them hauled up by the SS to check their ID cards.
The problem with Downfall, otherwise a well-made film, is that it could be accused of humanising Hitler and turning him into a sympathetic figure—kind to his secretary, loyal to his mistress, and affectionate towards his dog. The monster of history was replaced in that film by a man who had just lost his mind and refused to face the reality of imminent defeat.
Fortunately, Gandhi to Hitler is in no danger of facing such allegations. Yadav’s absurd casting and ridiculous performance simply turn the German dictator into a caricature and the Third Reich into bad opera.
As for the Gandhi bit, the connections are tenuous. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s two letters to Hitler, addressing him as ‘Dear Friend’ and advising him to abjure violence, are intercut with shots of the Führer in his bunker, pondering, we presume, the Mahatma’s advice. Bunk as history, it is bad drama as well. Stay clear of this movie.