The Gandhi Murder review – Vinnie Jones steps into Indian history

A conspiracy thriller focusing on Gandhi’s final days is hampered by questionable casting, comical back projections and terrible visual effects

Released to mark the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination, this is frankly a bit eggy – indeed, we may not witness an eggier film all year. Karim Traïdia, the veteran Algerian director who earned a Golden Globe nomination for The Polish Bride (1998), has reappeared in India (or Sri Lanka passing for India) with a conspiracy thriller based on Mahatma’s final days (co-directed by Pankaj Sehgal).

It bears some resemblance to the UK’s own tuppenny-ha’penny costume-and-crime dramas, not least in the casting of Vinnie Jones as the senior British diplomat overseeing partition. (No wonder it all kicked off.) Still, it transpires that Jones – who barely features, and who gives his usual performance when he does – is only the film’s fifth or sixth unlikeliest element.

Vinnie Jones in The Gandhi Murder
Unlikely diplomat … Vinnie Jones Photograph: PR

For starters, it’s very odd that the Indian functionaries scheming to remove Gandhi should be played by non-Indians. “You don’t look very Indian,” guest star Om Puri tells New York-born Avatar heavy Stephen Lang, playing shifty new security chief Sunil Raina. “I’m an ethnic Kashmiri,” comes the none-too-convincing response. Nobody else quite fits the part, either.

This Gandhi (played by Spaniard Jesus Sans) has been clumsily overdubbed so his wisdom comes at us as if it’s from a Cillit Bang advert; the film’s uptight-verging-on-camp Nehru (Rajit Kapur) trails an unmistakable air of Larry Grayson. Arrhythmic scene after abruptly curtailed scene offers something to drop the jaw: overemphatic supporting turns, comical back projections, visual effects apparently done on the bus en route to the premiere.

The combination of WTF casting and glaring technical limitation proves so distracting you can barely focus on the script’s new intel. The theory seems to be that Gandhi’s lone, Hindu-nationalist assassin was enabled by higher-ups as a ploy to reunite a fracturing nation – but plausibility is hardly bolstered by the lurching sidestep into horror that sees Puri bothering suspects with red ants, or the delirious vision the Lang character has of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, anchoring some not-at-all-unhinged editorial about martyrs bringing countries together. Cult status may beckon.


Mike McCahill

The GuardianTramp

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