Gangster and Gandhi clash

Lage Raho Munna Bhai” which translates to“Carry On Munna Bhai” in English, is a tale about a gangster in Mumbai, India, who through love and deception, learns about the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

I went to the Sept. 30 screening by Humanities and Fine Arts professor Aditi Samarth in honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The film is a Bollywood production with English subtitles.

In the film, Mumbai gangster Murli, akaMunna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt), falls in love with the radio host Jhanvi (Vidya Balan). To win her affections Murli, with the help of his best friend Circuit (Arshad Warsi), cheats on a radio quiz about Gandhi to win the chance to meet her. The plot thickens when he tries to impress Jhanvi by claiming to be a history professor and she asks him to present a lecture.

In a desperate panic to impress, Murli spends long hours studying up on all things Gandhi until the image of Gandhi appears to him and serves as his moral guide throughout the rest of the film. When his deceit spirals out of control and Murli’s sketchy background catches up with him, he has to embrace Gandhi’s teachings and put them into practice to right his many wrongs.

Samarth said she chose to present “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” because it’s “on the philosophy of Gandhi, and it’s not preachy, like ‘be a certain way’ or ‘do this,’ but it’s a really funny film because it’s how a gangstercomes in contact with Gandhi’s ideas and how he realizes his own follies, and how bad begets bad and good begets good.” 

The film is a refreshingly clean comedy, full of silly moments and musical numbers that made me laugh.  

The comedy, however, doesn’t distract from the underlying message of this movie, which is the true principle of Gandhi’s life and the moral example he set. Fine arts student Ruth Demissie said that the film “spoke volumes about the impact of one person standing by their decision. How many people do you know that made such an impact for so long? That’s making footprints in the sand dunes of history.” 

In the chaos and confusion of our world, Gandhi is a reminder that living in kindness, truth and peace begins with ourselves and ripples out into the world. Murli says in the film that following Gandhi has made his head go “cuckoo,” but maybe people who are cuckoo in the head are exactly what the world needs. 

This was my first Bollywood movie experience. It didn’t let me down. The relationship between Murli and Circuit is endearing, though many times I had to ask myself what kind of gangster cries like that? 

So if you’re looking for a cold-blooded, hard gangster film, then this movie isn’t for you.


The film was an effective memorial to Gandhi on his birthday, and Samarth affirms that “the message went home really well, and if we can get something from it and gain from it, I think our lives will be better as a result of it. Otherwise, like Gandhi says, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t expect any new results.”