Sunday, January 31, 2016

Nine Hours to Rama (1963) - Review

Based on the novel Nine Hours To Rama by Stanley Wolpert, the British film is a piece of historical fiction woven around the events that led to the murder of one of the most significant figures in the history of India, Mahatma Gandhi. The plot centres around a staunch Hindu Nathuram Godse (played by Horst Buchholz) planning the assassination under the guidance of a Hindu nationalist group, clearly principled opposite Gandhi's ideologies.

The film, as the name goes, unfolds the events that take place in the nine hours unto the final act - from the groundwork to the execution to the local police finding out about it and trying to thwart the attempt. The narrative interweaves the present day with flashback into Godse's early days and what brought him to this day. January 30, 1948.

Being a fictional work, it takes cinematic liberties aplenty - from Godse's personal life and relationships to his motivations behind the killing. And in focusing on the latter, the film ends up making the viewer sympathise with his intentions, 
which explains why the film was banned in India, besides the fact that Godse itself became an unparliamentary word in India post this event. (Parliament banned the use of 'Godse' in 1956. Last year on April 17, the Lok Sabha ruled that the word will no longer be considered unparliamentary, except, in the reference of Nathuram Godse).

It's sad why we must not let people see or bring out in the open the flip side of a story, which is one of the most important chapters in our history. If we're a democracy and trust that Gandhi was a do-gooder, it's ironical to believe that a film that highlights the other side, is enough to make people believe otherwise or incite communities against each other. And whose truth is right anyway? Our truth is our perceived reality. It may not co-incide with someone else's perceived reality or viewpoint.

Coming back to the film, German actor Horst Buchholz plays Godse with immense brilliance. A man of unyielding determination, be it the fervour to serve in the 
Army or as a relentless lover, Godse's character is well written and portrayed. No one has come close to resembling Gandhi on screen like J.S. Casshyap, an Indian himself. But I wasn't convinced with the way he delivered his dialogues. It sounded like a recital of mugged up lines. Or was it his Indian-accented English? José Ferrer as the Superintendent of Police in a brief role plays his part with sincerity and conviction. The Congress Party politician P.K. Mussadi (by Robert Morley) is an interesting character. I wish it was fleshed out a little more. Casting Indian actors for a film like this would have added to the essence and effectiveness of telling this story.

Overall, Nine Hours To Rama keeps you on the edge for its two hours runtime, despite a known climax but is equally watchable for its performances, Buchholz in particular.

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