This post by TR got me all nostalgic. For me Roshan Seth has and will always be Jawaharlal Nehru. I didn’t think any actor has been as good as he has, playing a particular historical figure.
Of course, I wouldn’t really care much about how good a job Roshan Seth has done portraying Nehru on the big and small screens except of course for the fact that I really like Nehru. I always have. I think it all started when my mother bought me an abridged version of Letters from a Father to His Daughter when I was in class three. The unabridged some 1000 pages plus book is today known as Glimpses of World History. I don’t think a nicer, more intimate introduction to history has ever been penned. It kick started my fascination with Nehru. How wonderful I thought, that even while he was in jail he wrote these letters to his daughter covering everything from the beginning of time till the Russian Revolution.
In class nine, I discovered an old copy of his Autobiography in my library. I struggled with it for a month and reissued it thrice, before I could finish it. Of course it helped that there was no waiting line for people wanting to read it. My cousin once told me reading the autobiographies of Nehru and Gandhi offer such a contrast of character. Gandhi could come straight out and write things like, I wanted to give up sex but couldn’t (I am paraphrasing of course, but the gist remains). Nehru on the other hand would take some two pages to say anything concrete about, well, anything, by which time you have forgotten what he is trying to say. It doesn’t matter though because it is a wonderful read anyway. Then there is of course Discovery of India. I am so possessive about my copy that I was even reluctant to lend it to my grandmother when she wanted to borrow it for research!
Now that I am older and have a bit more intellect I think I can look at Nehru’s politics a bit more dispassionately. When I was small I would always fight with people who criticized him and because my argumentative skills were at best limited I would eventually break down in tears because I didn’t understand why people blamed him for everything wrong in the country. I still don’t. I think Nehru failed more than he succeeded, but I don’t think Indian politics has or will ever have a statesman like him. I think he is to blame for the license raj madness and a lot of other policies but, really, his daughter (and her thuggish son!) don’t get even half as much blame as they deserve. This is not meant to be an analytical post or some such. Just a sentimental one. I think my judgment when it comes to Nehru shall always be slightly biased
By the by, in school I once had an argument with someone who said Nehru had no moral character because you know he had an affair with Edwina Mountbatten. I mean, really!! Not like that was the only affair he had anyway. Though the story of Lady Mountbatten in her negligee, caught by the paparazzi opening the door of her house for the Indian Prime Minister in the middle of the night always makes me grin.
* The first picture is of Roshan Seth as Nehru in Gandhi. The second, a potrait of Nehru himself. The third is the utterly cute picture of Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten sharing a joke. Her husband looks so oblivious.