Mel Brooks has got to see this one: Somebody has actually made Springtime for Hitler, but called it Dear Friend Hitler. The funniest thing about this film from India is that it’s dead-on serious, replete with all Indian actors playing the leaders of the Third Reich.
Reportedly, Gandhi penned two letters to Hitler, one in 1939 and another in 1945, both imploring him to change his ways. Set primarily during Hitler’s April bunker days at the end of World War, this peculiar spring-time saga is so preposterous and inept that it would make Brooks’ fictional producers seem reputable.
In this uber-awful entity, filmmaker Rakesh Ranjah Kumar intercuts primarily between Gandhi pontificating the ways of peace and Hitler stomping around his bunker.
As the Fuhrer, diminutive Indian actor Raghuvir Yadav’s histrionics exceed even Charlie Chaplin’s lampoon of the murderous dictator. With his hair dyed a jet black that you usually encounter only at third-rate Atlantic City casinos, and packed into an array of off-the-rack-like suit coats, you might not guess this guy was Hitler at a Halloween party except for the square brush ‘stache. Although Hitler was not a towering figure, having a guy who is just a couple inches out of the midget range play him truly over emphasizes his physical shortcomings. In keeping with the dummkopf creativity of the casting, a tall, dark and handsome Indian actor (Nalin Singh) plays propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who was hardly the ideal poster boy for Aryan supremacy.
As the twitchy Hitler, Raghuvir Yadav’s performance, replete with pounding tabletops and gyrating in spastic eruptions is, well, electric: It makes one think that the director has hooked him up to electrodes.
Crudely intercutting Hitler’s bunker days with Gandhi’s’ countryside preachings and cramming it with a bathetic Indian romance, director Ranjan Kumar has lofted forth a creative stink bomb.
The visuals are compositionally contrived: Everyone walks in groups, including the soldiers who advance in such tight packs that they might as well be holding hands.
Further, Dear Friend Hitler is besotted by war-time production design that is artificially calibrated: Battlefield fires rage in carefully measured proximity and other stagey foolery mars the look. The abysmal technical contributions are further degraded in the costume design: Eva Braun and Goebbels wife sport wardrobes besotted by Eastern hues and color schemes not consistent with German clothing.
The thunderous music, featuring billowing strings and soaring trumpetry is perfect, but for an epic movie instead of whatever-this-is.
On the India front, Gandhi’s disciples are a beatific batch and the great pacifist is closely surrounded by beautiful Indian women surrounding him: In today’s coarse celebrity/reality parlance — “The dude had groupies.”
Indicative of the ineptitude here, the film’s subtitles spell out “Eva Brown” which, like most of film, is unintentionally funny and jarringly incompetent.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Market
Production company: Amrapali
Cast: Raghuvir Yadav, Neha Dhupia, Anan Verma, Lucky Valharia, Nadir Abdullah, Avijit Dutt, Nalin Singh
Director: Rakesh Ranjan Kumar
Screenwriters: Nalin Singh, Rakesh Randal Kumar
Producer: Dr. Anil Kumar Sharma
Director of photography: Fuwad Khan
Production designer: Soumitra Dasgupta
Music: Arvid Lyton
Costume designer:Ruchi Pugalia
Editor: Shree Narayan Singh
No rating, 96 minutes