Panaji: Do you know what was Mahatma Gandhi's height?
If you don't know it, you are in good company. Until years after he made "Lage Rago Munnabhai", director Rajkumar Hirani was not aware of Gandhi's exact height and it was only a chance visit to Pune's Yerwada Central Jail that finally unraveled the mystery.
Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi in a still from 'Lage Raho Munnabhai'. Pic/Santa Banta
And in the Hirani's long but successful quest to know Gandhi's height, it was the Father of the Nation's onscreen protege Munnabhai, actor Sanjay Dutt himself, who proved to be a catalyst.
"This was a big battle...what was Gandhiji's height," explained Hirani at a discussion on the legacy of Richard Attenborough, who directed the Academy award winning film "Gandhi" which was held Friday at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
The battle lasted from around 2006, when "Lage Raho Munnabhai" was made, to 2013, when Hirani went to Pune's Yerwada prison, where the film's main lead Sanjay Dutt was incarcerated.
"And last year, I went to Yerwada jail, Sanjay Dutt is still there. They were performing a play and I was supposed to go and see that play," Hirani said.
Once there, the prison's jailor who obviously was impressed by Hirani's modern-day cinematic homage to Gandhi, took the director on a tour of the prison. The tour involved one tiny cell, where a certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been imprisoned on more than one occasion, during the pre-Independence struggle.
"So the jailor took me around the prison and there was a cell where Gandhiji had stayed couple of times. So that little prison cell, they have converted into a small museum. So he took me around to show that place and outside the cell was a little form which had to be filled when Gandhi was taken in there," said Hirani.
"And on that form the first thing I noticed was his height which was 5.5 (ft) and I called up Abhijat (script writer Abhijat Joshi) immediately from there and I said, a little late, but today we know Gandhiji's height," he added.