Indian critics on Friday panned a new Bollywood film about Adolf Hitler, which before its release had raised fears among Jewish groups that it would trivialize the Nazi dictator.
"Gandhi to Hitler" – renamed from earlier title "Dear Friend Hitler" – was released in cinemas on Friday and was inspired by two letters that the Indian independence leader wrote to Hitler urging him to abandon violence.
Early critiques on Internet film sites were far from favorable.
"The intentions are lofty enough but 'Gandhi to Hitler' has the feel of a Z-grade quickie destined to be quickly consigned to the dustbins of movie history," wrote Saibal Chatterjee on the NDTV.com web site.
Taran Adarsh, one of Bollywood's leading film critics and analysts, agreed, calling the film in his review on bollywoodhungama.com "an amateur attempt that leaves zilch impact".
Both critics said the choice of Indian actors to play all the lead and supporting roles, from Hitler (Ranghuvir Yadav) and Eva Braun (former Miss World Neha Dhupia) to Russian and French soldiers, was unconvincing.
Veteran actor Anupam Kher had been due to play the lead role, but he pulled out last June after protests from India's small Jewish community and campaigners abroad.
Producer Anil Sharma insisted in February this year that they were "not out to glorify any character. We are just telling a lost chapter of Indian independence history".
Excerpts of the film were shown at the Berlin film festival, prompting comparisons to "Downfall", the Oscar-nominated 2004 film starring Bruno Ganz.
The Hollywood Reporter in May called the film "uber-awful" after it was shown in Cannes, comparing it to the fictional musical "Springtime for Hitler" in Mel Brooks' 1968 spoof "The Producers".
David Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, told AFP this week that they were reserving judgment about the film until its release.
"We just hope that this movie will depict him (Hitler) as he was," he said.
Fears about glorifying the dictator seemed unlikely, as Chatterjee called "Gandhi to Hitler" a "spectacularly daft" account of the last months of Hitler's life, "utterly silly and unintentionally funny".
Adarsh said Gandhi's message of peace – interspersed in the film with shots of Hitler in his bunker – was particularly relevant in the modern era and praised the film's cinematography.
But he added: "The execution of the subject is so amateurish that it leaves you distraught... On the whole 'Gandhi to Hitler' fails to connect."