The film won widespread critical acclaim from critics and had a number of prominent screenings. It was a box office success and received a "blockbuster" rating by the website Box Office India after grossing over ₹1.93 billion (US$30 million) worldwide, the equivalent to ₹2.73 billion (US$43 million) when adjusted for inflation, 2016 . It was the recipient of a number of awards, including four National Film Awards. Lage Raho Munna Bhai was the first Hindi film to be shown at the United Nations, and was screened at the Tous Les Cinema du Monde section of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. The film popularised the term Gandhigiri. Vidhu Vinod Chopra submitted the film as an independent entry for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Murli Prasad Sharma alias Munna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt), a gangster who is in love with the voice of Janhavi (Vidya Balan), a radio jockey, devises a plan to meet her when she announces a quiz contest featuring the life and beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi, to be aired on 2 October, the birthday of Gandhi. To prepare for the contest, Munna's sidekick Circuit (Arshad Warsi) kidnaps and bribes a group of professors to provide the answers for Munna. After winning the contest, Munna is granted an interview with Janhavi wherein he presents himself as a professor of history and a Gandhi specialist. Janhavi subsequently asks Munna to present a lecture on Gandhi to a community of senior citizens who live in her home, called the 'Second Innings House.' To prepare for this event, Munna engages in intense study at a Gandhi institute. For three days and nights (and without food or sleep), Munna reads about the life and ideologies of Gandhi.
It is during this period that the image of Gandhi (Dilip Prabhavalkar), addressed by his nickname "Bapu" ("father"), appears and offers help and advice to Munna. Gandhi encourages Munna to tell the truth about himself to Janhavi, but Munna resists this advice. With Gandhi's help, Munna succeeds in impressing Jahnavi and cultivates a new lifestyle based upon Gandhism. Munna starts to co-host a radio-show with Janhavi and Gandhi's image, guiding his audience to use Gandhigiri to solve everyday problems.
The film has several subplots. One of the most prominent of these details the story of Lucky Singh (Boman Irani) and his daughter Simran (Dia Mirza). Lucky is an unscrupulous businessman who employs Circuit and Munna Bhai to conduct underworld activities for him. His daughter, Simran, is engaged to marry Sunny (Abhishek Bachchan), the son of the powerful businessman Kkhurana (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). Kkhurana is superstitious and his activities are controlled by his astrologer, Batuk Maharaj (Saurabh Shukla), whose particular use of numerology led Kkhurana to add an extra "K" to his real name (Khurana) as well as to the conclusion that the 'Second Innings House' would be the most auspicious place for Sunny and Simran to live. Maharaj also convinces Kkhurana to reject the marriage between Simran and Sunny when it is revealed that Simran is considered to be a manglik (an individual whose Vedic astrological makeup is believed by some to be devastating for marriage, mostly leading to the death of the spouse after a certain calculated period of marriage). Lucky appropriates the 'Second Innings House' by sending Munna to Goa (keeping him out of the way) and then blackmailing him to let the matter pass or risk losing his love Janvi. In response, Munna launches a "non-violent" protest to reclaim the house. He calls this protest "Get Well Soon, Lucky" and asks his radio show's audience to send Lucky flowers (red roses especially) to help him recover from the "disease of dishonesty".
During this time Munna tells Janhavi the truth (via a letter he gives to her). Heartbroken, Janhavi leaves Munna. Munna receives another setback when he is tricked by Lucky into revealing his conversations with Gandhi before a public audience. At this conference, Munna finds that only after he has learned something about "Bapu"'s life can the Gandhi image talk about it, which serves as proof for a psychiatrist in the audience that Munna is delusional. Gandhi's monologue at the end of the film, however, questions this conclusion. Munna, despite these defeats, continues to use Gandhigiri, a decision that transforms Lucky, revives Janhavi's affection, and resolves Simran's marriage. Lucky Singh eventually becomes a student of Gandhigiri and is greeted by Gandhi's image not long after he has begun to study "Bapu"'s life. Immediately he calls for a photograph to be taken of them together; this perplexes the photographer, who cannot see the Gandhi image.Sanjay Dutt as Murli Prasad Sharma or "Munna Bhai"
Arshad Warsi as Circuit, Munna's sidekick
Vidya Balan as Jhanvi, radio-jockey and Munna's love-interest
Boman Irani as Lucky Singh
Dilip Prabhavalkar as the image of Mahatma Gandhi
Dia Mirza as Simran, Lucky's daughter, engaged to Sunny
Jimmy Shergill as Victor D'Souza, who having lost his father's money, needs Munna's advice
Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Kkhurana, a wealthy but superstitious businessman
Saurabh Shukla as Batuk Maharaj, Kkhurana's astrologer
Abhishek Bachchan as Sunny, Kkhurana's son, engaged to Simran (cameo)
Rohitash Gaud as Kukku (Lucky's Sidekick)
Parikshat Sahni as Victor's father
Ashwin Mushran as Hari Desai
Hemu Adhikari as the Retired teacher
Priya Bapat as the girl who calls Murli
Ninad Kamat as the Lawyer
Kurush Deboo as Dhansukh Bhai Patel, Gujarati Lawyer
Arun Bali as a Second Innings Resident
Achyut Potdar as a Second Innings Resident
Atmaram Bhende as a Second Innings Resident
The Munna Bhai series began after Vidhu Vinod Chopra agreed to produce Rajkumar Hirani's 2003 film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. when no one else would (Hirani had worked as an editor on Chopra's 2000 film Mission Kashmir). They also collaborated on the script. Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. was a runaway success that prompted the duo to contemplate a sequel. The sequel was initially known as Munnabhai Meets Mahatma Gandhi and was later titled Munnabhai 2nd Innings before being given its current name.
Hirani admitted in an interview that he felt the burden of expectation while writing the screenplay for Lage Raho Munna Bhai, as he had to create "something to match" the first film. Initially there was some effort to incorporate scenes or characteristics of the first film into the sequel (such as the idiosyncratic laugh of Dr. Asthana, portrayed by Boman Irani in the first instalment), but the risks of repetition were consciously averted.
One of Hirani's goals in making the film was to revive an interest in Mahatma Gandhi, a figure whom he felt had been forgotten in contemporary India. To highlight this fact, Hirani recounted (during an interview) an incident with a chai-wallah boy (who brings tea to the crew) during production:
The boy was curious, he was a big Munnabhai fan and kept asking the name of the film. The first working title was 'Munnabhai Meets Mahatma Gandhi,' and Shantanu (Moitra, the music director) told him. So he said, 'Munnabhai to theek hai, yeh Mahatma Gandhi kaun hai?' ('Munnabhai is fine, but who is this Mahatma Gandhi?') So this is the sad state of affairs today. I was shocked. And it's not just the chai-wallah. A few days ago on TV a lot of politicians were asked India-related questions on the news channels, and I can't believe a lot of them don't know 2 October is Gandhiji's birthday! Many didn't know his first name. They kept saying, 'what's in a name, we respect his ideals,' but come on! How can you not know his name?
The other screenwriter, Abhijat Joshi (who teaches in the department of English at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio), stated that he had been conducting extensive research on Gandhi, which inspired producer Chopra to involve Joshi in the creation of the second Munna Bhai screenplay.
While writing the screenplay, Hirani and Joshi stayed together for more than four months. They developed scenes by going out for a walk and discussing the scene. They would not return home until they had created a scene that would make them laugh, or cry, or had some provocative thought. While there was a shortage of resources during the shooting of Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., the crew did not encounter a financial crisis during the filming of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, as the team managed to receive whatever was deemed necessary (including a Jimmy Jib, a specific kind of camera crane, just for a single crane shot). The film was shot on location in and around Mumbai, with Goa as a backdrop for the "Aane Charaane" song.
Only two characters—those of Munna Bhai (portrayed by Sanjay Dutt) and Circuit (portrayed by Arshad Warsi)—were retained from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. Several actors from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., appeared in Lage Raho Munna Bhai as different characters. Vidya Balan was chosen to play the leading lady as her voice was thought to be appropriate for that of a radio jockey.
The actors used several techniques to develop their characters. Arshad Warsi ("Circuit") encountered some initial problems reviving his character from the first film. On the first day of the shoot when Arshad, "said his first line, he didn't sound like Circuit at all. He sounded like Arshad Warsi speaking with an accent." Warsi admits that he had "forgotten" the character of Circuit and had to watch the DVD of Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. three times before being able to film the scene correctly. Sanjay Dutt ("Munna Bhai") also confessed that he had to watch the first film eight to nine times to recapture the "persona" of Munna Bhai. In addition, Dutt stated in an interview that he did not read Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments with Truth as a preparation for Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Rather, he comments, his father, Sunil Dutt (who portrays Munna Bhai's father in the first film, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.) and his mother (the late actress Nargis) were his role models as they "were basically Gandhians. We were brought up with those values."
Dilip Prabhavalkar, who portrays Gandhi, read Gandhi's works "once again" to prepare for his role. Boman Irani prepared for the role of Lucky Singh by spending time with Sardarjis (male Sikhs) in auto spare parts shops to research his role. Vidya Balan ("Jahnavi") met with a couple of radio jockeys and watched them at work.
Each film in the Munna Bhai series features Munna and Circuit in a story that is comprehensive unto itself and is not continued or referred to in another in the series. Director Hirani has compared this format to the films of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, as well as to the James Bond series. Others have also likened the series to the work of Laurel and Hardy. Some, however, have negated this comparison, stating that the series is more akin to the Road to... "buddy films" of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hirani stated that his work was deeply inspired by the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
The interaction between the central characters of Mahatma Gandhi and Munna Bhai highlights concepts and ideas that draw upon the period of Colonial India and the Indian independence movement. Gandhi was a leader in this movement, challenging the British Empire's presence in India through the use of Satyagraha (non-violence). In the film, Jahnavi and Munna Bhai's non-violent protest against Lucky Singh serves as a metaphor for the Indian independence movement and the battle against the British Raj.
The thematic attention to Gandhi's theories in Lage Raho Munna Bhai revived an interest in Gandhism in India under the new term Gandhigiri and "made Gandhi suddenly hip" with Indians "staging nonviolent protests, starting Web sites, handing out roses to enemies and putting on peaked white caps from the Gandhi era." Arunabha Ghosh, in December 2006, noted in The Economic and Political Weekly that, "Gandhi, the man, was once the message. In the India of the post-liberalisation brand, gandhigiri is the message." Amelia Gentleman of The International Herald Tribune/New York Times stated in September 2006 that:
"The real excitement was a Bollywood film [...] which [became] the unexpected box-office hit of the year [...] With its big Bollywood soundtrack and dance routines, the movie brings Gandhi firmly into the mainstream and theatres have been packed for the past three weeks. The Congress Party recommended that all party members see the film. The Delhi authorities declared that tickets to the film would be sold tax free because of its assiduous promotion of Gandhian values."
Mark Sappenfield of The Christian Science Monitor argued in 2006 that the film was appealing because, "Gandhi gets his hands dirty. He appears as an apparition only visible to the wayward gangster, counselling him on how to help others deal with everyday problems." Swati Gauri Sharma suggested in The Boston Globe that what the United States "needs is a film that encourages people to take up Gandhigiri, Kinggiri, or Kennedygiri. If it worked for Bollywood, it could work for Hollywood."
After the release of the film, Gandhigiri-style protests began to take place in India. In 2006, farmers staged a protest with flowers in the Vidarbha region, and people who organised a protest in Lucknow claimed to have been inspired by Lage Raho Munna Bhai to use roses to convey their message. In Lucknow, students claimed to have been inspired by Lage Raho Munna Bhai to do volunteer work, planting trees "to conserve nature which is bound to benefit public health." Mafia don Babloo Srivastava claimed to have been inspired by Lago Raho Munna Bhai to distribute roses as a "message of love and peace". In 2008, Indian Greenpeace activists delivered thousands of roses to Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, to reconsider his plans of building a port at the nesting grounds of Olive Ridley sea turtles. The "Send Pramod Muthalik a Valentine’s Day card" campaign in 2009 was inspired by the film.
In the United States during July 2007, Aman Kapoor, founder of the Immigration Voice forum, initiated a Gandhigiri protest inspired by Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Over a three-day period, hundreds of flower bouquets were sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office by Indians who were legally in the US but caught in a green card backlog. On 17 July, the USCIS reversed the decision that led to the protest.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai revived an interest in books about Gandhi. In particular, demand for Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments with Truth increased after the film debuted, including requests from prison inmates. In addition, due to its influence, the film was made tax-free in Mumbai.
Screened on 10 November 2006 in the United Nations auditorium, Lage Raho Munna Bhai was the first Hindi film to be shown at the UN. The film was introduced by Shashi Tharoor, UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama observed that, "there was thunderous clapping at the high points of the film, like the pensioner shedding his clothes. The applause at the end of the screening was unending. A vibrant question and answer session followed with director Rajkumar Hirani, writer Abhijat Joshi and actor Boman Irani, who flew to the U.S. for the screening." The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) noted that, "an evening that had started with massive security arrangements in the sombre UN setting, concluded in a festive atmosphere in the lounge of the UN with diplomats from other tables joining in raising a toast for the film." The United Nations General Assembly announced on 15 June 2007 that 2 October, the day of Gandhi's birth (Gandhi Jayanti), was to be "the International Day of Non-Violence."
The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, was given a private screening of Lage Raho Munna Bhai. After viewing the film, he stated that it "captures Bapu's message about the power of truth and humanism." In a speech during his visit to South Africa, Singh said, "I was heartened to see recently that back home in India the most popular movie this festival season is a film about a young man's discovery of the universal and timeless relevance of the Mahatma's message." Singh announced the creation of a new Public Services Bill to combat corruption in a press release dated 17 November 2006, and cited Lage Raho Munna Bhai as one of its influences.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai was further screened at a global judiciary summit in Lucknow in December 2006. After viewing the film, Justice Kenneth Mithyane from South Africa commented, "The movie has re-enlivened the non-violence philosophy practiced by Mahatma Gandhi who continues to remain close to the hearts of the South Africans." Fatima Chouhan, a young member of the South African parliament, noted that, "'Munnabhai' will be widely appreciated in South Africa. I'm carrying a couple of video discs for my family and friends."
It was part of the Tous Les Cinema du Monde section of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. TLage Raho Munna Bhai was well received as the audience had lined "up in long queues to catch the film that had been strongly recommended in festival reviews [...] not one person who entered the screening left before the end of the two-hours-thirty-minutes film." In addition, "the screening of the movie at the festival saw people sitting on the aisles as the theatre was completely packed [...] there was also a big group of French students that clapped till the credits were finished."
Several universities held screenings. It was shown on 27 October 2006 at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, and Abhijat Joshi. Filmmaker Gurinder Chadha attended and spoke at the conclusion of the question-and-answer session. The film was screened at Old Dominion University on 20 March 2007 (as a part of Old Dominion University and City of Norfolk ONFilm Festival), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lecture Series Committee on 23 March & 24 March 2007, and Harvard Law School on 3 April 2007 (as part of a series on nonviolence).
The British DVD of Lage Raho Munna Bhai contains a bonus DVD which has a 98-minute five-part documentary on the making of the film, interviews with members of the cast and crew, and information on the creation of the song and dance numbers. It also has a special feature called "Munna meets Bapu."
Lage Raho Munnabhai — The Original Screenplay was released in December 2009. Published by Om Books International in association with Vinod Chopra Films, it was launched at an event with the original cast and crew. The text includes an introductory note by Abhijat Joshi which details the drafting of the screenplay. It also includes a number of stills from the film as well as character profiles.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai was an acclaimed film. Subhash K. Jha said that "Munna and Circuit, arguably cinema's most adorable and roguish reformists since Laurel and Hardy go about the business of generating humour out of the pathos of the human condition. The sequences, all fiercely and famously path-breaking have us in splits [...] Watch the love-lorn Munnabhai answer a Gandhian quiz on a phone-in radio quiz with the help of kidnapped professors' it's one of the most comically animated sequences seen in the movies of the new millennium." Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the film four out five stars, calling it "a sparkling example of qualitative cinema" arguing that it "not only entertains, it also enlightens." Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India observes that "Vidhu Vinod Chopra gives the great Indian family one more let's-go-goodwill-hunting entertainer, even as director Raju Hirani proves that sequels needn't have the been there-done that feel..." Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave it four out of five stars and states: "Like those good old-fashioned Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, it also reinforces the importance of human goodness and basic niceties. Even if you might argue that some of Gandhi's principles seem outdated today, you cannot help but cheer for Munna and his gang as they achieve the impossible with love and kindness. And that is where this film transcends conventional boundaries. It entertains you, yes, but it also makes you yearn for a perfect world. Judge it by any yardstick that you may, Lage Raho Munnabhai emerges a clear winner. Much of that credit must go to its actors who pull out all stops to make it an enjoyable ride." Poonam Joshi of the BBC gave four out of five stars stating that, "everything about this film works [...] It's rare to see a film that bounces between humour and sentiment so seamlessly. And it is rarer still to see characters become etched in the memory so enduringly that audiences become almost protective of them. It's testimony both to the quality of the writing and the performances, that Munna and Circuit have taken on a life of their own." Vinayak Chakravorty of The Hindustan Times gave four out of four stars stating that it "cleverly works its way around the obvious hurdle that almost all sequels face: The film recreates an original milieu without a hint of the déjà vu downer. And that precisely ranks Munna Bhai 2 as one of the best entertainers this year." He commended the it for showing "the heights Hindi cinema can scale despite staying within its masala parameters. Lage raho, guys." Phelim O'Neill of The Guardian gave the film four out of five stars noting that, "as western romantic comedies become more vapid and even stalkerish, this delivers a credible message of peace, while never forgetting to be magnificent entertainment." Shastri Ramachandaran of The Tribune wrote, "True, there have been memorable films on Mahatma Gandhi by distinguished directors, namely Richard Attenborough and Shyam Benegal;one offering a respectful cinematic acquaintance and the other being didactic but inspiring. For all their earnestness, neither film stirred the popular imagination like LRM has done now." Vaidyanathan from BBC declared that, "Lage Raho is not only as good as MBBS, but much better" calling it "a brilliant emotional roller coaster ride." Jeremy Page of The Times discussed its enormous popularity upon release and noted the "serious point [the film made] about the need for tolerance, restraint and self-sacrifice."
Finally, filmmaker Kabir Khan cited Lage Raho Munna Bhai as a model film for him as it "had an issue, but it was never once in your face. Rajkumar Hirani kept it all so subtle and yet conveyed the message so well. It was as commercial as it gets and audiences too were thoroughly entertained. That's the way to make movies because it not just made all parties happy but also had a satisfied director at the end of it all."
According to Tushar Gandhi, Gandhi's great-grandson, it introduced the philosophies of Gandhi to a new generation, adding that "Bapu would've spoken the language of Gandhigiri if he were alive today. I really feel this film says something that needs to be told."
Other critics offered more negative reviews. Ajit Duara argues in The Hindu that "the accomplished cultural sophistication and political genius of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has to be dumbed down to the astoundingly moronic levels of Lage Raho Munnabhai." Filmmaker Jahnu Barua was also critical, stating that "Gandhian philosophy is serious business and Lage Raho Munna Bhai is not the right way to show it." Jug Suraiya of The Times of India wrote that "thanks to Munnabhai, at best what exists of Gandhism is Gandhigiri, a watered down, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People version of the original."
Lage Raho Munna Bhai was the third highest grossing Bollywood film of 2006, earning ₹1,250 million (US$19 million) gross in India alone and was rated a "Blockbuster". The film collected a further ₹498 million (US$7.8 million) during 2007 as the film enjoyed a tremendous golden jubilee run playing at a selected 210 cinemas until October of that year, being the only film to achieve this feat since the 1995 release Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. It was also financially successful overseas, earning ₹70 million (US$1.1 million) gross in the United Kingdom, ₹112.5 million (US$1.8 million) gross in North America, and ₹50 million (US$780,000) gross for the rest of the overseas proceeds, for a total of ₹222.5 million (US$3.5 million). Its total worldwide lifetime gross is ₹1.93 billion (US$30 million) the equivalent to just over $40m when adjusted for inflation 2016.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai is the recipient of four National Film Awards in addition to other awards. Some speculated that it would represent India as an entry for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Although ultimately losing to Rang De Basanti as India's official submission, the producers submitted it as an independent entry. However, neither film received an Oscar nomination.
Swanand Kirkire won the National Film Award for Best Lyrics in 2007 for the song "Bande Mein tha Dum." According to the Indian trade website Box Office India, with around 10,00,000 units sold, this film's soundtrack album was the year's fourteenth highest-selling.
On 25 February 2016, Sanjay Dutt was released from Yerwada Central Jail after completing his sentence (2013-2016) for illegal possession of firearms in 1993. Vidhu Vinod Chopra announced on 29 September 2016 that production on the third Munna Bhai film starring Dutt in the title role would begin in 2017.