Remembering Gandhi 150 years after his birth

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 and this 150th anniversary will be celebrated around the world today.

I recall seeing the 1982 film “Gandhi” and this is my review of that work:

“When I first saw this classic film at the cinema, the audience applauded at both the intermission and the end (it is a long work of 188 minutes). Although the narrative covers over five decades in Gandhi’s life, a major segment concerns the the process by which independence of India and Pakistan was brought about and the huge loss of life and massive migrations that resulted. When I saw the events of 1947 portrayed in the 2017 film “Viceroy’s House”, I was encouraged to revisit the earlier film which I think deals with these events more powerfully.

“Gandhi” was a triumph both for Richard Attenborough, as producer and director, who worked for 20 years to bring the story to the big screen and for Ben Kingsley, a man whose father was Indian but who had until then had a minor profile, proving to be a superlative choice for the eponymous role. The cinematography is wonderful, making superb use of local filming in India and evocative of some of the work of David Lean.

The huge cast represents a rich array of British thespianism (as well as American and Indian actors) with cameo roles for stars such as John Mills, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard and James Fox and even a tiny role for Daniel Day-Lewis who would go on to be a towering talent. Finally the script by John Briley works well in communicating essential information with some effective lines.

The film is a little too reverential towards its subject and at times it is a trifle ponderous, but these are relatively minor reservations. It went on to win no less than eight Academy Awards.”

I remember my visit to India when. almost the first stop on our tour, was the location of the killing of Gandhi:

“We proceeded to the Gandhi Smriti Memorial Museum. This is located on Tees January Marg in the grand house previously owned by the industrialist B D Birla where Mahatma Gandhi always stayed on his visits to Delhi and where he was assassinated on 30 January 1948. Inside the museum are informative panels and models concerning the life of this charismatic leader of Indian nationalism. Outside in the garden, a set of concrete footprints mark his last steps before he was gunned down by a Hindu extremist, enraged by his support for the Muslims.”

Today, more than ever, our politics and our communities need Gandhi’s understanding and tolerance.


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