2 October 2004 | omlakhani
Making of Mahatma's movie
Picture this. Gandhiji walks in a court, accused of influencing the people and starting a movement, the Non Cooperation movement, immediately after Gandhiji broke the fast he started to curb the movement which had assumed violence after Chauri Chora. We walks in alone, unescorted and as soon as he walks in there is an unexplainable silence in the court, and to everyone's surprise the Judge, stands up in respect of the accused ! Seeing him do this the barristers and rest also stand up. This scene though may seem insignificant on paper is one without which this entire movie would have been incomplete. To know why
read on !
On day of 2nd October they play this movie every year on DD National, Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. I never watched it whenever it was shown since 20 years of 2nd Octobers I had seen. The first few years because I couldn't understand and the next few because I felt that though it's a multiple Oscar winner, how could at the end of the day, a British person understand and do justice to an Indian icon ? After so many years I finally broke the ice and saw the movie in totality right from the first scene of Nathuram Godse, to Hey Ram, and I understood that Gandhi was as British, as much a part of Britain's history as he was of India's, in fact an outsider judged the person better than we ourselves could, hence without doubt this is a masterpiece, because it was always meant to be.
Richard Attenborough like all directors worth their salt uses visual aid as a medium to replace conventional dialogue delivery at times. A picture is worth a thousand words and a scene without words is worth a million. Like the first scene I described and others. In one scene towards the end of the movie, Gandhiji starts a fast until death to stop the communal riots post independence and Nehru goes to meet him. A crowd had gathered near his residence and one of the person in the crowd shouted a suggestion, 'Why don't they kill Gandhi ?', Nehru furiously jumps into the crowd to search for this person and the camera moves in the crowd and for a briefest time and quite unmistakably you spot Nathuram Godse in the crowd. This made me think, 'hey this is what I call good cinema!'.
So what about the outsider theory ? Well you see if Rajkumar Santoshi, Yash Chopra, Raj Kapoor or Mani Ratnam had made this movie they would have fallen under the pressure and the unbearably weight of historical facts, Richard had that advantage. Someone quite ignorant about Indian culture was telling a story of an Indian to an audience even more ignorant. What I mean is that there are things which are skewed up, characters gone wrong and famous words mouthed by someone else. For example the writer has messed the character of the Patel Siblings. Vallabhbhai Patel was never an extrovert and never as polished as shown in the movie, but someone else was and it was his more Birtish, yet less famous elder brother Vithalbhai who in fact introduced Vallabh to Indian movement. Again it is a known fact that Vallabhai continued the Dandi march after Gandhi's arrest, the fact which is ignored. Once again the characters of Kriplani, Maulana Azad etc are all skewed. But at the end of it works, why, because Richard's view is focused. I would notice these mistakes because I am an Indian aware of this, a person in England may never find out and even if he does he would consider it as trivial because this is a story of Gandhi and not the Indian freedom struggle. People say that unnecessary importance is given to foreign characters in Gandhi's life like Margret, Rev. Charlie, Walker, Miraben, but I would say it is necessary because these people did influence Gandhi and made him an international personality which he is.
But before I end my take on this movie I must comment on the characterization. Starting with Ben Kinsley as Gandhi. To tell you the truth when I first saw him as Mohandas KG in the train I was shocked, he didn't look like Gandhi which I imagined, but as the movie goes ahead I changed my opinion. Ben worked because of multiple reasons. The first he is a British Gujarati, Gandhi was gujarati who did his law in England so both speak the same language, Partly British English with unmistakable Gujarati overtones. Second all other characterization of Gandhis in the history are shown as fragile creatures without clothes. Ben did carry some more body than others and which made Gandhi look more real , more alive. Also he had an infectious little smile which works because Gandhi in many was a jovial happy person who smiled a lot , a kind smile of calm which no one but Ben Kinsley brought out ! Of the other characters, Martin Sheen as Walker was impressive, so were Lord Erwin, Gen Dyer, Margrets, Nehru and Miraben's characters. Rohini Hattangidi as Kasturba does a remarkable job too, though she was shown a little more extroverted than Kasturba was , maybe.
As a whole to sum it up, this is one hell of a beautiful movie experience. If you missed it this 2nd October don't forget to tune into it the next.