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Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India's non-violentnon-cooperative independence movement against the United Kingdom's rule of the country during the 20th century. Gandhi was a collaboration of British and Indian production companies[3] and was written by John Briley and produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. It stars Ben Kingsley in the titular role.

The film covers Gandhi's life from a defining moment in 1893, as he is thrown off a South African train for being in a whites-only compartment, and concludes with his assassination and funeral in 1948. Although a practising Hindu, Gandhi's embracing of other faiths, particularly Christianity and Islam, is also depicted.

Gandhi was released in India on 30 November 1982, in the United Kingdom on 3 December 1982, and in the United States on 6 December 1982. It was nominated for Academy Awards in eleven categories, winning eight, including Best Picture. Richard Attenborough won for Best Director, and Ben Kingsley for Best Actor.

ContentsEdit

 [hide*1 Plot

Plot[edit]Edit

The screenplay of Gandhi is available as a published book.[4][5] The film opens with a statement from the filmmakers explaining their approach to the problem of filming Gandhi's complex life story:

No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man...[6]

The film begins with Gandhi's assassination on 30 January 1948,[5]:18–21 and his funeral.[5]:15–18 After an evening prayer, an elderly Gandhi is helped out for his evening walk to meet a large number of greeters and admirers. One of these visitors—Nathuram Godse—shoots him point blank in the chest. Gandhi exclaims, "Oh, God!" ("Hē Ram!" historically), and then falls dead. The film then cuts to a huge procession at his funeral, which is attended by dignitaries from around the world.

The early life of Gandhi is not depicted in the film. Instead, the story flashes back 55 years to a life-changing event: in 1893, the 24-year-old Gandhi is thrown off a South African train for being an Indian sitting in a first-class compartment despite having a ticket.[7] Realizing the laws are biased against Indians, he then decides to start a non-violent protest campaign for the rights of all Indians in South Africa. After numerous arrests and unwelcome international attention, the government finally relents by recognising some rights for Indians.[8]

After this victory, Gandhi is invited back to India, where he is now considered something of a national hero. He is urged to take up the fight for India's independence (SwarajQuit India) from the British Empire. Gandhi agrees, and mounts a non-violent non-co-operation campaign of unprecedented scale, co-ordinating millions of Indians nationwide. There are some setbacks, such as violence against the protesters and Gandhi's occasional imprisonment. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is also depicted in the film.

Nevertheless, the campaign generates great attention, and Britain faces intense public pressure. After World War II[9] Britain finally grants Indian independence.[10] Indians celebrate this victory, but their troubles are far from over. Religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims erupt into nation-wide violence. Horrified, Gandhi declares a hunger strike, saying he will not eat until the fighting stops.[11]

The fighting does stop eventually, but the country is subsequently divided by religion. It is decided that the northwest area of India, and eastern part of India (current day Bangladesh), both places where Muslims are in the majority, will become a new country called Pakistan. It is hoped that by encouraging the Muslims to live in a separate country, violence will abate. Gandhi is opposed to the idea, and is even willing to allow Muhammad Ali Jinnah to become the first prime minister of India,[12] but the Partition of India is carried out nevertheless.

Gandhi spends his last days trying to bring about peace between both nations. He thereby angers many dissidents on both sides, one of whom assassinates him in a scene at the end of the film that recalls the opening.[13]

As Godse shoots Gandhi, the film fades to black and Gandhi is heard in a voiceover, saying "Oh God". The audience then sees Gandhi's cremation; the film ending with a scene of Gandhi's ashes being scattered on the holy Ganga.[14]As this happens, viewers hear Gandhi in another voiceover:[15]

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.

As the list of actors is seen at the end, the hymn "Vaishnava Janato" is heard.

Cast[edit]Edit

Production[edit]Edit

This film had been Richard Attenborough's dream project, although two previous attempts at filming had failed. In 1952, Gabriel Pascal secured an agreement with the Prime Minister of India (Pandit Nehru) to produce a film of Gandhi's life. However, Pascal died in 1954 before preparations were completed.[16]

In 1962 Attenborough received a phone call from Motilai Kothari, an Indian-born civil servant working with the Indian High Commission in London and a devout follower of Gandhi. Kothari insisted that Attenborough meet him to discuss a film about Gandhi.[17][18] Attenborough read Louis Fischer's biography of Gandhi and agreed and spent the next 18 years attempting to get the film made. He was able to meet prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi through a connection with Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India. Nehru approved of the film and promised to help support its production, but his death in 1964 was one of the film's many setbacks. Attenborough would dedicate the film to the memory of Kothari, Mountbatten, and Nehru.

David Lean and Sam Spiegel had planned to make a film about Gandhi after completing The Bridge on the River Kwai, reportedly with Alec Guinness as Gandhi. Ultimately, the project was abandoned in favour of Lawrence of Arabia(1962).[19] Attenborough reluctantly approached Lean with his own Gandhi project in the late 1960s, and Lean agreed to direct the film and offered Attenborough the lead role. Instead Lean began filming Ryan's Daughter, during which time Motilai Kothari had died and the project fell apart.[20]

Attenborough again attempted to resurrect the project in 1976 with backing from Warner Brothers. Then prime minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India and shooting would be impossible. Finally in 1980 Attenborough was able to secure both the funding and locations needed to make the film. Screenwriter John Briley had introduced him to Jake Eberts, the chief executive at the new Goldcrest production company that raised approximately two-thirds of the film's budget. Co-producer Rani Dube persuaded prime minister Indira Gandhi to provide the remaining $10 million from India's National Film Development Corporation.[21]

Shooting began on 26 November 1980 and ended on 10 May 1981. Over 300,000 extras were used in the funeral scene, the most for any film according to Guinness World Records.[22]

Casting[edit]Edit

During pre-production, there was much speculation as to who would play the role of Gandhi.[23][24] The choice was Ben Kingsley, who is partly of Indian heritage (his father was Gujarati and his birth name is Krishna Bhanji).[25]

Release and reception[edit]Edit

Gandhi premiered in New Delhi, India on 30 November 1982. Two days later, on 2 December, it had a Royal Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London[26] in the presence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.[27][28] The film had a limited release in the US on 8 December 1982, followed by a wider release in January 1983.[29]

Box office performance[edit]Edit

Gandhi grossed a total of $52.7 million in North America[29] and became the 12th-highest-grossing film of 1982 there.[30]

Critical response[edit]Edit

Reviews were broadly positive. The film was discussed or reviewed in Newsweek,[23] Time,[31] the Washington Post,[32][33] The Public Historian,[34] Cross Currents,[35] The Journal of Asian Studies,[36] Film Quarterly,[37] and elsewhere.[38] Many years later the movie received an 88% "fresh" rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with the sites consensus saying: "Director Richard Attenborough is typically sympathetic and sure-handed, but it's Ben Kingsley's magnetic performance that acts as the linchpin for this sprawling, lengthy biopic.".[39] Ben Kingsley's performance was especially praised. Historian Lawrence James[40][clarification needed] and anthropologist Akhil Gupta[41]were two of the few who took a more negative view of the film.

In TimeRichard Schickel wrote that in portraying Gandhi's "spiritual presence... Kingsley is nothing short of astonishing."[31]:97 A "singular virtue" of the film is that "its title figure is also a character in the usual dramatic sense of the term." Schickel viewed Attenborough's directorial style as having "a conventional handsomeness that is more predictable than enlivening," but this "stylistic self-denial serves to keep one's attention fastened where it belongs: on a persuasive, if perhaps debatable vision of Gandhi's spirit, and on the remarkable actor who has caught its light in all its seasons."[31]:97

In NewsweekJack Kroll stated that "There are very few movies that absolutely must be seen. Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi is one of them."[23] The movie "deals with a subject of great importance... with a mixture of high intelligence and immediate emotional impact... [and] Ben Kingsley... gives what is possibly the most astonishing biographical performance in screen history." Kroll stated that the screenplay's "least persuasive characters are Gandhi's Western allies and acolytes" such as an English cleric and an American journalist, but that "Attenborough's 'old-fashioned' style is exactly right for the no-tricks, no-phony-psychologizing quality he wants."[23] Furthermore, Attenborough

mounts a powerful challenge to his audience by presenting Gandhi as the most profound and effective of revolutionaries, creating out of a fierce personal discipline a chain reaction that led to tremendous historical consequences. At a time of deep political unrest, economic dislocation and nuclear anxiety, seeing "Gandhi" is an experience that will change many minds and hearts.[23]

According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications there was "a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain's growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history".[42] In addition to Gandhi, this cycle also included Heat and Dust (1983), The Jewel in the Crown (1984), The Far Pavilions (1984) and A Passage to India (1984).

Awards and nominations[edit]Edit

The film won eight Academy Awards and was nominated for three more:[43]

Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
55th Academy Awards Academy Award for Best Picture Richard Attenborough Won
Academy Award for Best Director Richard Attenborough Won
Academy Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley Won
Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) John Briley Won
Academy Award for Best Original Score Ravi ShankarGeorge Fenton Nominated
Academy Award for Best Sound Gerry HumphreysRobin O'DonoghueJonathan Bates and Simon Kaye Nominated
Academy Award for Best Art Direction Stuart CraigRobert W. LaingMichael Seirton Won
Academy Award for Best Cinematography Billy WilliamsRonnie Taylor Won
Academy Award for Best Makeup Tom Smith Nominated
Academy Award for Best Costume Design John MolloBhanu Athaiya Won
Academy Award for Best Film Editing John Bloom Won
American Cinema Editors American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic John Bloom Won
36th British Academy Film Awards BAFTA Award for Best Film Richard Attenborough Won
BAFTA Award for Best Direction
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role Ben Kingsley Won
BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay John Briley Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Edward Fox Nominated
Roshan Seth Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role Candice Bergen Nominated
Rohini Hattangadi Won
BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer Ben Kingsley Won
BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography Billy WilliamsRonnie Taylor Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design John MolloBhanu Athaiya Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Editing John Bloom Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Makeup Tom Smith Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Production Design Stuart Craig Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Film Music Ravi ShankarGeorge Fenton Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Sound Gerry HumphreysRobin O'DonoghueJonathan Bates and Simon Kaye Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Billy WilliamsRonnie Taylor Won
David di Donatello Awards David di Donatello for Best Foreign Film Richard Attenborough Won
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Producer
David di Donatello European David
Directors Guild of America Award Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Richard Attenborough Won
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actor Ben Kingsley Won
40th Golden Globe Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Director Richard Attenborough Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Ben Kingsley Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Film Richard Attenborough Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay John Briley Won
Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor Ben Kingsley Won
26th Grammy Awards Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Ravi ShankarGeorge Fenton Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1982 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley Won
London Film Critics' Circle London Film Critics Circle Award for Actor of the Year Ben Kingsley Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 1982 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Film Richard Attenborough 2nd place
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley Won
National Board of Review Awards 1982 National Board of Review Award for Best Film Richard Attenborough Won
National Board of Review: Top Ten Films Won
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley 2nd place
1982 New York Film Critics Circle Awards New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film Richard Attenborough Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Ben Kingsley
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