Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gandhi - Film Review

I was channel surfing on the Republic Day and noticed some DD channel telecasting the movie Gandhi. I eagerly selected the channel but alas, it was the Hindi dubbing version. I was disappointed as my proficiency in the language is limited to comprehending Amitabh Bachan’s dialogues in Zanjeer. My disappointment has not come from not being able to watch the movie. I have watched it more than a dozen times. The movie is such a top of the charts one, not only in production excellence but also in brilliantly portraying one of the greatest leaders this World has ever seen, that you do not want to miss any opportunity to watch it again and again. So I have settled for the DVD and my home theatre, watching the movie yet again. Even on the Nth time, the movie does not fail to move me emotionally and mesmerize me for its production brilliance.

The movie is a biography of Gandhi, compressing half-a-century into a three hour powerful, dramatic and quite authentic epic. In his screen debut, Ben Kingsley is incredible as Gandhi. He actually resembles Gandhi with make-up and he portrays the character with great sensitivity. The film essentially highlights Gandhi's work in South Africa in the early part of the 20th Century in which he effectively frustrated and thwarted the British in many of their discriminatory policies of governance, and then his long non-violent crusade for independence in India.

There are several scenes that are brilliantly filmed. The Dandi march is one of them. The amazement of the British at Gandhi’s plans to march to Dandi to make mere salt and the way the march infuses a fervour among people are excellently filmed. The Jallianwala bagh massacre is another. General Dyer’s casual remorseless remarks to the inquiry committee infuriate every Indian and portray the ruthlessness of the British in brutally suppressing even peaceful demonstrations. The episode of Gandhi in Hunger Strike ( Satyagraha) to bring some sanity to the frenzied mobs killing each others on religious basis during the post Independence riots in Calcutta and the city coming to senses after a week brings tears to our eyes. The greatness of the man in influencing millions of blood-thirsty frenzied people just by his hunger strike comes out starkly.

The director Richard Attenborough has not deviated from history to make any character lively and yet he has made the film into one of the most acclaimed films. It will be hard for anyone to surpass Kingsley's performance as the incarnation of a famous person. He deservedly won an Oscar for his performance as did the picture as best picture.

On this day January 30th , when this greatest man was assassinated by a religious fanatic let us all recommit ourselves to nurturing religious harmony and respect to diversity in our children.


Yateendar said...

Ramana – Thank you for sharing these thoughts. They echo my own, and today – January 30th is indeed an appropriate occasion to reflect on what Gandhi stood for.

Recently, I was very fortunate to read two excellent books (back-to-back) on the subject of Gandhi & the relevance of his message today.

I would have no hesitation in recommending both to you. They are clearly works of monumental research, written with both feeling & perspective:
1. “Indian Summer” by Alex von Tunzelmann
2. “India after Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha

The first book is a personable account, iconoclastic at times, but intriguing nevertheless. It is rendered in a style reminiscent of the novelist rather than historian; and provides a deeper insight into the inter-play of personalities who influenced events just prior to independence & of course, partition. Presented perhaps with more than just a tinge of British cynicism over India’s freedom movement, it assesses Gandhi – as politician, rather than spiritual leader.

The second book is the most comprehensive account I have seen yet of India’s post-independence years. Even more impressive is the author’s zeal to provide a balanced narration. Beginning with the early years, when the idea of India was dismissed by the developed world and ending with the recent economic resurgence, he cautiously outlines both opportunities and challenges. We are also provided a rare view into the lives of ordinary people, as the narration rises above a description of mere political transition. Above all, it alerts us to the nation’s current crisis of leadership, and the threats to our hard-won democracy.

Ramana said...

Thanks Yati for recommending the books.

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