Watching “Gandhi” again

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Gandhi ★★★★½

Attenborough’s film is an epic that follows in the footsteps of David Lean’s great films. Like them, “Gandhi” requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. So, in Lawrence of Arabia, we are to believe that Anthony Quinn is Bedouin, and that Omar Sharif is a Russian in Doctor Zhivago. Here, we are required to believe that it’s normal that Indians speak English to each other. If you cast aside that aspect of the film, there are many things to appreciate in it.

My favorite sequence is the one on the train. Gandhi discovers “the real India” by looking out the window of trains moving through the Indian countryside. The score by Ravi Shankar is every bit as bright and beautiful as his work for Ray on Pather Panchali. And there is brilliant writing in the scene. A 3-hour movie with this kind of subject needs to have some levity. Here, it’s in the form of a fish-out-of-water moment, where an Anglican priest is asked to “move closer to God” by sitting on the roof of the moving train. There’s a lot of physical humor in the scene. It’s a delight.

Another favorite moment is when Gandhi is released from jail. But he needs to borrow taxi fare from his jailer. Exquisite.

When watching the film, I keep asking myself how they did it. How on earth did they manage the epic feat of this film. In the bonus content of the DVD, it is revealed that without the help of Indira Gandhi, the film never would have gotten made. That’s a humbling thought. A lot of ducks had to line up for it to come together. Without the help of the Prime Minister herself, the movie does not happen. It’s a maddening thought, and also, thank goodness for her help. It’s wonderful that the film exists.

Kingsley. Talk about a breakout performance.

The film swept the Oscars that year, most notably snubbing another great film, Tootsie.

Very enjoyable to revisit this film, which I believe TCM decided to show in commemoration for MLK Day in the US.

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About kartiksingh

I have been living in Paris, France since 1996. I was born to Sikh parents who immigrated to the USA. I grew up outside of Kansas City, and at 18 went to Washington DC with the intention of becoming a diplomat. Five years later, I arrived in Paris and found my life purpose: to make films that bring hope, insight, and inspiration to the world. My debut feature film Callback premieres in September 2010 in New York. For more details on where you can see my films, look for me at www.kartikfilm.com
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