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Making a film about a saint is fraught with danger.
On the one hand, many people think the subject is too vaulted for the likes of a mere movie. Others decry the representation, feeling it doesn’t do the subject justice. Still others find the portrayal too worshipful — a sort of cinematic idolatry.
How Richard Attenborough managed to sidestep each of these landmines and craft one of the most moving and inspiring epics of all time is a thing of deep mystery and triumph.
Many epics swallow their heroes in massive landscapes, undulating throngs of people, or narrative canvases so large as to obliterate any sense of intimacy or individuality. Not so with Gandhi. No matter how big the story or colossal the vistas, we never lose sight of the fact that this is a film first and foremost about a man. And what a man.
Convincingly spanning over four decades, Gandhi is a reverential yet completely authentic examination of the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi who began his adult life as a lawyer in England and ended as “the little brown man in a loincloth.” As the father of nonviolent resistance, Gandhi stood up to the superpower of his day, Great Britain, and won independence for his native India. His pacifistic philosophies were unassailable and continue to reverberate down through time. But Gandhi is not simply a story with a happy ending. The complexities of independence are given full expression, including the tumultuous division of the country into India and Pakistan, a rift still felt today.
In a cast of standouts (Trevor Howard, John Mills, Sir John Gielgud, Edward Fox, Ian Charleson, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, Saeed Jaffrey, Geraldine James, Alyque Padamsee, Roshan Seth, and Rohini Hattangady), Ben Kingsley gives a performance for the ages, not merely acting, but rather channeling the spirit of the late spiritual leader. Kingsley's Gandhi is as authoritative as he is soft-spoken, a picture of quiet strength and unshakable moral resolve.
Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley. A labor of love that took decades to make, Gandhi acts as both a history lesson and a sermon — a living, breathing testament to sheer moral force and the unconquerability of right.
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