Released in 1982, Gandhi is a biographical film that revolves around the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, placing special emphasis on the main events that marked his spiritual development and political career. Despite the film being in rich in eye-opening dialogues, the scene in which Gandhi clearly tells the British Viceroy that he and his colleagues are no longer welcome in India is certainly worthy of in-depth analysis (1:34:40).
By the time he finds himself voicing his views in front of a group of British imperialists, Gandhi is a strong and experienced political leader who has managed to make the most out of the many challenges that he has faced so far. He has spent years trying to unite and protect the Indian people, launching numerous campaigns and fighting for the independence of his country. Despite having been mistreated, imprisoned and criticized harshly by his opponents, the scene being analyzed depicts him as a humble and simple man whose faith allows him to speak the truth without any fear or hesitation. At first, the scene portrays a typically Western villa which symbolizes British power and wealth, as if the producer wanted to contrast the lavish lifestyle of British colonists with the struggles that ordinary Indians faced on a daily basis ‘ e.g. injustice, discrimination, poverty and so forth.
At 1:34:50 we find Gandhi sitting a table as several representatives of the British Empire discuss the future of his country, hoping to find a way to address people’s dissatisfaction so as to be able to keep ruling over India. Everybody is wearing typically western suits – everybody but Gandhi, who is pictured wearing a very modest tunic that reflects the simplicity of his requests, as well as innocent soul and detachment from those earthly desires and aspirations that have caused so much pain to his people. As the Viceroy tries to explain that it is in the Monarchy’s best interest to find a compromise, Gandhi interrupts him to deliver a bold and decisive message: ‘It is our view that matters have gone beyond legislation. We think it is time you recognized that you are masters in someone else’s home.’ After a short pause, he goes on with a slightly more diplomatic statement ‘Despite the best intentions of the best of you, you must, in the nature of things, humiliate us to control us’, followed by a much more direct consideration ‘It is time you left’.
When Mr. Kinnoch points out that without their administration, India would be reduced to chaos, Gandhi responds that there is no people in the world who would prefer an alien government to their own government, no matter how bad it may be. He then specifies that his intention is to prompt Indians to avoid cooperating in a peaceful manner until the British see ‘the wisdom of leaving’. In this scene, Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) keeps looking at his interlocutors as if he knew that in the end, his movement will succeed. As Chilton noted in a recent review, the film clearly shows how Gandhi transformed from a young lawyer into a ‘loin cloth-wearing ascetic’ who succeeded in creating a new form of non-violent protest. Analyzing Kingsley’s performance, Canby complimented the Anglo-Indian actor on his ability to emulate Gandhi’s humor, wit, openness and frankness, thus giving the whole film a realistic touch that enables the viewer to develop an emotional connection with the Indian political leader. Even in the scene examined in this paper, Kinglsey is repeatedly portrayed smiling at his interlocutors, as if he found their words amusingly nonsensical.
In conclusion, while it would have been impossible for Attenborough to cover all of Gandhi’s achievements in just one film, the producer managed to paint a remarkable accurate picture of Gandhi’s personality and spiritual approach to politics, thus enabling the audience to appreciate the uncomplicated and yet revolutionary thoughts that inspired his movement (von Tunzelmann).
- Canby, Vincent. Gandhi. New York Times, 8 Dec 1982,
http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF173BB12CAB484CC2B7799E836896&mcubz=1. 7 Sep 2017.
- Chilton, Martin. Gandhi, film review: ‘amazing epic’. The Telegraph, 11 Apr 2016,
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11528461/Gandhi-film-review-amazing-epic.html. 7 Sep 2017.
- Gandhi. Dir. Richard Attenborough. Columbia. 1982. Film.
- Von Tunzelmann, Alex. Gandhi: an uncomplicated man in complicated times. The Guardian, 15 Oct 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/oct/14/gandhi-reel-history. 7 Sep 2017.