Author: Ben Kingsley
Director/Composer/Na: Richard Attenborough/John Briley
ISBN/UPC (if available): DDVD 001
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... least of all Gandhi’s, whose passage through life was so entwined with his nation’s struggle for freedom. There is no way to give each event its allotted weight, to recount the deeds and sacrifices of all the great men and women to whom he and India owe such immense debts. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record of his journey, and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man ...”
The film begins with Gandhi's assassination and funeral on January 30, 1948. 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 shoots him point blank in the chest. Gandhi exclaims, "Oh, God!" in the film ("Hé Ram!" historically), and then falls dead. The film then cuts to a huge procession at his massive funeral, which is attended by dignitaries from around the world.
The early life of Gandhi is neither seen nor mentioned. Instead, the story flashes back to a life-changing event: in 1893, Gandhi is thrown off a South African train for being a "coolie" and traveling in a first class compartment (which he paid for). Gandhi realizes that the laws are biased against Indians and decides to start a non-violent protest campaign for the rights of all Indians in South Africa. After numerous arrests and the unwanted attention of the world, the government finally relents by recognizing rights for Indians, though not for the native blacks of South Africa.
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 from Great Britain. Gandhi agrees, and mounts a non-violent non-cooperation campaign of unprecedented scale, coordinating millions of Indians nationwide. There are some setbacks, such as violence against the protesters and Gandhi's occasional imprisonment.
Nevertheless, the campaign generates great attention, and Britain faces intense public pressure. Too weak from World War II to continue enforcing its will in India, Britain finally grants India's independence. Indians celebrate this victory, but their troubles are far from over. Religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims erupt into nation-wide violence. Gandhi declares a hunger strike, saying he will not eat until the fighting stops.
The fighting does stop eventually, but the country is divided. 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 (West and East Pakistan respectively). It is hoped that by encouraging the Muslims to live in a separate country, violence will abate. Gandhi is opposed to the idea, and even wants Mohammed Ali Jinnah to become the first prime minister of India, but the Partition of India is carried out nevertheless.
Gandhi spends his last days trying to bring about peace between both nations; however, these actions anger many dissidents on both sides, one of whom finally gets close enough to assassinate him.
Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi
Rohini Hattangadi as Kasturba Gandhi
Candice Bergen as Margaret Bourke-White
Roshan Seth as Pandit Nehru
Saeed Jaffrey as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Alyque Padamsee as Mohammad Ali Jinnah
Amrish Puri as Khan
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
Produced by: Richard Attenborough
Written by: John Briley
Cinematography: Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Gandhi received eight Academy Awards:
Best Actor - Ben Kingsley
Best Director - Richard Attenborough.
Best Art Direction - Stuart Craig, Bob Laing, Michael Seirton
Best Cinematography - Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor
Best Costume Design - Bhanu Athaiya, John Mollo
Best Editing - John Bloom
Best Original Screenplay - John Briley
It also received Nominations for:
Best Makeup - Tom Smith
Best Original Score - Ravi Shankar, George Fenton
Best Sound - Gerry Humphreys, Robin O'Donoghue, Jonathan Bates, Simon Kaye
The film also won best picture awards from BAFTA and the National Board of Review as well as six Golden Globes including Best Foreign Film.