03 December 07
In 2007 BAFTA reunited the cast and crew of Gandhi to celebrate the film's enduring legacy.
Telling the story of one of the most extraordinary figures of the twentieth century, Gandhi was premiered in London on 3 December 1982. The film was greeted with both public and critical acclaim and went on to win five BAFTA Awards from nine nominations.
Twenty-five years later, on 3 December 2007, Director/Producer Richard Attenborough introduced the film’s cast and crew for a unique reunion event at BAFTA Headquarters in London.
Illustrated with key clips from the film, watch this special collection of people discuss the role they played in creating an historic piece of cinema.
Lead actor Sir Ben Kingsley talks about the challenge of embodying the iconic leader and the experience of being at the centre of the funeral scene with an estimated 400,000 extras. He recalls the reactions of the Indian people and reflects that “we had the collusion and support of a whole nation”.
Scriptwriter Jack Briley explains how he tackled the “almost impossible task” of transferring the life of the Mahatma onto the big screen and the advantage of approaching the subject from an American perspective. In an emotional tribute he states: “You are in the hands of somebody else as a screenwriter and my great fortune was to be in [Richard Attenborough’s] hands and Ben’s hands. The result was beautiful.”
The film's Director of Photographer Billy Williams discusses the challenges of capturing the spirit and people of India on film before actress Geraldine James (Meerabahen) and actor Saeed Jaffrey (Sardar Valabhai Patel) talk about the experience of working under Richard ("Dicky") Attenborough. Jaffrey states: “There are some directors that nobody can replace and these are directors that have been actors themselves. Dicky is one of them.”
The last of the great epics, and we were there - Ben Kingsley.
A biographical epic, the film traces the major moments in the life of lawyer Mohandas K Gandhi (later known as "Mahatma", or "great soul"), from early protests in South Africa to leading India's movement against British colonial rule through a philosophy of non-violent resistance. The film ends with the post-war partition of India and Pakistan and, finally, Gandhi's assassination on 30 January 1948.
"No man's life can be encompassed in one telling," states the film's opening scene. "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…"
Amongst many fine performances, it is Ben Kingsley’s nuanced and emotive depiction of the Mahatma himself that stands out. Both Alec Guinness and Anthony Hopkins were originally considered for the role but Attenborough went with the relatively unknown actor of part Indian heritage (his paternal family was from Gujarat, the same state as Gandhi). Kingsley looked so much like the Mahatma that many Indians thought him to be his ghost. An estimated 400,000 extras turned out for the filming of the funeral scene that opens the film – a testament to the film’s power and Gandhi’s lasting legacy.
Gandhi remains one of the UK’s most successful films. The production won both domestic and international acclaim, picking-up five BAFTAs from nine nominations including best Film and Direction, Actress in a Supporting Role (for Rohini Hattangadi’s depiction of Gandhi’s wife) and two awards for Kingsley. It also went on to win eight Oscars (from 11 nominations).
The film continues to have a lasting impact, bringing the teachings and wisdom of Gandhi to an audience of millions: “Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail.”
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