How a film became something more


The story of how Mahatma Gandhi has come to be remembered in the West today I think is an interesting and inspiring one. Stephen Murphy from Australia, who is the co-ordinator, International Gandhian Movement, tells you a little about it here: You know that Gandhi's life was ended in 1948, but as the years passed, people's memories of him began to dim. This happened only slowly, for the Mahatma had been as famous in the West as in India, and had made a deep impact. So much had been written about him in newspapers and books published in Western countries for many years. In fact, his death led to the publishing of many new biographies. One of these became a very popular book--The life of Mahatma Gandhi by an American, Louis Fischer, which was published in 1951. But slowly, memories of the small, bespectacled old man did fade. As this was occurring, something happened which would one day make Gandhi live again for a whole new generation. Back in 1962, a Gujarati man living in Britain, Motilal Kothari, telephoned the British actor and film producer, Richard Attenborough. He wanted to speak to Mr. Attenborough urgently about making a motion picture on Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Attenborough agreed to meet his mysterious caller a couple of days later. At that meeting Mr. Kothari asked Mr. Attenborough to read Fischer's biography. Mr. Kothari knew Louis Fischer personally. Mr. Attenborough said he would be delighted to read the book. He said doing so would help him decide whether he felt able to make the film. Mr. Attenborough did read the book, and says, "I must admit to being totally enthralled from the word go." Although aware of the scale of the project, he decided he did want to make a film about Gandhi. Some great tasks that people set themselves take many years to accomplish. About 20 years were to pass before Mr. Attenborough could show his film "Gandhi" to the world. There was delay and problem after problem. Finally, in late 1980 production of the film began.

It was this beautiful motion picture which, about 35 years after Gandhi's death, introduced "the little brown man in a loin cloth" to a new generation in the West. The film won no fewer than eight Academy Awards in 1982 and was seen by millions upon millions of people in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. I am sure you have seen the film as well. Being so successful, the film had a huge impact. As had occurred during many dramatic periods in Gandhi's life, the impact led to a new wave of books. New editions of his autobiography, of other previously published books and many new titles, appeared during the 1980s. Through the film and books, the present generation of social reform activists became influenced by Gandhi as well. So strong was the interest that had been sparked by the film, several new organisations were formed in the West to promote awareness of Gandhi's life and message. In fact, Mr. Attenborough, who has become Sir Richard Attenborough, is the President of a new British organisation, The Gandhi Foundation, in London.