Aug 30, 2013

[Movies] Gandhi (1982)

Well, it's the last Friday of August and the end of my series of birthday-related movie reviews. This modest celebration of 1982 was certainly a fun blogging experience and one that I can't quite repeat in future years, mainly because I think I've already covered the movies that I liked from this year.

But one cannot call a mini-celebration of 1982 complete without revisiting the movie Gandhi, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, among others awards. And it's a truly great film - one that I've seen more than a few times over the years. One can argue whether the success of the movie is more due to Gandhi's greatness as an individual or perhaps the sheer artistry that went into its production. Thankfully I think it's really more of both, given these diverse elements need to come together in order to make any biographical story work.

And this movie truly deserves all the praises it has garnered over the years. I can't get over how much this movie moved me.

Synopsis: Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The movie was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough with a screenplay by John Briley. It won eight out of 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.

This story begins at the end - with a recreation of the moment when Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) was assassinated on January 30, 1948. After his evening prayers, he is shot at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse. From there we flashback to his life, starting with when he thrown off of a South African train back in 1893. And the reason for this - simply being Indian. Sure he had a ticket for the first-class cabin but that was not reason enough for his rights to be respected.

This leads him to his first non-violent protest against such injustice, and he eventually manages to get some compromises from the South Africa government to benefit the Indians there. His success in South Africa leads to him being invited back to India to help with an even greater challenge - helping India win its independence from the British Empire. And he eventually agrees to do this, and thus leads and inspires Indians all around the country to join in his non-violent, non-co-operation campaign to protest against the continued British occupation of their country.

The movie actually starts with a statement from the filmmakers - "No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man..."

It's an interesting disclaimer of sorts that really should reflect any movie that attempts to tell the story of a person's life. The movie is just an approximation of what happened - one that is filtered through the eyes of the filmmakers themselves. We get to see a perspective of the famous figure - and the moments of his or her life that are selected for the movie reflect the decisions of the filmmakers to present certain facts. This is not a bad thing in itself provided they have a careful and critical eye for such things and in the end assemble a good story.

Ben Kingsley's performance at the center of all this is beyond brilliant. The man is a true artist as was the perfect casting choice to bring this great man to life on the big screen. The make-up did not seem forced or too much to me. In the end he was Gandhi, without a doubt. And the movie still brings me to tears because of just how brilliant he was in this role.

The movie is rather long at 187 minutes, although by current movie standards that seems to be par for the course already. But over the course of this truly epic tale, we are presented with a rather intimate look at the life of a man who changed the lives for so many people, and I'm not just talking about Indians. On the whole he's a man who has inspired many other people to greatness, and this movie truly does him justice.

Gandhi is one of the Oscar-winning movies that I truly, truly respect and love. It's a great film that everyone should take the time to watch at least once in your life - but that will probably have you wanting to see it again. So I'm happy to end my birthday month with a solid 5-star rating for this great film.

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