Mar 21, 2017

Gandhi (The movie)

[Img:Gandhi Movie | Src:IMDB] 
Watched parts of the movie 'Gandhi' on TV couple of weekends ago. Channel surfing in a lazy afternoon, I unexpectedly came across Ben Kingsley getting thrown out onto a railway station platform. The movie is a staple for Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanthi - as a country, we have long forgotten Sarvodaya Day - that I wondered why it was being telecast in March. Aha - Oscars weekend!

Naturally, an epic movie like 'Gandhi' spanning decades has so many major events to grapple with. But it is the care given to small moments that really makes the movie worthwhile. The grand scenes - Gandhi getting thrown out of the train, Dandi march,  Jalian Wala Bagh, Assassination etc - with sweeping camera angles and that oh-so-sensitive music are utterly captivating, no doubt. But then, there are these fleeting shots that totally pack a punch, that gives a human touch to the movie.

There is a fantastic short story by Satyajit Ray about an actor's cameo.  The scene lasts two seconds on the screen, but the actor tries hard to make it memorable.  In that spirit, here are a few bits that even on the third viewing amazes me.

* In the early scenes in South Africa, a policeman escorts Gandhi from the prison to meet General Smuts. When the General releases Gandhi after the meeting and he walks out, watch out for the policeman's expression. The 'What the hell!' followed by  'He got released?' and then, 'If that's what you want...,' flashing wordlessly on his face.

* CF Andrews on the roof of the train is hilarious. The Indian passenger says, with an utmost polite and friendly demeanor,  'I know a Christian. She  drinks blood.'  Charlie is clearly taken aback. Then clarity dawns when the man explains, 'Every Sunday.' Ian Charleson's acting is subtly marvelous.

* Jinnah introduces Nehru to Gandhi with a, 'And you know Mr. Nehru.' We see Nehru for the first time in his Indian attire. Kingsley pauses before acknowledging the introduction, 'I am beginning to know him.' Even better is the scene where Andrews sees Gandhi for the first time in his minimal attire. 'Did they take away your clothes?' he asks in shock. What an impressive little detail that makes us pause to acknowledge the transformation.

* The young British policeman in Champaran who in a symbolic moment arrives at the station to see what the crowd is about and encounters the phenomenon that is Gandhi for the first time. He is clearly way over his head, tries uselessly to assert his superiority and then stomps off in anger when his empty threat doesn't shake Gandhi.

* Nehru's friends signing up to join Gandhi at Champaran. In that sequence, we see first enthusiasm with a little arrogance - 'Our friend from Cambridge told us you might need help,' then there is playfulness when Gandhi warns them the task could take months - 'We don't have any pressing engagements,'  and then seriousness and silent determination when they are warned of the dangers.

* The suited up Jinnah coldly surveying Gandhi after the decision for the general strike and Jinnah's driver's exasperated - 'he prefers to walk,' manages to convey the difference in the personalities of the two men better than what a thousand words could do.

As always, I grew fidgety once we arrived at the Indian Independence and changed channels before the scenes of partition. 

March 21, 2017