On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 153rd birthday on Sunday, acknowledging that his ideas and philosophy are still alive and cinema has in its way promoted it, his life will be brought on screen through several movies.
On the special occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, here’s a list of actors, who have given some memorable performances in films based on the Father of the Nation:
Ben Kingsley in ‘Gandhi’: This definitive biopic of the Mahatma and Richard Attenborough directorial starred Ben Kingsley in an Oscar-winning role and on its release in 1982, became an instant global success. The film followed Gandhi’s journey from South Africa to India where he became a mass leader helming the non-violent, non-cooperative Independence movement against the British.
Interestingly, Naseeruddin Shah had auditioned for this role too but Kingsley got the part and prepared rigorously by reading over 28 books on Gandhi, losing a huge amount of weight and perfecting his Indian accent.
Naseeruddin Shah in ‘Hey Ram’: The veteran actor finally got to play Gandhi in the 2000 Kamal Haasan directorial ‘Hey Ram’, a film about the futility of hate and violence. Even though the role was short, it was poignant and impactful as it shows how any crisis of faith between communities can be overcome through mutual trust and how only non-violence and not hate can transform people for the better.
Interestingly, Bapu’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi also appeared as himself in the film.
Rajit Kapur in ‘The Making of the Mahatma’: In this 1996 Shyam Benegal directorial, Rajit Kapur portrayed Gandhi during the 21 momentous years in South Africa that went on to shape him as a leader who would one day wield such moral power that the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. would be inspired by him.
‘The Making of the Mahatma’, based on Fatima Meer’s book, ‘The Apprenticeship of a Mahatma’, won Rajit Kapur a National Award.
Chirag Vohra in ‘Shobhayatra’: In Zee Theatre’s teleplay ‘Shobhayatra’, Chirag Vohra plays Gandhi but with a difference. Written by Shafaat Khan, the play highlights the loss of idealism that won us our nation’s independence. It depicts a few citizens eager to join a ‘Shobhayatra’ dressed as Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rani Laxmibai and Babu Genu but without really sharing the values of these icons.
Chirag plays Gandhi and his most memorable dialogue in the play is: ‘Manav jaati ek nirnayak mod par aa pahunchi hai’ (The human race has reached a decisive moment) which reminds the audience of how important it is to reconnect with values like non-violence, honesty, truth and courage.
Filmed by Attar Singh Saini and directed for the stage by Ganesh Yadav, ‘Shobhayatra’ will be aired on Gandhi Jayanti on Airtel Theatre and Dish TV & D2H Rangmanch.
Dilip Prabhavalkar in ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’: In this 2006 Raju Hirani directorial, Dilip Prabhavalkar played Gandhi with a genial, witty warmth and won over the hearts of millions of filmgoers. The comedy starring Sanjay Dutt in the lead depicted how virtually any issue in life can be solved by the Gandhian credo of truth-telling, honesty, humanism, and non-violence.
The key moment of the film comes when a goon begins to see Gandhi everywhere and then these interactions transform not just him, but the lives of all those he interacts with. The film won four National Film Awards.