Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning biopic on the Mahatma, continues to hold its magic for those involved in its making, even 30 years after it was first shot in various cities of India.
New York-based film critic Aseem Chhabra who enacted one of the “front-line” extras in the film, “Gandhi” reminisces about the cold freezing morning of Delhi in December 1980, where the film was being made.
“It was Attenborough’s hugely ambitious project and we were excited to be cast as front-line extras. We were given our costumes, white pyjama kurtas and a large group of us were bussed from Ashoka Hotel to a small railway station near Faridabad which doubled as the Sabarmati station,” Chhabra told PTI over phone.
In December 1982, as a student at Columbia’s journalism school, Aseem Chhabra said his “heart leapt out” he saw “Gandhi” at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld theatre in the company of his Indian friends.
“I worked for four days for Rs 75 a day and earned Rs 300 on the sets. But, even 30 years later, my heart still skips a beat everytime I see myself on screen, as being practically immortalised as part of this immortal classic,” said Aseem Chhabra, who now also runs the New York Indian Film Festival.
Pablo Bartholomew, Aseem Chhabra’s classmate from Delhi’s Modern School and now a renowned photographer, also recalls the “phenomenal experience,” of working for Attenborough’s film.
Bartholomew was the stills man with the second unit of the the British director Attenbourgh’s production team.
“It was great working under the likes of Attenborough. He was a true professional and wanted perfect shots. His style gave us so many things to learn on the sets, in terms of shooting a film as well as well as working with brilliant international team that he had put together for this magnum opus of his,” Pablo Bartholomew said.
The over three-hour film was shot on different locations in India, in cities like Delhi, Bombay (now Mumbai), Pune, and Patna among others.
Actor Ben Kingsley debut as the Mahatma won him an Academy Award in the Best Actor category, while the film won eight Oscars altogether including Best Picture and Best Director.
Fifty-something Robin Tekari in Patna still fondly recalls “playing golf with ‘Gandhi’” at the city’s colonial-era Golf Club.
“You recall the famous Koelwar Bridge scene in the film near Ara town. That time the cast and crew were staying in a famous hotel in Patna. I ran into Kingsley there (Patna), who had asked me if he and some of his crew members could play golf somewhere.
“Since, I am an continued…