Mahatma Gandhi was not just the biggest figure in Indian independence movement, he was also the face of it to the rest of the world. His philosophies of non-violence, civil disobedience and a will of steel helped obliterate the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. Many renowned filmmakers have tried to portray him on the big screen, some with more success than the others. On his birthday today, here is the list of five top movies that were made on him. There is no particular order, but Richard Attenborough’s Ben Kingsley starrer Gandhi will always be on top.
1. Gandhi (1982): Iconic British filmmaker Richard Attenborough’s dream project, Gandhi catapulted a little known Indian-origin British actor Ben Kingsley to the list of one of the best known actors in the world. An emphateic portrayal, Gandhi was the first serious project attempted on the great man. With a confident, getting-into-the-skin performance by Kingsley and sharp, focused direction by Attenborough, Gandhi was a humongous commercial and critical success and went on to win an incredible eight Oscars, including the most coveted ones: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. This is the definitive Mahatma Gandhi film.
2. Gandhi my Father (2007): Directed by the well-known theatre personality Feroz Abbas Khan, Gandhi My Father explored the fraught relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his son Harilal Gandhi. Based on Harilal’s biography, Gandhi My Father was lauded for its direction and performances, especially Darshan Jariwala’s effective portrayal of the great man himself. The film was well-received and went on to win three National Film Awards.
3. Hey Ram (2000): A Kamal Haasan project, Hey Ram starred Haasan and Shah Rukh Khan, two of the biggest superstars in Indian cinema. The title of the film derives from the words spoken by Mahatma Gandhi in his dying moments. This film was about the political and religious divisions surrounding the Partition and a story of two friends hailing from different religious backgrounds and how the unfolding events affected them. Naseeruddin Shah portrayed Gandhi and it was an amazing performance.
4. Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006): If there is one movie that made Gandhi’s philosophy and ideas palatable to young Indians, it was this film. This film gave the tapori spin to Gandhism and called it Gandhigiri. Although Mahatma in the film was only a hallucination of the gangster Munna Bhai but he was effective nonetheless in transforming the hardened criminal to a devotee of non-violence.
5. The Making of the Mahatma (1996)
Directed by ace filmmaker Shyam Benegal, this film is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s time in South Africa where he had a practice as a barrister. That was before he came to India and joined the independence movement. It is well-known that the Mahatma’s years in South Africa shaped his character and hardened his resolve to overthrow the British empire and this film does explain it very well. Rajit Kapur, better known as the original Byomkesh Bakshi, starred as Gandhi and got a National Award. The film also won the National Award for Best Feature Film in English (yes, the film was shot in English language).