The movie behind the Mahatma
Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi is a beautiful lesson module on the life of Gandhi.
Richard Attenborough’s death brings to mind the fact that we, as a people, and the Indian Government, have failed to appreciate him for making a movie on Gandhi. Conferring an award is not enough. We should have done something for the Englishman who dared to show the atrocities committed by the British on the Indians. But more importantly what the movie did was to tell the world about a sustainable means for building peace across borders. Though he did not use the word ‘non-violence’, Attenborough conveyed it through the movie.
Dramatising history and teaching history are both different from exploring history. Attenborough beautifully evolved a lesson module in the form of his movie, by exploring values for peace based on the life of Gandhi. Though the movie was titled Gandhi, the effort was to convey the eternal truth found in the holy books of all religions.
I have heard from many corners of the world that people’s lives have changed after watching the movie. The movie made a great impact on me as well. In 1982, I was appointed as the secretary of the Chennai-based Gandhi Peace Foundation for a consolidated salary of Rs.500 a month. I got this job after finishing my B.E. Chemical Engineering degree in 1973. I had my way like this for the simple reason that I could not be exploited by ‘profit making’ companies and I liked being a full-time propagator of Gandhian ideals among the youth. When the movie was released, the first thing I did was to spend a month’s salary to take 30 residents of my neighbourhood for the movie.
In these 40 years of trying to spread the Mahatma’s ideals, I looked for support from educational institutions and governments, unfortunately no one extended support except a few individuals and schools. I wonder why, in this country that got freedom through non-violence, it is not given its due. I am careful to say that we got our freedom not only by violence. Using a weapon of non-violence made history, which is acknowledged and portrayed in many parts of the world. So, why have we failed to promote non-violence as a policy in our personal dealings? Why has it not been brought into our educational curriculum? Why is it not a part of our economic and political policies?
If it must be done, we cannot do so omitting Gandhi’s life history and the role he played in the freedom movement; it must be brought into the syllabus.
People complain that today’s youth have no values, and that there is no provision in schools and colleges by which students can learn values. Truth being the central point of all values, studying Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth would be the right entry point. And Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi is the perfect choice to help the younger generation understand their purpose in society.
The release of the movie was a great boon to my mission. Screening the movie and showing its clippings were a part of all the programmes of Gandhi Peace Foundation. Cannot the movie be made a part of our National Educational Curriculum? Should not the Government institute an award in the name of Attenborough to filmmakers who depict alternative peaceful lifestyles? Why not also announce the highest national award from the Indian Government for Richard Attenborough?