Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Gandhi (1982)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Gandhi (1982, UK)

In director Richard Attenborough's Best Picture-winning biopic about India's spiritual and political leader in the 20th century:

  • the opening sequence of 79 year-old Mahatma Gandhi's (Ben Kingsley) sudden shooting assassination by bystander Nathuram Godse (Harsh Nayyar) who shot him in the chest at close range in late January 1948 - including his subsequent flower-draped corpse for his funeral procession (one of the most massive scenes ever filmed), attended by large numbers of worshippers; one Commentator (Shane Rimmer) remarked: "The object of this massive tribute died as he had always lived: A private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office. Mahatma Gandhi is not the commander of armies nor a ruler of vast lands. He could not boast any scientific achievement or artistic gift. Yet men, governments, dignitaries from all over the world have joined hands today to pay homage to this little brown man in the loincloth who led his country to freedom. In the words of General George C. Marshall, the American Secretary of State: 'Mahatma Gandhi has become the spokesman for the conscience of all mankind. He was a man who made humility and simple truth more powerful than empires.' And Albert Einstein added: 'Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.'"
Gandhi's Funeral Procession - and Commentary
  • the many flashbacks of his life including Gandhi, a British-trained attorney, given racist treatment in 1893 when he was traveling in a compartment on a South African Railways train to Pretoria with a first-class ticket, and was asked: "Just what are you doing in this car, coolie?...There are no coloured attorneys in South Africa"; when Gandhi resisted, he was threatened: "Just move your black ass back to third class or I'll have you thrown off at the next station" - and he was literally dumped off at the next station
  • the sequence of another issue with racial discrimination when Gandhi escorted Rev. Charlie Andrews (Ian Charleson) from India along the street, and they were confronted by three white racist bullies, including young thug Colin (a young Daniel Day-Lewis); Gandhi bravely assured the Reverend as they were confronted by the gang with words from the New Testament: "Doesn't the New Testament say: 'If your enemy strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the left?'...I have thought about it a great deal and I suspect He meant you must show courage, be willing to take a blow, several blows, to show you will not strike back, nor will you be turned aside. And when you do that, it calls on something in human nature, something that makes his hatred for you decrease and his respect increase. I think Christ grasped that, and I have seen it work"; when he came upon the youth face-to-face, he asserted: "You'll find there's room for us all"
  • the scene of Gandhi's informal interview with NY Times reporter Vince Walker (Martin Sheen) during a visit to Gandhi's humble and diverse ashram (community), when Gandhi asserted his philosophy about resisting unjust laws: "There are unjust laws as there are unjust men"; when Walker queried: "You're a small minority to take on the South African government not to mention the British Empire," Gandhi predictably replied: "If you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth"
  • the sequence of Gandhi's rousing speech in which he advocated non-violent resistance to unjust South African laws: "...In this cause, I too am prepared to die. But, my friend, there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill. Whatever they do to us, we will attack no one, kill no one. But we will not give our fingerprints, not one of us. They will imprison us. They will fine us. They will seize our possessions. But they cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.... I am asking you to fight. To fight against their anger, not to provoke it. We will not strike a blow. But we will receive them. And through our pain, we will make them see their injustice. And it will hurt as all fighting hurts. But we cannot lose. We cannot. They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then, they will have my dead body, not my obedience. (applause) We are Hindu and Muslim, children of God, each one of us. Let us take a solemn oath in His name that, come what may, we will not submit to this law"
  • in a London conference Gandhi's harsh words against the British government represented by Mr. Kinnoch (Nigel Hawthorne), arguing for the British to leave India in order to establish Indian independence: "If you will excuse me, Your Excellency, it is our view that matters have gone beyond legislation. We think it is time you recognized that you are masters in someone else's home. Despite the best intentions of the best of you, you must, in the nature of things, humiliate us to control us....It is time you left...I beg you to accept that there is no people on Earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power...In the end you will walk out because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians if those Indians refuse to cooperate. And that is what we intend to achieve. Peaceful, nonviolent noncooperation till you yourself see the wisdom of leaving, Your Excellency"
  • the sequence of the brutal Amritsar Massacre in 1919, when troops of the British Indian Army commanded by Colonel Reginald Dyer (Edward Fox) fired their rifles into a crowd of Indians, assembled to peacefully protest, for about 10 minutes
The Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh,
Amritsar, India, April 1919
  • the historical depiction of speeches during the nonviolent "non-cooperation campaign," around 1921, when first Gandhi's wife Kasturba (Rohini Hattangady) and then Gandhi spoke - he exhorted Indians to burn English cloth as a protest: ("To gain independence we must prove worthy of it. There must be Hindu-Muslim unity always. Second: No Indian must be treated as the English treat us. We must remove untouchability from our hearts and from our lives. Third: We must defy the British. Not with violence that will inflame their will, but with a firmness that will open their eyes. English factories make the cloth that makes our poverty. All those who wish to make the English see bring me the cloth from Manchester and Leeds that you wear today and we will light a fire that will be seen in Delhi and in London. And if, like me, you are left with only one piece of homespun, wear it with dignity")
  • the sequence depicting the 1930 protest against the British-imposed salt tax with the highly symbolic Salt March and its subsequent beating by British police of hundreds of nonviolent protesters in Dharasana, witnessed and reported by NYT journalist Walker by phone: "'They walked both Hindu and Muslim alike with heads held high without any hope of escape from injury or death. It went on and on into the night.' Stop. 'Women carried the wounded and broken bodies from the road until they dropped from exhaustion.' Stop. 'But still, it went on and on. Whatever moral ascendancy the West held was lost here today. India is free for she has taken all that steel and cruelty can give and she has neither cringed nor retreated'"
The Salt March's Beating of Protestors
  • after religious tensions erupted when the Partition of India occurred, Gandhi (considered "the father of the nation"), declared a hunger strike, saying he would not eat until the fighting stopped ("An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind...If we obtain our freedom by murder and bloodshed, I want no part of it....And I will fast as a penance for my part in arousing such emotions. And I will not stop until they stop...If I die, perhaps they will stop")

Gandhi's Assassination: "Oh God"

Gandhi Questioned on Train For Traveling With Ticket in First-Class Compartment

"Move your black ass back to third class..."

Dumped at Train Station

Gandhi to Bullies: "You'll find there's room for us all"

With NYT Reporter Vince Walker

Speech: "We will not submit to this law"

To the British government: "It is time you left"

"We must defy the British..."

Bonfire of British Cloth

News of Riots - Gandhi's Declaration of Hunger Strike Penance

Gandhi - Weakened and Fasting


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