Gandhi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, this became a largely solid image.
Sharpness appeared good overall. A few wider shots could seem slightly soft, but the majority of the film offered nice clarity and accuracy. The movie lacks jaggies o shimmering, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to mar the proceedings.
Colors came across as natural and vivid, and they displayed some lovely and warm tones. I saw no signs of bleeding or noise as the hues appeared vibrant and clean. Black levels also seemed to be deep and rich, and shadow detail was clean without any excessive opacity. This was an appealing visual presentation.
I also liked the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Gandhi, especially in regard to its soundfield. Though the mix accentuated the forward channels, it spread the sound cleanly and distinctly across that spectrum.
Both effects and music developed neatly and covered the forward speakers well. At times, the elements seemed to be too “speaker-specific”, and they didn’t blend together terribly well. However, the overall impression of the forward soundfield seemed to be very strong for its era, and the mix added a lot of life to the proceedings.
Surround usage was adequate but more subdued. For the most part, the rear channels worked to reinforce audio heard from the front.
The back channels bolstered the music and effects, and occasionally became more active. For example, some train scenes added a nice level of involvement. As a whole, the surrounds served as junior partners, but they functioned well enough.
Gandhi lost some points due to the quality of the audio, which seemed to be a little drab. Dialogue always remained intelligible and it lacked edginess, but the lines lacked consistently natural tones.
The same qualities affected the soundtrack as a whole, as the entire package lacked much depth or range. At times, some decent bass emerged, such as when a parade loaded a nice rumble. However, most of the film came across as somewhat sterile and thin.
Music and effects were reasonably accurate, but they felt distant. I also detected some distortion from gunshots and a few louder sounds. Overall, the soundtrack of Gandhi was good for its age, but a few iffy elements meant that it wasn’t a great one.
How did this Blu-ray compare to those of the ”25th Anniversary” DVD from 2007? Audio seemed a bit more robust, but not by much, whereas visuals showed better accuracy and clarity. The Blu-ray offered the expected improvements.
Most of the 25th Anniversary set’s extras repeat here, and on Disc One, we find an introduction by director Richard Attenborough. In this one-minute, 24-second clip, Attenborough tells us a little about the production, but he mostly just imparts that he hopes we’ll like it. Don’t expect much from his remarks, though he seems so warm and likable that I wish I enjoyed his movie more than I do.
Disc One also presents an audio commentary from Attenborough. For his running, screen-specific chat, the director discusses the film’s structure, historical topics and the movie’s choices, cast and performances, shooting in India and other locations, consultation with real historical figures and factual concerns, cinematography, problems launching the production, its reception, and other filming details.
Given the movie’s length and Attenborough’s age, I feared that this would end up as a slow, spotty commentary. Happily, the director stays active and informative throughout the film.
Attenborough throws out quite a few good details and provides a nice overview of the production. At times he starts to simply narrate the flick, but those moments are rare.
Instead, Attenborough keeps on task and makes this a nice discussion. Heck, he even states that he thinks ET should have won Best Picture – good for you, Sir Richard!
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, Disc One concludes with Gandhi’s Legacy. If activated, this “picture-in-graphics” track occasionally causes the movie to shrink to about one-third of the TV frame. The rest of the image shows images and text that connect to Gandhi’s life and efforts as well aspects of the society in which he operated and related topics.
“Legacy” works well, as it offers a lot of useful information. It also comes with a helpful interface, one that allows viewers to easily skip to the next page if desired. “Legacy” adds value to this set.
Moving to Disc Two, we find a collection of video programs. With the nine-minute, 26-second In Search of Gandhi, we hear from Attenborough. The director discusses his childhood thoughts about Gandhi and how he came to the project. He also chats about working with the Indians and financial issues.
Attenborough covers some interesting areas – almost all of which we already hear in the commentary. If you don’t listen to that track, then “Search” merits your time, but otherwise you can skip it.
Looking Back goes for 18 minutes, 21 seconds, and includes notes from Attenborough, Craig, executive in charge of production Terence Clegg, director of publicity Diana Hawkins, director of photography Billy Williams, and actors Edward Fox, Geraldine James, and Saeed Jaffrey. The show mostly concentrates on the movie’s reception. We learn about its distribution, reactions to it, awards, and its continued legacy.
I thought “Looking Back” would offer reflections on the production, not opinions of the film 25 years later. This leads to quite a lot of praise, obviously, but at least the show lacks the gushiness typical of this kind of piece. It doesn’t serve much purpose, but it doesn’t grate, at least, which counts as an accomplishment for this genre.
Next comes the nine-minute, 40-second Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad. It features Attenborough and James. The show covers James’ casting, notes about the real Slade and aspects of James’ performance.
The limited focus allows the program to offer decent details. Though not a great piece, “Slade” offers enough content to make it useful.
We look at the lead actor via Reflections on Ben. During this nine-minute, 23-second clip, we hear from Attenborough, Jaffrey, Clegg, Williams and James. The show examines the casting of Ben Kingsley, the actor’s preparation for the role, and his work in the film. A few good notes emerge, but the absence of Kingsley himself harms the piece.
*Shooting an Epic in India fills 17 minutes, 56 seconds with comments from Attenborough, Clegg, Hawkins, Williams, Craig, and Fox. “Epic” examines filming in India and the related challenges as well as Attenborough’s style on the set.
It offers a pretty strong glimpse of various issues. I especially like the notes about protests against the production, and the rest of the show includes good reflections on the appropriate areas. This stands as possibly the disc’s best featurette.
After this we go to The Funeral. The 13-minute, 34-second piece presents remarks from Attenborough, Clegg, Hawkins, James, Jaffrey, Craig, and Williams. This show looks at the recreation of Gandhi’s funeral for the film.
We learn about various aspects of this immense production sequence. “Funeral” covers the topic well as it throws in a number of insights.
The Words of Mahatma Gandhi displays exactly what it implies. In this one-minute, 58-second piece, we see filmed text that show a number of his quotes.
While the material itself is mildly interesting, the presentation seems odd. The text could have fit into part of a booklet, which would have been more efficient than having to wade through the video display. Even still frames would have been more useful.
More compelling are the four bits of Vintage Newsreel Footage. These offer exactly what they claim, as we find film pieces that vary in length; all in all, the disc features 10 minutes, five seconds of material.
These are uniformly interesting, but the last is easily the best of the bunch. Titled “Gandhi Speaks: First Talking Picture Ever Made by India’s Famous Leader”, it provides a short interview with Gandhi while on a hunger strike, and it seems to be the most revealing and compelling of the lot.
Under the “Interviews” banner we find three clips that start with Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi. During this 19-minute, 23-second piece, we indeed hear the actor as he recalls his experiences on the film.
As a whole, Kingsley adds some decent tidbits, but frankly, he comes across as rather full of himself, and this attitude slightly mars the discussion. I also think the program includes far too many clips from the film, as these detract from the issues at hand. Ultimately, this is a reasonably interesting interview at times, but it doesn’t bring a great deal to the table.
Two elements come under the title of From the Director’s Chair. We find “On Casting” (7:03) and “On Music” (2:54).
In these, Attenborough discusses finding various actors and aspects of the flick’s score. Attenborough avoids too much repetition from the commentary and gives us a mix of nice details.
The Making of Gandhi video montage avoids the normal still frame presentation. Instead, we find a five-minute, 23-second running program that shows a mix of images.
Most of them simply represent shots from the movie, but there are also some publicity shots and a few glimpses from the set. The set never reaches a depth implied by its name, and ultimately I think these are fairly dull.
As a movie, Gandhi falls well short of its goals. It glorifies the life of a great man to an unrealistic degree, and it comes across as a dull, stodgy hagiography. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and generally positive audio along with a strong collection of supplements. Gandhi leaves me semi-cold but the Blu-ray represents it well.
To rate this film visit the original review of GANDHI