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Richard Attenborough
Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud
Writing Credits:
John Briley

Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence.

Box Office:
$22 million.
Opening Weekend
$131,153 on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 191 min.
Price: $19.96
Release Date: 2/17/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Attenborough
• Introduction from Director Richard Attenborough
• “Gandhi’s Legacy” Picture-in-Graphics Track
• “In Search of Gandhi” Featurette
• “Looking Back” Featurette
• “Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad” Featurette
• “Reflections on Ben” Featurette
• “Shooting an Epic in India” Featurette
• “The Funeral” Featurette
• “Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi” Featurette
• “From the Director’s Chair” Featurettes
• Vintage Newsreel Footage
• “The Making of Gandhi” Photo Montage
• “The Words of Mahatma Gandhi”


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Gandhi [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 4, 2017)

Regular readers may recall my occasional rants about Oscar injustices, and 1982 remains the worst in my mind. In that era, I absolutely adored ET the Extra-Terrestrial. Although I feel less strongly about it today, it reigned as my all-time favorite film for a number of years, and it still maintains a special place for me.

As such, its failure to snag the Best Picture award at the Oscars galled me. In a fit of 15-year-old pique, I even threw my balled-up sock at the TV screen.

This outrage wasn’t based on ignorance, as I saw all five of the 1982 Best Picture nominees prior to the awards. This means I didn’t develop a knee-jerk reaction against Gandhi simply due to the competition between it and ET.

Actually, I thought Gandhi was a fairly decent film when I saw it theatrically. Nonetheless, not for a second did I feel it merited such high endorsement from the Academy, especially not compared to the delights of ET.

Not surprisingly, Gandhi tells the story of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, here portrayed by Ben Kingsley. While basically biographical in nature, the movie doesn’t follow a standard line.

After a quick glimpse of Gandhi’s demise and funeral, we go back to 1893, at which time Gandhi was 24 years old and a young lawyer. The film skips about after that, as it stays on a chronological route, but it doesn’t attempt to proceed along a complete path.

Instead, the movie focuses on Gandhi’s civil rights campaign, as he works to remove the British domination of India and allow the inhabitants the right to determine their own destinies. No matter how hard the authorities try to quiet Gandhi and his followers, he remains set on his course and will not deviate from it one iota.

At its heart, Gandhi tells an excellent story, especially for those of us born long after Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. It’s fascinating and enlightening to watch the power of one man and his determination, and the case can be made for Gandhi as one of the century’s most powerful and influential figures.

Unfortunately, as directed by Richard Attenborough, Gandhi is little more than a dry and slow-paced sequence of the Mahatma’s greatest hits. I won’t fault the film for its length, as even at 190 minutes, it still seems too short to contain the full tale of the man. However, the flick takes such a pompous and distanced attitude toward the material that it never delivers much of the power behind the man and his work.

As I watched Gandhi, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between it and David Lean’s 1962 classic, Lawrence of Arabia. The films bear many similarities, from their epic scopes to the basic storylines that look at men who tried to influence the destinies of nations.

Both also begin with the main characters’ deaths, though they quickly launch back toward earlier material and work forward chronologically from there. Gandhi continues until we see the opening sequence repeated, while Lawrence ends with the main character’s spiritual death but doesn’t progress toward his physical demise.

Gandhi attempts to cover a lot more chronological territory than Lawrence. The former goes over 55 years, while the latter stays in a fairly concentrated frame.

Despite the differences, the similarities are more than enough to seem less than coincidental. While it appears likely that Attenborough borrowed some superficial tones from Lean, he failed to capitalize on his predecessor’s liveliness.

Gandhi virtually defines the notion of the noble but bland epic. The film progresses on such a deliberate and plodding pace that it quickly becomes tiresome and flat, two attributes that should not have been associated with Gandhi’s story.

Much of the problem stems from the lack of nuance and shading seen during the film, as everything’s told in degrees of black and white. Almost no negative sides are attached to Gandhi himself, and even his followers have very few overt flaws.

When we do see mistakes on their part, they exist mainly to point out Gandhi’s perfection. On the other hand, the British oppressors never emerge as anything other than baddies. Almost to a man, they’re violent, nasty and small-minded.

As such, Gandhi becomes an extremely one-sided battle between good and evil. That’s fine for fantasy stories, but when the tale is taken from real life, the lack of distinction feels very unsatisfying.

Part of the beauty of Lawrence is that it presents its hero as such a flawed and believable person. He was no deity and he had as many missteps as he did triumphs.

In Gandhi, however, we see virtually no faults, and there’s also weak character development. Other than the title role, all of the others get very little exposition. Even the parts that continue through the film usually feel like little more than walk-on cameos.

Gandhi himself barely changes through the movie. Early in the piece, he suffers from discrimination while on a train, and that one event apparently sets the rest of his life in place.

From that moment on, he follows the same path and never shows signs of doubt, fear, or any other realistic attitudes. Truly, he becomes a god in the eyes of the filmmakers.

Clearly a lot more depth could have been developed. Toward the end of the film, we learn that Gandhi and his wife haven’t been intimate in years, and truth be told, he seems to be a pretty crummy husband.

However, we gather all these tones through inference. When the movie even remotely casts aspersions on Gandhi’s character - he potentially could seem cold, distant, or smug at times – these come off in a way to make the other characters look bad. When his wife rebels against some of his single-minded demands, she’s the one who comes off poorly, not him.

To be certain, Gandhi was a great man. I won’t argue against that notion for a second, and the movie is able to convey the positivity of his message and his goals. However, I think it needs greater balance.

Kingsley won an Oscar for his work here, and while he does a nice impersonation of the Mahatma, I feel his portrayal ultimately fails because he also can’t convey the depth of the character. Even with a script that deifies Gandhi, Kingsley could have allowed greater nuance and personality to emerge. Instead, he becomes a 20th century Jesus, except many movies show Jesus as a more three-dimensional and realistic figure.

Attenborough’s drab direction doesn’t help matters. As I noted in my review of Lawrence, that was the first older movie I ever saw that really lit a fire under me. I thought of “classics” as being stodgy and tame, but Lean displayed marvelous flair and life throughout that brilliant piece.

Attenborough does exactly the opposite in Gandhi. It’s a bland and conservative piece that never once portrays its subject with vivacity or spark.

Instead, it hopes that the grandness of its subject and the grandeur of its sets and thousands of participants will be enough. They’re not. Gandhi comes across as less than the sum of its parts.

We see scads of different characters and situations, but they all blend into one - there’s another jail term, here’s another hunger strike. As a person, Gandhi deserves the highest of accolades and praise. As a film, Gandhi is a pompous, overbearing and dull piece that rarely does its subject justice.

Trivia time: yes, that was Daniel Day-Lewis you saw. Hmm… perhaps my animosity toward Gandhi results from his character: he plays a racist street thug named Colin.

And yes, you also witnessed Cheers’ John Ratzenberger in a very small role. However, you didn’t hear his voice, as someone else clearly dubbed his lines, a move that now seems unintentionally amusing.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus A-

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

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main