GANDHI, the dream project of Richard Attenborough released in late 1982 has its own reputed place in the World cinema due to its huge canvas, incredible detailing and incomparable performances including a long list of talented names both in the English and Hindi version (in the form of dubbed voices).
However for me the film has a different kind of memory associated as GANDHI was the first English film I watched in the theatre and that too as an educational show organized by our school GHPS (Vasant Vihar) at Chanakya theatre situated along a trendy market in Chanakya Puri in South Delhi.
Incidentally (the now defunct) Chanakya was also (probably) the first theatre in Delhi to introduce the concept of dual-language screenings with English and Hindi films running at different show timings in the same day. And I later got introduced to many famous English hits and Jackie Chan movies too through Chanakya cinema only in the 80s (should write about it in details in a different article).
Coming back to GANDHI, I was in 5th standard at that time and students of class 5th to 12th were taken for the show in a fleet of school buses like an exciting fun trip, which eventually turned out to be something entirely different ending on a sour note.
At that point of time, we only had some information about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi referred as Father of the Nation with reference to the Indian freedom struggle but had no idea of anything else about the history or other details of his unique persona, taking the movie as nothing more than a rare recreational outing offered by the strict school authorities after a long time.
However as the film began, the fun was nowhere to be found and after the initial calm moments there was restlessness all over the theatre with sounds of talks, giggling and more increasing with every passing minute. Frankly I do not remember even a single scene of the film from that particular screening but only recall some visuals of Ben Kingsley active on screen and paper planes flying all over the theatre started by the seniors sitting in the top rows (balcony) all of a sudden.
The paper planes were made from the pamphlets distributed among the students giving some important information about the film and after 10 minutes or so probably every single pamphlet was flying in the air creating an electrifying but seriously tense atmosphere within the theatre.
Vaguely remember that the screening was stopped for a while, a loud and angry instruction was heard for a minute and then the film started again completely failing to impress or engross the mischievously excited students for the next two hours. At the end we all returned to the buses with our heads down.
Now fondly recalling the event after more than three decades, I realize that a certain movie, book or poetry makes the much desirable impact on a person or mind, only when shown or read at the right age and time hitting the right note.
Interestingly both GANDHI and CHANAKYA are the two key personalities from our Indian history, though relating to contrastingly different eras and thought processes.
(Will share more about Chanakya and the experience of watching both English and Hindi films together in the next part of this series soon….. )