When actors prepare
Mahatma Gandhi has been the subject of many films and plays. DeepaGahlot looks at the variety of actors who have portrayed the Mahatma.entertainment Updated: Aug 02, 2007 19:40 IST
The most famous Gandhi actor, however, remains Sir Richard Attenborough's Ben Kingsley.
He had said in an interview, back in 1982, "People think if you play a man like Gandhi, somehow it rubs off on you. They were convinced I must have evolved spiritually I didn't. I worked my socks off, learned my lines, lost a lot a lot of weight and acquired probably the most eccentric set of mannerisms ever seen on screen. I had no time to evolve spiritually."
Preparation for the part invariably involves reading Gandhi's Experiments with Truth, seeing a whole of documentary footage, and losing weight. But the image of the real Mahatma is so powerful, that a 6'2" tall, and well-built Boman Irani had to go through hoops to pull off the role convincingly in Feroz Khan's play Mahatma Vs Gandhi?
The actor thought Khan was playing a "cruel joke" by offering him the part. But once he was on stage, nobody noticed how tall and bulky (despite losing 18 kg) he was!
"There was no one way of preparing for Gandhi," says Irani. "I met a Kasturba-Bhakti Barve, who had played the part in the play's Marathi version. She gave me some amazing insights, I liked the technique of seeing the role from another character's point of view."
It was Naseeruddin Shah's dream to play Gandhi. After he narrowly missed out being cast by Sir Richard, he played Gandhi in the play Mahatma Vs Gandhi, and also in Kamal Haasan's Hey Ram.
Atul Kulkarni, who made a very convincing Gandhi in Chandrakant Kulkarni's Gandhi Viruddh Gandhi, learnt to use the charkha, apart from the usual research of studying film footage and books.
"And you know what, " he says. "I found this therapeutic. If you see clips of Gandhi, you see that even during huge conferences, he used to be spinning away-it probably helped him concentrate. Using the charkha requires perfect mind-body coordination."
Rajit Kapur, who played a young Gandhi in Shyam Benegal's The Making of the Mahatma, says, "There's too much focus on the make-up and outward appearance.
Frequently, the actor ends up looking like a cardboard cut-out. I think the physical features don't matter as much as the mind frame and attitude."