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The Making of the Mahatma (1996)

07 Aug

198614 The Making of the Mahatma (1996) is one of my current crop of DVDs from Surry Hills Library, and sad to say the most notable thing about it is that it is very, very long. It could quite easily have been one hour shorter with very little loss, and possibly much gain.

One of two feuding Mohammedan cousins living in Britain but of Indian origin seek the assistance of an Indian Barrister to travel to Britain and settle their matter in a court of law. The Barrister travels to Britain, and finds that all Asians are treated as coolies, and their status is worse than of servants. Despite of being dressed in a suit and a tie, he is thrown out of a first class train compartment; is asked to remove his cap in a court of law; asked to ride with the driver of the coach; and even shoved out on the footpath for daring to walk close to a bureaucrat’s premises; beaten, and abused with no recourse to any justice. His attempts to grieve these issues is met with strong governmental and bureaucratic disapproval and opposition. Notwithstanding this, he settles the dispute between the two cousins out of court, and sets about trying to organize the local Asians to assert their rights, and even represents some of them in Court. Then he journeys to Durban, South Africa, where yet another struggle is taking place against the native Africans and the emigrant Asian community. This is where this young man summons his wife, and three children, and this is where he decides to garner support of the oppressed community to improve the lot of all people, and this is where he will find that though the laws are on his side – the people who interpret them, and legislators are opposed to any kind of fair or equal treatment that this young Barrister was asking for. The young Barrister will then re-locate to India to continue his struggle against the British – and he will soon be known and acknowledged by the world as — Mahatma Gandhi. — from the IMDB database.

It is a curiosity, a South Africa/India coproduction. There are plenty of good moments, one outstanding one being an early scene where Gandhi is thrown off the train to Pretoria — at the station — because he as a “coolie” dared to ride in the compartment for which he had purchased a ticket. It also fleshes out part of Gandhi’s life that was rushed over when I studied Indian History; we were told something or other in South Africa, but the truth is he was there for 21 years and that experience was crucial. So I am glad I saw the movie. On the other hand, they must have suffered some budget constraints, I suspect; some parts seemed amateurish, given the stature of some of those involved in making the movie.

It is a good supplement to the better known epic Gandhi.

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Posted by on August 7, 2008 in Africa, film and dvd, History, movies, South Asian

 

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