History 2235 1:00
February 21, 2014
The biographical film Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough, starts off with a life changing moment in Gandhi’s life when he is thrown off of a South African train for being an Indian in the first class section. It is at that moment when he realizes that the regulations are prejudiced against Indians and in reply, he chooses to create a non-violent protest movement for the human rights of Indians in South Africa. Although the ruling classes use violence against him, he believes that his protests should be peaceful. After a large number of captures and the undesirable awareness from the public, the South African government finally surrenders by recognizing rights for Indians. Gandhi, who is now considered a nationwide hero, returns back to India and agrees to fight against the British to defend Indian liberation. There are a few obstacles along the way, like violence against the activists and Gandhi’s incarceration, but because of that, the campaign produced much attention and led the British to face pressure. Britain finally granted India’s independence due to the fact that the country was so fragile after WWII and could not continue to enforce its determination in India. Indians are excited by this victory, but the fight is not over. Tensions between Hindus and Muslims increase and create a national disagreement. In response, Gandhi announces a hunger strike until the arguing discontinues. The fighting eventually ends but the country is separated. The eastern and northwestern part of India, where most Muslims reside, becomes a new country called Pakistan. By encouraging Muslims to live in a separate area, people hoped the violence would decrease, but Gandhi didn’t support it. Gandhi spent days trying to bring peace upon the nations, but angered many rebels from both sides, including one who made the decision to assassinate him. Gandhi played a major role in the growth of civil disobedience and peace campaigns. He had many supporters, and instead of using violence and warfare, he taught people how to protest quietly and peacefully. He made a huge difference in the world with his drive to enforce equal rights. In fact, many activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Barrack Obama recognized Gandhi as a foundation of encouragement in their struggles to accomplish equal rights for their people. Many scenes or events in this film impacted me beyond words. At the beginning of the movie on the train, Gandhi is seen dressed as a normal Englishman. As the movie goes on, Gandhi begins to reject the European style of clothes. By removing the western apparel he was used to, he removes the assumption that in order to be prosperous, he must look like a white English man. This was a ground-breaking thing to do because the way a person dressed back then was the only way to indicate a person’s class and education. Clothing also said a lot about the social standing of the person wearing the outfit. Gandhi simply gave up his European clothes because he wanted to dress how his people dressed. Another scene that shocked me was when Gandhi was invited back to India. When Gandhi returns to India, he realizes that Indians have become second-class citizens in their own country. In reaction, he creates a campaign of civil disobedience that is first ignored by the British but grows over time. Sometimes it was dealt with maturely, and other times it was dealt with violence. There is a shocking scene where thousands of Gandhi’s supporters rally forward to be beaten to the ground by British authorities. Through it all, Gandhi preserves a certain disinterestedness; he is convinced that violence and aggression is not the answer and believes that simple ethical example will free his nation. One more scene in the film that left me speechless was the one with him and his wife arguing in the ashram. Usually it is the untouchable’s job to clean the bathrooms but Gandhi insists that his wife does it. She’s obviously taken back and angered at his request but he doesn’t change his mind. This goes to show that Gandhi doesn’t believe that one person is better than another and he practices what he preaches. He proves that no one is perfect and he is very focused on his cause. One aspect about Gandhi’s life that intrigues me is the fact that when he was younger, he seemed like a different person compared to his future self. Although the Gandhi’s were a lower class, they were cultured, middle-class, deeply religious Hindus. When Gandhi was six, he had a difficult time trying to learn how to multiply and would run home in fear the other students might make fun of him. At the age of thirteen, he was a part of an arrangement marriage and the couple was almost too shy to communicate with each other. Although he was an obedient teenager, he eventually experimented with smoking, eating meat, and stealing. When he confessed to stealing gold from one of his brothers, he explained that it was his first insight to the power of nonviolence. After graduating high school, a family friend advised him to travel to England and earn a law degree. Although he preferred medicine, Gandhi was excited by the idea of Europe. During the voyage, Gandhi was unsure of his English and ignored other passengers and avoided the dining hall due to the fact that he didn’t know how to use utensils. He was an aggressive vegetarian and founded a local vegetarian society, which he was elected to the executive committee. He was so shy, others had to read his speeches for him at meetings because he couldn’t speak. Before he was 24 years old, he set sail to South Africa to try his luck. He actually found more than luck; he found his following, his philosophy, and himself. I find it very interesting how this once shy man became a world known activist. He wasn’t born brave, he became brave. He eventually inspired people to have faith in what they believe in and to not fear the consequences. For example, during the civil rights movement in the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. drew from the teachings of Gandhi in the progress of his own theories on nonviolence. Another example is Barrack Obama. When he was in senate, he noted that “Throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington – they will come from the people.” I found this film very interesting because it had showed me things about Gandhi’s life and life in India that I had no idea about. At first I was nervous it would be like any other biographical film, but it proved me wrong and educated me inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve learned that love is much stronger than the fear of punishment. People should be accepted for their character, not their gender or where they come from. Gandhi is still a role model to many people today and is celebrated as a brilliant, nonviolent activist. I highly recommend this film. Not only has it taught me to stand by what I believe it, but it taught me that opening up my mind and thinking critically can lead to inspiring others and changing the world.