Introduction to Gandhi and
the Film that Bears his Name
Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi is probably one of the greatest men in history.
Mahatma means “great
Soul” and is a title of respect.
Gandhi was born in 1969 to Hindu parents in the state of
in Western India.
law in England and returned to India to become the foremost social reformer.
He is best known for his belief in Ahimsa, the practice of no harm, non-violence, and non-injury
to any living thing.
Martin Luther King, Jr. followed Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.
Gandhi is also credited for abolishing untouchables as a category of people.
He coined the term
, meaning “children of God” to refer to them.
Today they prefer the name
the oppressed ones.
Gandhi wanted three things:
(1) Independence of India from British rule; (2) peace
and brotherhood between Muslims and Hindus; and, (3) reform in the treatment of women.
Director - Richard Attenborough
Featured Actors: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John
Mills, Martin Sheen. .
This movie is a biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the saint and Indian social reformer. Gandhi was
assassinated in 1948 by a conspiracy of fundamentalist Hindus who were disturbed by his efforts to
reform Indian society and to promote Hindu-Moslem brotherhood.
Gandhi would neither countenance the subjugation of his people nor demean himself by hurting another
human being. To reconcile these moral imperatives, he used nonviolent civil disobedience to force
governments to change their policies and to achieve independence for India. Nonviolent civil
disobedience has been adopted by movements seeking social change or revolution in many parts of the
world, first by the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and then by revolutions in the
Philippines, Russia and other places.
Gandhi also campaigned for Hindu/Muslim brotherhood, against oppression of the untouchables, and for
reform in the treatment of women. He is personally responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of
lives in India through fasting which stopped communal rioting. His leadership and example inspired
people and many governments, in India and throughout the world, to a new and higher level of morality.
India and South Africa were British colonies. In the early 20th century the British Empire stretched
across the globe. Until recently South Africa was one of the most segregated societies in the world.
Indians had been brought to South Africa by the British as laborers and merchants. They were set apart
as "coloreds" and given more privileges than blacks but fewer privileges than whites. For example, they
could not ride in first class compartments in trains and could not walk on certain sidewalks. Gandhi was
educated in London and became a lawyer there. When he went to South Africa and saw how his people
were oppressed, he helped to organize a number of successful protests. It was in South Africa that he