Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mahatma Gandhi | Sentencing for Sedition | Bombay (1922) #History #Art

The only Rockhouse contact with Gandhi's trial in Bombay for sedition is indirect through the movie, "Gandhi," directed by Richard Attenborough.  There is no count of the number of times the movie has been reviewed whole or in part here but there can't be any more intimate connection with the life and times from this perspective and that's been immensely important to me for multiple reasons.

We know some aspects of the movie were dramatized but forgivably so and one example is the cable Webb sent back to his paper after the heinous assault at the Dharasana Salt Works.  The text of it was modified somewhat and it was extended for an immensely powerful closing statement.  The extension did not really happen but it was honest to the truth of that moment insofar as the West had lost any moral ascendancy from that brutality.

When Mahatma Gandhi faced Mr. Broomfield, I.C.S., District & Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad, in Bombay, the closing piece from the judge is close to verbatim if you will permit some omissions.  The reason for mention of it is the obvious significance to India's history and that of the world and also because the portrayal of it was magnificent.

Possibly actors live to play scenes of that nature since fight scenes, love scenes, or any kind of sweaty scene is great for the bread and butter money but the art of it is underplaying a part such that only the tiniest hint of a smile is revealed.  The confrontation between Gandhi and Broomfield showed exactly that kind of interplay.

Note:  no idea if that's true about the way actors think of such things but it seems possible.

Gandhi showed clearly he knew and understood the role Broomfield must play.  There was also the tiniest signal back from Broomfield that he knew and respected who Gandhi was and what he represented.  Both knew they must play their parts in history in this moment according precisely to the rules within their own frames of reference and each stood up to them magnificently.

It's the closing statement from the judge which sets the scene apart from others and here are the actual words from the trial:

You will not consider it unreasonable, I think, that you should be classed with Mr. Tilak; and that is the sentence two years' simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you. "The Judge added, "if the course of events in India should make it possible for Government  to reduce the period and release you, nobody would be better pleased than I".
    The Judge then rose.  Gandhi bade goodbye to his friends.  Many of them wept but he remained calm and smiling.

    Strangman adds: "So ended the trial.  I confess that I myself was not wholly unaffected by the atmosphere."


Attenborough got a bit interpretive with that but not so much and I don't see any alteration of truth.  The final words of no-one would be better pleased than I were delivered verbatim and Howard was extraordinary.  That alteration may exist in the interplay between Gandhi and Broomfield in the movie but they did it with extraordinary grace and the roles were played by Ben Kingsley and Trevor Howard, respectively.

Note:  I have a nephew named Trevor and some of the Regulars may see why Howard may have been part of the inspiration for that.  I have never asked Queen Bee directly but I'm sure you will see what I mean in watching Howard play Broomfield.

Do you recognize this man?

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