• Golden Globe Awards

Out of the Archives: Ben Kingsley on Playing Gandhi

Ben Kingsley won two Golden Globes in 1983, as New Star of the Year and as best actors in a drama for Gandhi directed by Richard Attenborough. In 1982 he talked to the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press about playing the charismatic Indian leader.
“Gandhi is one of the historical figures that have always attracted me like a magpie, but I didn’t know a lot about him, just the famous silhouette of the thin man, with the dhoti and the bamboo stick. I had no idea that, as a young man, he was really a dapper brown Englishman, with his waltzing lessons and his violin lessons. So, I had to do a lot of research.”
“Gandhi was the most intelligent and definitely the strongest man that I have ever played in my life and, therefore, in trying to flesh out that silhouette, one has to fill it with strength. And playing Gandhi has actually left me with a little bit more courage, less fear, and less impediments between me and other people, which will help my work and my life as well.”
“My grandfather came from Gujerat, India, which, coincidentally, is the same state that Gandhi came from, and this was a piece of information that possibly helped me as an actor and as a human being, but really helped the Indian people to respond more kindly to a Shakespearean actor from England playing Mahatma Gandhi. When they heard that there was some link, however distant, between me and their country, it eased their hearts and they were very encouraging and welcoming.”
“There was something in the British sensibility that Gandhi was aware of, because he was educated in England and also brought up amongst the English-speaking South Africans, so he had an affection for his adversary. England was never the hated enemy.”
“Playing the father of modern India one has to find a rapport with that country and develop an affection for it. I had to understand the architecture of Indian society, its solid stratified layers that haven’t changed for 2,000 years.”
“There is a certain level of information that only India can offer in terms of compressed, condensed humanity. You can learn more about humanity in a day in India than you can in 10 years anywhere else in the world. Therefore, after six months in India, I felt as though I had been there for about five years, and that information, that I am still digesting and sorting out for myself, has had an effect and given me a perspective on how I see the world.”
“I do not see as an incompatibility between Los Angeles, the extreme western counterpart of some of the poorer parts of India, and a village outside of New Delhi. Having been to India, I now see a direct undeniable connection between those two places. I no longer feel that they do not belong to the same planet. I now totally appreciate that there is a pattern that connects us all, and that’s what India has taught me.”