The Case of the Missing Mahatma: Gandhi and the Hindi Cinema
While Gandhi's image is well known in India and throughout the world, mostly in photographs, chromolithographs, and newsreels, there are surprisingly few Indian films about the father of the nation and his role in the national drama, the historic struggle for independence, perhaps the most important event in twentieth-century India. Gandhi made the freedom struggle a popular movement in part through his manipulation of symbols such as khadi, the spinning wheel, and his dress, yet though a prolific writer, he eschewed the new medium of film for promulgating his message. Gandhi appears frequently in costume dramas and in other genres, but the biopic is largely absent in mainstream cinema. This article looks at the biopic in popular Hindi cinema and at Richard Attenborough's Gandhi to examine what this tells us about the presence and absence of Gandhi in independent India.