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After PM Modi, Grammy-winner Ricky Kej claims Mahatma Gandhi was forgotten before 1982 film

Ricky Kej

A 3-time Grammy winner on Thursday came out with an explainer on how Richard Attenborough’s 1982 biopic Gandhi on the Mahatma had helped him reclaim his fame globally as an ambassador of peace.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in an interview on Tuesday claimed the release of the film had generated curiosity about Gandhi, who was relatively unknown in the decades since independence.
“Mahatma Gandhi was a great soul. Wasn’t it our responsibility to get him that level of global recognition during the last 75 years? Nobody knew about him. When the Gandhi film was released, curiosity was generated across the world about who is this man. We didn’t do anything”, said Modi. “If the world knew about Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi was no less than them and you have to accept that.”
Ricky Kej, an Indian-American musician, wrote on his X (formerly Twitter) handle that following his assassination in 1948, Gandhi had disappeared from the public memory in the West.
“After Gandhiji died in 1948, he was lost soon after from international consciousness. For the next 33 years he was very rarely spoken about or written about in the western world. He was definitely not mainstream”, wrote Kej. “In the West, the new generation after his time, had not even heard of him.”
While Modi has drawn flak from rival politicians, no BJP leader has yet offered any counterpoint to defend Modi.
So how did the film help?
“When the film Gandhi by Sir Richard Attenborough was released in 1982, not too many people cared about the film and the film makers struggled with distribution”, Kej wrote. “It had a limited and deferred release. Like most Art films.”
From Kej’s statement it appeared the American audience were shocked when Gandhi received multiple nominations at the Academy Awards – 11 in total – and went on to win 8 of them, including the best picture overshadowing Steven Spielberg’s ET.
“People (In the West) were shocked that an unknown biopic about a personality they had never heard of is nominated against ET (They all watched and loved ET). Of course Gandhi was the better film and won 8 Oscar’s in April 1983. That is when Gandhi (the film) became a massive box office success internationally and, Mahatma Gandhiji (our father of the nation) was cemented permanently in international consciousness and became synonymous with Peace”, Kej wrote.
The musician, however, is unhappy with the film for one reason.
“Unfortunately though, even today when people in the West imagine Gandhiji it is Ben Kingsley who they see, and not Gandhiji himself. The medium of cinema is very powerful, and in many ways… if harnessed well”, wrote Kej.
Later responding to a user, Kej said, the holidays on October 2 (Gandhi’s birthday) were in India, and he was speaking “purely about the international consciousness”.
When Modi’s interview became public, his claim was fact-checked in real time.
(Courtesy: TT)

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