The characters that actors play in movies typically require a lot of practice. And, it is common practice for actors to go to extreme lengths in the film industry to accurately portray their roles. But Ben Kingsley set new standards for commitment when he played Mahatma Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi.
The actor, 79, known for his adaptability, shaved his head and went vegetarian to portray the revered Indian leader convincingly. This daring transformation not only captured Gandhi’s essence but also demonstrated Kingsley’s dedication to his craft.
The Academy Award-winning actor was aware that portraying Mahatma Gandhi through his appearance was just as important as the performance itself. The late anti-colonial nationalist was well known for having a bald head and wearing simple clothing, both of which had significant symbolic meaning.
Ben Kingsley Played The ‘Impossible’ Academy Award-Winning Role
Ben Kingsley, who was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, accepted his first significant film role when he was chosen to play the anti-colonial nationalist, an Indian lawyer and social activist. The 1982 film Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough, enlisted Kingsley to play Mahatma Gandhi.
The opportunity to play Gandhi, who successfully led the nationalist movement to free India from British rule, was a daunting role, but Kingsley accepted it. The seasoned actor, whose father is of Indian descent, put in a lot of effort to prepare for the role, reading biographies while also shaving his head, following Gandhi’s vegetarian diet, losing 20 pounds, and training rigorously.
He stated to The New York Times:
“When I have totally immersed myself in the mechanical, logical preparation of a part, if I and my craft are totally bonded and fully exploited, something else in me is awakened and begins to inform my work.”
The actor’s efforts led to a nomination for Best Actor at the 55th Academy Awards, which he went on to win in 1983.
Also, the film received a record-breaking eleven nominations and took home eight of them, more than any other film nominated that year. These awards included Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (for Kingsley).
Ben Kingsley Couldn’t Have Played ‘Gandhi Without Shakespeare’
Ben Kingsley began his career in theater, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967 and spending the following 15 years primarily performing on stage. He was born to a Gujarati Indian father and an English mother.
Kingsley’s time at the RSC, he told Indiewire, taught him a lot.
“How to bring extra language and gesture to life, to light a performance. I couldn’t have played Gandhi without Shakespeare. My stamina, commitment, and the transmission of body language made that possible.”
Even though the Iron Man 3 actor attributed his Gandhi preparation to RSC, Kingsley had no plans to go back to the stage:
“When I was introduced to cinema after years in classical theater, I learned the subtle and crucial difference. If I were a craftsman painter and not an actor, theater is landscape painting and cinema is portrait artistry. I am now a portrait artist, not landscape, and I have no desire to go back. Things may change. But I am so inspired by cinema portraiture that I find it totally consuming and enthralling. My portrait artist is very separate from my canvas. I put everything onto the portrait. It is not me. It is framed by a cinema or TV screen. I put my brushes down at the end of the day and leave and return refreshed.”
After Gandhi, he appeared in the critically acclaimed films Betrayal (1983) and Turtle Diary (1985).
Kingsley’s next role will be in Wes Anderson’s short film, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. It will be released in limited theaters on September 20, 2023, followed by a Netflix release on September 27, 2023.
Meanwhile, Gandhi is available to rent on Apple TV.
Source- New York Times