Just how smug would you be if a movie you spent two decades trying to get made, that required a cast of 400,000 extras (Gandhi’s funeral still holds the record for the largest crowd scene) and that you raised the cash for from scratch and went on to become one of the most critically and commercially successful epics of all time? More smug than Richard Attenborough, probably. “ET was a better piece of cinema,” he shrugs in his best old- man-in-a Werther’s-ad fashion – before going on to describe how Gandhi thrashed Spielberg’s flick at the Oscars. It didn’t deserve to, but its sheer scope and ambition – following the spiritual leader as he liberates India – means it remains a yardstick by which other epics must be measured.
Lord Dickie is the major presence on this two-discer. He provides not only a candid, modest commentary, but also does an intro and crops up in most of the featurettes and interviews. There are few revelations, but he ties together a neat and informative package. If there’s a faultline running through it all, it’s that there’s not quite as much of Kingsley as you’d hope.
Sir Ben may more convincingly inhabit the younger Gandhi than the older mystic, but he still gives a belter of a performance. So you’d expect them to have at least tracked him down for this Special Edition. As it is, his input is limited to an interview from 2000. It’s lengthy and anecdote-heavy, but still doesn’t feel like quite enough somehow.