Remembering Richard Attenborough
With the filmmaker’s demise, the world of cinema has lost yet another stalwart. We spoke to Indian celebrities who have worked with him
Richard Attenborough donned many hats; he was an actor, film director, film producer, and entrepreneur. The President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), best known in India for making the film, Gandhi (1983), passed away on August 24. hitlist spoke to all those who had worked with him on the project...
I remember I was learning to spin the charkha for my role and after doing so for two months, I had a lot of thread with me.
When I asked my spinning teacher what to do with it, he suggested that I exchange it in Gandhi Bhavan. I did so and got a handkerchief from there, which I then gifted to Richard. He was so happy to receive it. Five years ago, there was an event in the US to celebrate the film’s success and he invited me to join him. I couldn’t go because it was only for a day. I will always regret that I didn’t do so or for that matter, the fact that I couldn’t go see him in England when he was unwell.
Rohini Hattangadi, who played Kasturba Gandhi in the film
Working with Richard was a great experience. I remember once we were shooting at Pune’s Fergusson College and I had to deliver a long passage in front of many senior actors sitting on the stage.
I just couldn’t get my lines right. Richard walked up to me and said, ‘We all make mistakes and the best of us mess up. Just think no one is here and be confident.’ His words of support really worked, as I got the next shot right.
Alok Nath, who played Tyed Mohammed in the film
Richard gelled with people beautifully and was a patient listener, that’s how he controlled a big cast. He always encouraged us to envision things on our own.
After Gandhi was released, we weren’t really in touch, but I continued to send him birthday greetings. Then he fell sick and was not in a position to talk or write. Gandhi was a unifying factor for all the people associated with the project.
Govind Nihalani, the second unit director and cameraman on the film
He cast me after having a five-minute chat with me at a cocktail party. I asked him to take my audition but he said that I ought to just fly to London for the fittings.
As someone very particular about minute things, he would keep saying, ‘The God is in the details.’ I was in touch with him on and off. He was a wonderful man with a big heart.
Alyqye Padamsee, who played Muhammad Ali Jannah in the film