In Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’, the audacious Dandi March gets a fitting tribute

One of the most powerful sequences in the 1982 biopic is based on the reportage of American journalist Webb Miller.

Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) has no shortage of powerful moments. The British director’s celebrated biopic opens with the assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse on January 31, 1948, and then loops back to the key events in his extraordinary life.

Among the civil resistance movements that Gandhi galvanised as well as launched was the salt satyagraha of 1930. The simple yet audacious non-violent protest was aimed at shaming the British rulers for levying a tax on a basic food ingredient as salt. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and his followers marched to the Arabian Sea in Dandi in Gujarat to create salt out of seawater. Numerous protests followed, including the one at the saltworks in Valsad, which was brutally put down.

The clash between ruler and the ruled is captured to tremendous effect in Gandhi. As wave after wave of determined satyagrahis attempt to take control of the salt factory, they are greeted by the sticks and blows of Indian policemen in the service of the British. The sequence gains bone-chilling momentum, with the takes getting shorter, and therefore more effective as the punishment wears on.

The sequence was heavily inspired by American journalist Webb Miller’s stirring reportage, which resounded across the world, and is credited with drawing attention to the Indian independence movement:

“Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down. When every one of the first column was knocked down stretcher bearers rushed up unmolested by the police and carried off the injured to a thatched hut which had been arranged as a temporary hospital.”

— Webb Miller.

Some of Miller’s words are quoted verbatim by Walker, the character based on him and played by Martin Sheen in Attenborough’s movie. Miller’s prose also inspires the images created for the sequence: “There were not enough stretcher-bearers to carry off the wounded…Bodies toppled over in threes and fours, bleeding from great gashes on their scalps. Group after group walked forward, sat down, and submitted to being beaten into insensibility without raising an arm to fend off the blows.”

The sequence was filmed in and around Mumbai, Attenborough writes in his memoir In Search of Gandhi. “Logistically, it was very difficult to shoot, since it had to be staged on the only road linking two villages and consequently, after each camera set-up, we had to suspend filming to allow the considerable build-up of traffic and pedestrians to go about their daily business,” he recalls. “The scene was, I think, as moving as any in the script and, taken with the rest of his part, it affected Martin deeply. As a result, before he returned home to the States, he told Mike [Attenborough’s producing partner Mike Stanley-Evans] and myself that he wished his entire salary to go to charity, a large portion of which he donated to Mother Teresa in Calcutta.”

Gandhi (1982).
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vistara and not by the Scroll editorial team.