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Last Updated 17.07.2024 | 6:03 PM IST



40 years of Gandhi EXCLUSIVE: Rohini Hattangadi recalls her “Okay-okay” screentest with Richard Attenborough

en Bollywood News 40 years of Gandhi EXCLUSIVE: Rohini Hattangadi recalls her “Okay-okay” screentest with Richard Attenborough

Veteran actress Rohini Hattangadi goes down memory lane on how she got selected for the role of Kasturba Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's multiple Oscar-winning film Gandhi.

The life of India's freedom fighter MK Gandhi aka Mahatma Gandhi has always fascinated filmmakers in India and abroad. His whole existence was so full of deep events that it continues to be relevant to be explored on the big screen. Rajkumar Santoshi’s Gandhi Godse - Ek Yudh is a recent example.

40 years of Gandhi EXCLUSIVE: Rohini Hattangadi recalls her “Okay-okay” screentest with Richard Attenborough

Despite a large number of films based on Gandhi, the one that continues to appeal even after four decades is Richard Attenborough’s exploration of the personality in Gandhi, where Ben Kingsley played the titular role and Rohini Hattangadi played his wife Kasturba. Hattangadi won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Award at the British Academy Film Awards.

As the film recently completed 40 years (English version on January 28, 1983 and Hindi version on February 4), Hattangadi goes down memory lane on the shoot of the international film so early in her career in an exclusive conversation with Bollywood Hungama.

Hattangadi started her career with theatre as she is the aluminous of the National School of Drama (NSG) in Delhi. She tells us that she was on the tour of a Marathi play when the makers of Gandhi approached her to audition for the role of Kasturba Gandhi. “Once I returned from the tour, I got a written note from my husband (Jayadev Hattangadi) saying that we need to go to meet Sir Richard (for the audition),” she said. “I met him and he selected me for the screentest. Jayadev ji told me that I need to keep in mind while performing that the medium of films is different than theatre.”

Interestingly and surprisingly for Hattangadi, she had to go all the way to UK just to give the screentest. “It was so sudden. I had to go to England, but I didn’t have a passport. Somehow, I got a temporary passport. Dolly [Thakore, casting director of the film] helped me immensely for this. I collected all my sarees, bangles and everything,” said Hattangadi.

As Gandhi was an international film, Richard Attenborough filmed Hattangadi’s audition even in those days. Funnily, her screentest had a touch of theatre because of her background. “It was okay-okay kind of audition because the film medium was new to me,” she said. “Sir Richard asked me how I found my screentest. I said I was a bit overboard because of the influence of theatre. He said I need to keep this in mind. He gave a lecture on the same thing that Jayadev ji had given before we left for London (laughs).”

Despite the “okay-okay” kind of audition, Attenborough selected her, much to her rejoice, obviously. “After nearly one month they told me, yes you are on,” said Hattangadi.

Normally, when an actor having worked in mainstream Bollywood is exposed to the international style of filmmaking, he or she is bound to get a culture shock. But Hattangadi hadn’t done a mainstream Hindi film by then. She had only done three films that fell in the parallel cinema genre, along with theatre.

But Hattangadi was still surprised, although presently, with the working style of the team of Gandhi. “Since they were Britishers, they were very particular about time and discipline. They didn’t have that “Chalta hai yaar” type of attitude. Everything was so planned out and in place. We were given the script beforehand. Even if there was a one-line change, they used to give us the whole page and ask us to replace that particular page.”

Hattangadi’s theatre exposure turned out to be useful during Gandhi. “I was from National School of Drama (NSD) and my theatre guru was Ebrahim Alkazi. So, theatre discipline was imbibed in us by him. What I had learnt at NSD, came very handy in Gandhi,” she said.

As far as the shoot was concerned, Gandhi still remains an “experience of a lifetime” for Hattangadi. The character of Kasturba Gandhi had to go from 27 years of age to all the way 74. Sharing about her challenges, she said, “I had to work on my elocution because they wanted my pronunciation right. They didn’t want any Indian accent, which was always going to be there. Since the language was English, they needed correct English. Also in India, the English spoken was British English at the time of Gandhi.”

Apart from the elocution, the preparations to play her character was also an interesting process for her. “I had to go to Delhi one month before the shooting,” she said. “I had to train in spinning the Charkha and elocution. Every day we used to get the call sheet where every requirement was written in detail.”

After releasing in 1983, Gandhi became a runaway success in the west. The film won as many as eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Attenborough) and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley.

After a highly planned and disciplined experience in Gandhi, Hattangadi went into mainstream Bollywood. It was now that she got a culture shock. “When I returned back to the Hindi film industry, it had like “Chalta hai yaar” attitude. I experienced that later,” she said laughing.

Also Read: EXCLUSIVE: “In Hindi cinema, I continued to get older roles and they forgot that Baa was once young”- Rohini Hattangadi on getting stereotyped after BAFTA win

More Pages: Gandhi Box Office Collection


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