When Morarji Desai objected to "fake" Gandhi....

Pune, Aug 26: It was not a smooth sailing for legendary British filmmaker Richard Attenborough, who made the epic movie 'Gandhi', when he sought permission to shoot scenes relating to last days of Kasturba spent at the famous Aga Khan palace here, as he had to overcome an objection raised by former Prime Minister Morarji Desai.

Recalling this, Shobhana Ranade, the then secretary of Gandhi National Memorial Society (GNMS) trust, caretaker of the Aga Khan palace premises, told PTI, "Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai, a known Gandhian, was chairman of GNMS when Attenborough's unit sought permission to shoot in the precincts of the palace which also has a 'samadhi' of Kasturba (wife of Mahatma Gandhi) who spent her last days there."

"Why do we need a 'nakli' (fake) Gandhi to portray the Mahatma," he was quoted as saying by the 90-year-old Ranade, explaining Morarji's objection to the idea of a Britisher (Ben Kingsley) playing Gandhi.

Finally, a permission was granted after much deliberation and Attenborough was told about "Do's and Don'ts" for his ten-day shoot at the historic Aga Khan palace, located on the city's eastern outskirts, which was also a witness to an imprisonment of Gandhi at Yeravada prison here during the freedom struggle.

"We told him that consumption of alcohol and non vegetarian food is strictly prohibited on the premises and the trustees had a zero tolerance policy towards those who violate these norms," Ranade said, adding that Attenborough, who was accompanied by his wife Sheila, accepted all their conditions wholeheartedly and graciously.

"He used to call me whenever they took their food during the shoots, playfully asking to inspect the stuff to ensure there was no alcohol or meat," she reminisced. 


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