MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

LIFE OF GANDHI 1869-1948


Script, commentary and direction by
Vithalbhai Jhaveri 

Produced by
The Gandhi National Memorial Fund
in cooperation with the
Films Division of the Government of India

in 1968

33 reels (14 chapters), 5hrs 9min, black/white, English

"This is a film which seeks to tell the life-story of Gandhi the Man and his incessant search for Truth.

    In this world so full of hatred and violence, this man of peace and goodwill fought all evil and injustice with Soul-Force. He stands out as a challenge giving the message of truth and non-violence, of love supreme and unbounded. He is the Mahatma - the Great Soul - the name given to him by the people of India.

    Gandhi has left an indelible mark on human history. His thought is ever relevant for all those who aspire for a better and fuller life.

    The Gandhi National Memorial Trust has made a humble attempt to perpetuate Gandhi's memory by presenting the first complete biographical documentary film of his life which, in a large measure, reflects the history of India's struggle for freedom. Animation, live photography and old prints, have been blended to give an integrated image of his life. Some of the material is bound to be technically imperfect but it is an authentic portrayal of history. The story too is narrated in all simplicity and dignity using mostly Gandhi's own words.

    Even a full-length documentary film is but an inadequate instrument for depicting Gandhi's many-splendoured life and his varied activities. Consistent with the aim of presenting a full picture, the length here was inevitable; shorter films depicting different aspects of his life will also be presented.

    Many minds and many hands have laboured in making the film which took years to complete. The Trust is grateful to all who have helped this venture but most to its Honorary Director, Vithalbhai Jhaveri. This film is the result of his selfless dedication to the work and the full co-operation of the Films Division of the Government of India.

    The Trust is happy to present Gandhi, who embodies the precious legacy of our land, to the world. For centuries to come, Gandhi's life will serve as a beacon to untold millions who will walk in certainty in the light that was kindled by him."


R. R. Diwakar, Chairman (in 1968), Gandhi National Memorial Trust

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948, is available in different versions: 

English (5hrs 9min) 

English (47min) 

English (2hrs 15min) 

German (1hr 44min) 

14 Chapters, 5hrs 9min

Chapter 01, Early Years, 1869 – 1892, 13min 28sec, Reel 1, 2

The film depicts the early phase of Gandhi's "experiments with truth". It was during this period that the foundation of his deep devotion to Ram - the Lord - was laid and he realised the beauty of the Bhagawad Gita which opened a new way of life for him. He acquainted himself with the principal religions of the world and tried to harmonise his inner and outer urges. The conviction that Truth is the substance of all morality took deep root in him and 'to return good for evil' became his guiding principle.

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Chapter 02, Birth Of Satyagraha, 1893-1914, 32min 25sec, Reel 3-6

The film depicts the scene of a unique struggle against racial discrimination under the leadership of Gandhi in South Africa. Satyagraha - the doctrine of soul-force - was adopted as a political weapon for the first time in the history of the world. It was a struggle between humility and love on one side and conceit and violence on the other.

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Chapter 03, Emerging Of Gandhi, 1915-1921, 19min 37sec, Reel 7, 8

The film depicts Gandhi's return to India from South Africa and his emergence on the Indian political horizon. He kindled the flame of pride in the Indian masses and taught them lessons in self-reliance and Satyagraha - the new gospel of action. People rallied round him and spontaneously called him Mahatma - the Great Soul.

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Chapter 04, The Great Trial, 1921-1928, 20min 11sec, Reel 9, 10

Gandhi identified himself with the Indian masses, donned the loin-cloth and preached disaffection towards the unjust government. The film depicts his trial for sedition which was also a trial of strength between a tyrannical government and a conscientious non-violent rebel. Prison gates were widened. Visibly India had turned Gandhian.

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Chapter 05, The Epic March, 1928-1931, 37min 23sec, Reel 11-14

Independence was declared as the ultimate objective of the country. The film depicts the epic salt march of the non-violent fighters for freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi from Ahmedabad to Dandi. Marvellous was the mass-awakening. India was marching towards her destiny.

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Chapter 06, New Challenges, 1931, 7min 21sec, Reel 15

The film depicts the momentous events of 1931 - an important landmark in the history of the freedom movement. It was in this year that at Gandhi's instance, the Indian National Congress adopted a charter of fundamental rights correlating political and economic liberty.

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Chapter 07, The Nation's Representative, 1931-1932, 42min 18sec, Reel 16-19

The film depicts Gandhi's visit to England as the sole representative of the Congress at the Second Round Table Conference. The apostle of non-violence, scantily clothed, pleaded not merely for India's freedom but for a vaster and more comprehensive morality. He declared, "My goal is friendship with the world." The conference was completely abortive. On his return to India, His Majesty's guest at Buckingham Palace was led to His Majesty's prison.

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Chapter 08, A Cry For Justice, 1932-1934, 9min 3sec, Reel 20

The film depicts Gandhi's struggle against untouchability for the recognition of human dignity, his epic fast in the prison in pursuance of the noble cause and his whirlwind tour of the country shaking the citadels of orthodoxy, spreading a spirit of reform and rejuvenation.

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Chapter 09, Call Of The Villages, 1934-1938, 20min 33sec, Reel 21, 22

The film depicts how Gandhi settled in a village and dedicated himself to the cause of village-reconstruction through the revival of arts and industries to make the village self-reliant. It also explains his theory of education aiming at producing the whole man and highlights the reaction of the apostle of non-violence to the bursting of war-clouds over Europe.

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Chapter 10, Quit India, 1939-1944, 30min 20sec, Reel 23-25

Starting with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the film depicts dramatic events in the history of the world, the historic Quit India Movement of August, 1942, the spontaneous response of the people, the leonine violence used by the alien government and Gandhi's fast ultimately leading to his release on medical grounds as also the beginning of the end of British rule in India.

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Chapter 11, Hour Of Destiny, 1944-1946, 20min 16sec, Reel 26, 27

The atom bomb could not explode Gandhi's faith in non-violence which he considered to be the mightiest force in the world. The film narrates the story of the visit of the British Cabinet Mission to India for working out the details of the transfer of power. Just when Gandhi brought his people to the very gates of liberty, communal frenzy darkened the horizon. Gandhi's search of the divine in the maddened man is depicted with all its pathos and poignancy.

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Chapter 12, Pilgrim Of Peace, 1946-1947, 19min 01sec, Reel 28, 29

The film depicts Gandhi's pilgrimage of love and hope meant to bring solace to the bleeding hearts in riot-wrecked Bengal and Bihar. Along with Gandhi's message of tolerance to his own people, the film also deals with the message of love and truth he gave to the Inter Asian Relations Conference held in Delhi and his dream of 'One World'.

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Chapter 13, India Liberated, 1947-1948, 19min 47sec, Reel 30, 31

India achieved its long-cherished freedom on 15 August 1947 and declared herself to be a secular democracy. The film depicts how the architect of Indian freedom was engaged in his lonely trek to banish communal hatred and to make all men brothers when the rest of India was busy celebrating independence.

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Chapter 14, Martyrdom, 30 January 1948, 17min 30sec, Reel 32, 33

The epic life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was ended. The film tells the story of the tragic but glorious day of Gandhi's martyrdom in the cause of unity and love - a day that turned the nations of the world into one mourning family. He had said, "If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling." He bowed to his assassin and died with the name of God on his lips. He was the Victorious One in death as in life.

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