Sep 2, 2014

Richard Attenborough

Sir Richard Attenborough passed away in Aug 2014. Until my early twenties, I only knew of him as the man who directed 'Gandhi' (I hadn't even seen Jurassic Park.) Then, I happened to read a book about him, which opened up his acting life and shone light on his other films which had been out-dazzled by 'Gandhi'.

In 2002, for my Mastermind India final, I was fast running out of ideas for a topic in the specialised round (there were just 3 weeks between the semi-final and the final, and it would have been premature to think of the final before). I eventually ended up opting for "The Films of Richard Attenborough". It could have been a disaster, considering that these were the days before movies, especially less popular ones, were easily available all around you as is the case today. I was banking on that book from the library and IMDB to get me through.


It didn't happen - I got a call from the producers asking me if I would mind switching to another topic ('The Tommy and Tuppence Stories of Agatha Christie'). I didn't know why that happened, but I had no hesitation in accepting - it was an easier topic to prepare for and I just needed to ensure I had all the books of the series (I had 3 of them already). Incidentally, there is a tiny connection between T&T and Sir RA: his wife of many years Sheila Sim and he had portrayed the detective duo (on stage, I think).

Later, I watched a little more of his work and would have no hesitation recommending the following for your viewing pleasure:
1. 10 Rillington Place - he acts as your uncle next door who is also into serial killing.
2. Chaplin - directed by R.A, features Robert Downey Jr. in a well-acted biopic on the famous Charlie
3. Shatranj Ke Khiladi - as General Outram, the no-nonsense imperialist
4. The Great Escape - leading the secret escape committee in a PoW camp

I have yet to watch Brighton Rock, his big breakthrough performance.

I got somewhat tired of watching the slightly too-positive 'Gandhi' over the years, but it's a tremendous piece of cinematic work - kind of like watching a long, carefully constructed Test match innings by the likes of Dravid or Gavaskar. And like their notable performances, there are a lot of great behind-the-scenes stories of how he went about putting it together.

Now that would make a great movie.