Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 3 (April-June 1983) p. 33.


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Gandhiana and Gandhiology

Ashish Rajadhyaksha

*! am appalled by the violence in the world today ... and lam going to do something about it. I am going to show that there is something else for youth besides street gangs and switch blades .... I am going to tell the story of Baden-Powell and the Boy Scouts.

Imagine! The final Jamboree, when the old man is almost eighty, with a hundred thousand youngsters of every race and colour gathered around him in peace» and happiness .... It will be my last film, and my greatest." Cecil R DeMille1

BT HAD to happen. The usual epithet given to such projects is 'epic9; and it has clearly grown over the years from its original context of early Hollywood to being a vehicle for portraying

the grand proportions of the values and mythologies of any ruling class that may wish to purchase it from its professional manufactures.

It has drawn its myths from the Bible and from the great Wars , from big business and nuclear disaster. It has taken shape in response to the demands of a new political and technological age, an age that sees more than ever the need to underline a highly questionable value-system with the width of the 'epic' canvas.

The 'epic' — or the mass-spectacular — in the classical Hollywood tradition, is the indicator of the superstructural dimensions of the commodity. At its simplest this is the money spent on the film, the vastness of the sets and the size of the crowd scenes. At more complex levels, however, as with DeMille, it relates also to another kind of extravagance, in the myths that are directly employed, the overpowering emotions that it indulges. By its very weight it is an indicator of the system that produces and markets it.

It had to, therefore, happen that the tradition that has thrived on imperialist grandeur, would one day also sense equally 'epic' possibilities in movements that have countered just such grandeur. If Gandhi is


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