I mention this in passing because the achievement may well have been influenced by topical events: 1989 was a pivotal year in world history. A dramatic revolution took place with the falling of the Berlin Wall and the demise of several Eastern Bloc dictatorships. Only the tanks of Tianenmen Square prevented the Chinese government from being added to the list of conquests. Within a year Nelson Mandela was also freed from captivity and South Africa became a more democratic nation.
John Briley's excellent script also captures the domestic life and jovial humour of the man himself, an important element. This is not just the story of a hero, but of a real person.
In many ways this is a portrayal that shines more than the image of the real "Bapu". Reverential perhaps, but as the film itself admits at the beginning, the story of one man's entire life can never be encompassed in one telling (even when 3 hours long), all that can be done is to try and be faithful in spirit to the record and try and find one's way to the heart of the man. This is certainly achieves successfully.
There are those, even today, who feel that the British should never have left India - the most notable and vocal opponent was Winston Churchill - and given the sub-continent's subsequent bumpy history, this is understandable. Perhaps it helped that the Dominion was looking a little shaky for some time anyway, and if anything, it was the intervention of World War II that tipped the balance over towards Britain giving India independence. As one British Governor says mockingly, "we're too damned liberal" - an amusing jibe considering how many of Attenborough's critics consider him a militant liberal himself.
When the question of using such "pacifist" methods against a dictator like Hitler is raised, Gandhi's answer is simple if cunningly evasive: "not without defeats, and great pain, but are there no defeats in this war, no pain?"