Directed by Richard Attenborough, a young Indian lawyer goes to South Africa and works for the rights of Indians. He returns to India and develops the use of nonviolent noncooperation over many years to help the Congress Party gain independence for India from British imperialism.
On January 30, 1948 at New Delhi in a garden people gather for prayers with Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley). A Hindu assassin shoots Gandhi twice in the chest.
At Gandhi’s funeral a large crowd mourns as a radio commentator describes how Gandhi is revered because he led his people to independence and spoke as the conscience of mankind.
In South Africa in 1893 young Gandhi is riding in a train, and a conductor tells the cooly he cannot ride in first class. Gandhi says he is an attorney and purchased his ticket. The official says there are no colored attorneys in South Africa and has him thrown off for refusing to move to third class.
In an elegant home Gandhi asks Khan (Amrish Puri) why he puts up with such treatment. The attorney Baker explains that Christian South Africans expect immigrant Indians to work only in the fields or in low-paying jobs. Indians are not even allowed to walk on a sidewalk with Christians. Khan says he can walk down the street with his lawyer, but he risks being thrown into the gutter by someone less holy than Baker. Gandhi says they must fight it because they are children of God. He says he will write to the press and use the courts. He asserts they are members of the empire and come from an ancient civilization. Khan says his firm can keep him employed especially if he causes trouble.
The Indian Congress Party has a banner for a demonstration, but only a few people responded to Gandhi’s article. While police watch, Gandhi speaks to the people saying they will only use peaceful means to ask for their rights. He says their inferior status is embodied in the pass they are required to carry, but Europeans are not. He says they must eliminate this difference, and he burns his pass. Khan speaks and asks the others to join them as they burn the passes of their committee and its supporters. The police run to stop him, and one threatens to arrest anyone who tries to burn one. When Khan tries to burn the passes, they arrest him. Khan burns a pass and is arrested. Gandhi gets the box and burns several passes before a policeman hits him with a club. Gandhi kneels and picks up passes and burns them, and the policeman hits him again with the club. Gandhi in pain tries to continue and is clubbed two more times.
General Smuts (Athol Fugard) arrives at work and is told about the protest that was reported in the London Times as a significant act.
Bandaged Gandhi tells his wife Kasturbai Gandhi (Rohini Hattangadi) that the newspaper reported the police assault was unlawful because he and Khan did not resist arrest. She says she told him about British police. He welcomes his three young sons and says he will tell them about his being in jail.
Charlie Andrews (Ian Charlson) arrives and introduces himself to Gandhi who asks him to walk with him. Charlie says he came to help. Gandhi explains his philosophy as they walk in town. Gandhi refers to the teachings of Jesus in not resisting those who are evil with physical force. A bully stops them, but his mother calls to him to get on with his work. Gandhi tells him there is room for them all, and they walk past him. Charlie says that was lucky, and Gandhi asks if he is a man of God. Charlie does not expect God to plan his day. A woman tells them they are going to change the pass laws.
Smuts tells Walker (Martin Sheen) that he did not want to create an injustice because Mr. Gandhi was abusing their laws. A photographer takes a picture of Smuts signing a document. He advises Walker not to spend too much time on the Indian question which is a minor issue in South Africa. Walker says it is news now. He came to report on the condition of the mines, and he would like to meet Gandhi. Smuts warns him that Gandhi is a shrewd man. They shake hands, and Walker goes out.
Gandhi walks with Walker and tells him the Hindus are working together with Christians, Muslims, and Jews. He says Walker belongs to an important profession. Walker asks how he will respond to Smuts’ latest law. Walker warns him about taking on the South African government or the British empire. Gandhi introduces the New York Times reporter to Herman Kallenbach (Gunter Maria Halmer). Gandhi admits they each take their turn cleaning the latrine, and he invites Walker and his black driver for dinner.
Gandhi goes inside, and Kasturbai says she will not clean the latrine because it is work for untouchables. He says she must do it with joy. She refuses, and he pushes her out of the house. She asks if he has no shame; she is his wife. She asks where he expects her to go. He asks what is the matter with him. She says he is human, and it is hard for others to be as good as he is. He apologizes, and she says she will clean the latrine.
At a large meeting Gandhi speaks from the stage, notices three policemen, and says they have no secrets. He says under Smuts’ new law all Hindus must be finger-printed, and their marriages are not recognized. Policemen may enter Indian dwellings and ask to see a woman’s card. One man says he will kill anyone who insults his wife. Another man suggests they kill officials, and others applaud. Gandhi praises their courage and says he too is prepared to die; but there is no cause for which he is prepared to kill. He advises them not to kill or attack anyone. He says they will refuse to give their fingerprints. He urges them to fight but not strike a blow. By receiving their blows they will make them see their injustice; it will hurt, but they cannot lose. They may torture his body and even kill his body; but they will not get his obedience. The audience claps hands. Gandhi says there are Hindus and Muslims, and he asks them to take a solemn oath in God’s name that they will not submit to this law. One man stands, and others follow until all have stood except the British. Gandhi starts singing “God save our King,” and the British stand up.
Gandhi is leading a march. As they pass by a mine, others join them. A car drives up to them and stops. A European says they are contracted laborers and belong in the mine. They warn each other. The car turns around and goes back. They march forward. Cavalry troops ride toward them. Gandhi stops. An Indian suggests they lie down because the horses will not trample on them. The horses stop before the people on the ground and refuse to go forward. The soldiers retreat. The man in the car says they will let them march, and they will get them later.
Charlie speaks in his church about Gandhi who has been put in prison. He says they are witnessing something new. Gandhi is asking them to look at themselves and how they treat men who defy an unjust law without fighting. Many people get up and leave, but others listen.
In prison Gandhi sees Khan who says they thought they would be too afraid of the English press to arrest Gandhi. More men are arrested, and Khan asks who is left to do the work. Gandhi says it has split the government. Khan says he has given them a way to fight. An officer asks for Gandhi.
In a palace a soldier removes Gandhi’s handcuffs, and he is escorted into the office of Smuts who talks to him alone. Gandhi declines sherry and tea. They sit down, and Smuts says he will ask the House to repeal the objectionable act. Smuts says they may recommend that future Indian immigration may be restricted or even stopped. Gandhi says they did not fight over the immigration issue, and it would not be right to make it one now that they are at an advantage. Smuts says Gandhi will be released, and Gandhi asks for a taxi because of his prison clothes. Smuts asks Daniels to loan Gandhi a shilling for a taxi. Gandhi says he is thinking of going back to India. Gandhi says he can find his own way out.
At Bombay in 1915 a ship has docked, and a military band plays. The new military governor of India asks what the fuss is about, and he is told that Gandhi has arrived. He notices he is dressed like a peasant. Gandhi says he will support the British in the war. Gandhi speaks briefly to the gathered crowd, saying he is glad to be home. As Gandhi gets into a car with Sardar Patel (Saeed Jaffrey), Pandit Nehru (Roshan Seth) tells him everything is arranged. In the car Patel tells him that Nehru has charm and has studied at Cambridge. Patel says Gandhi is a hero for challenging the British empire. They pass by many poor people.
In a garden Mrs. Nehru says she leaves practical things to her husband and son. Young Nehru introduces Gandhi to the leader of the Muslim League, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (Alyque Padamsee) and the accused murderer Prakash who says he has only written about killing for India’s independence. Jinnah says he hopes Gandhi will help them fight for home rule. Charlie tells Gandhi that Professor Gokhale (Shreeram Lagoo) sent him to South Africa. Gokhale says they are trying to make a nation, but the British keep dividing them by religion, nationalities, and provinces. He says they need what Gandhi did in South Africa. Gandhi says he needs to learn about India and raise money for a journal. Gokhale sends Charlie away so they can talk as Indians. Gokhale urges Gandhi to begin his journal and go out and find India so that he will know what to say. Gokhale asks him to make India proud of herself.
Gandhi and Kasturbai are riding on a train. Charlie is traveling with Gandhi as they pass by villages and farms. While Kasturbai dozes, Gandhi writes.
Gandhi and Charlie cool off at a river during a train stop. On the train they look out the window, and Gandhi tells Kasturbai there is no room in there. A man on the roof tells them to come up. Charlie goes up on top where many are sitting. As they go through a tunnel, they bend.
Patel tells Nehru that he agrees with Jinnah that they should convene a Congress Party convention to demand independence. Jinnah says Gandhi is discovering India. He says they can invite him to speak about South Africa.
The train stops where a troop train has been sabotaged by insurgents. An English soldier was killed.
Jinnah speaks at the Congress meeting to a crowd sitting on grass in a large tent. He says India demands home rule, and they applaud. He sits down, and Patel says all India agrees with Jinnah, not just Muslims. Patel introduces Gandhi who is esteemed by Gokhale. Patel tells Gandhi he likes what he writes in his journal. Gandhi doubts what he said is true. As Gandhi speaks, people mill around. He says what they say there means little to the masses of their country. The people of India are untouched because their politics have to do with bread and salt. He says this Congress claims to represent India, but India is 700,000 villages. He says they must stand in the fields with the people in order to represent India. Until then they will not be able to challenge the British as one nation. Patel says he is going to read his magazine.
Nehru is driving a car with four young colleagues in the country. They arrive at the ashram and ask Charlie where Gandhi is. Gandhi tells them he is trying to live like an Indian, but the British tell them how to live in their poverty compared to British elegance. He says they are adopting British ways. Nehru says they could get home rule. Gandhi says they only make speeches or commit random acts of terrorism. Gandhi takes them to feed the goats. Gandhi says they should leave punishment to God. He says there are better ways of fighting than derailing trains or slashing with a sword. Kasturbai calls him, and he runs off, saying he lives under tyranny.
An elderly Indian Shukla comes to Gandhi and says they cannot sell their crops and have no money. Gandhi urges him to eat.
An English officer climbs on top of a train and sees a huge crowd waiting for an arriving train. He is told that they got a telegram saying “He is coming.” The officer asks who he is. Gandhi gets off the train and walks through the crowd with the old man. The officer suggests he get back on the train, or he will arrest him. Gandhi asks on what charge and says he sees no need for trouble. The officer warns him and leaves.
A dying man tells Gandhi that the landlords ordered them to grow indigo to die cloth; but now people buy their cloth from India, and no one wants their indigo. They have no money and no food. The British landlords expect the rent to be paid. Gandhi says they will do what they can. A woman cries.
Gandhi asks if all of Champaran is like this poor area. A British soldier arrests Gandhi who says he is not sorry about it.
The English are playing cricket. An officer arrives in a car and says the whole company has been ordered out because of a riot in Champaran.
People have gathered outside a building, and Charlie asks to see the prisoner. He is taken to a cell and talks with Gandhi who says his clothes are now those of the poor. The guard lets Charlie in the cell. Gandhi admits they are calling him “father” and says they must be getting older. He asks Charlie to take the assignment in Fiji he was offered so that he and others can be sure they can act on their own. He asks him to get them started in the right direction. Gandhi says he will always be in his heart, and there are no goodbyes.
In a crowded courtroom the judge says he would like to clear the room. A man tells him the clergymen sent telegrams to the press who are here. Gandhi stands up, and the judge says he has been ordered out of the province for having disturbed the peace. Gandhi with respect refuses to go. He is willing to go to jail. The judge sets bail at 100 rupees, but Gandhi refuses to pay that. The judge releases him on bail without payment until he makes his decision. People cheer as Gandhi goes to a balcony. People chant his name. Young men tell him they are from Bihar because they got a telegram from Nehru. Gandhi tells them to document the conditions, and they must live with the peasants. They agree.
A few months later at the Lieutenant Governor’s palace Sir George Hodge (Michael Hordern) says they have made Gandhi into an international hero. He asks what they want, and his secretary Gareth tells him they want a rebate on rent paid, freedom to grow what they like, and a commission with Indians on it to hear grievances. Another official says that would satisfy them and the British government. Hodge signs the document and says they are too liberal.
Jinnah at his elegant home learns from a driver that Gandhi is walking after coming third class. Gandhi arrives with Kallenbach who is given permission to wander in his garden.
Inside Gandhi sees Patel and is introduced to Maulana Azad (Virendra Razdan) who was just released from prison. Gandhi is glad to see Nehru there. Patel says the legislation on sedition is aimed at the writings of Gandhi. Jinnah says the answer is direct action, but Nehru says that terrorism would only justify repression and would throw up leaders they may not want at the head of their country. Jinnah says he has read Gandhi’s writings, but he would rather be ruled by an Indian terrorist than a British one. Patel says he thinks it has gone beyond passive resistance. Gandhi says he does not advocate anything passive. He agrees they should never submit to such laws. He suggests active and provocative resistance. He takes a tray from a servant standing by and says he wants to embarrass all those who would treat them as servants. Gandhi says he wants to change their minds, not kill them for weaknesses they all possess. He suggests they make April 6 a day of prayer and fasting, and Jinnah says he means a general strike. Gandhi says no work could be done, and the country would stop. Patel says it would terrify them. Azad says even the English would have to report that. Gandhi has been carrying the tray around, and Nehru says they are calling him a “Mahatma.”
In a garden at a formal party a man delivers a message to the Viceroy (John Mills ) that nothing is working in many cities. He says the army took over the telegraph so that they would not be cut off from the world. He says Gandhi is going to sell his own paper tomorrow in Bombay during a parade on Victoria Road. The Viceroy orders his arrest.
Gandhi is let out of his cell and escorted to the visitors room. Nehru says the riots have not stopped since he was arrested. He and others have tried to stop them. Some English civilians have been killed, and the army is attacking crowds with clubs and worse. Gandhi says they may not be ready yet. Nehru says the government is afraid of terrorism more than they fear Gandhi. They will release him if he will speak for nonviolence. Gandhi says he never spoke for anything else.
At a large meeting people sit on the ground and listen to a leader talking about not striking back. General Dyer (Edward Fox) in a car rides behind an armored car followed by soldiers. The entrance to the enclosed space is too small for the cars, and Dyer orders the tank to back away. Soldiers come in and form a line. They are ordered to aim their rifles at the people. The man continues to speak for nonviolence and says they must take their anger. Dyer says they have had their warning and orders the soldiers to shoot at the crowd which panics and screams during the shooting which continues as Dyer tells them to take their time. Women are not able to escape, and Dyer orders them to shoot at those trying to escape. Some people jump into a well.
At a hearing General Dyer admits he ordered his troops to fire at the thickest part of the crowd. There were 1,516 casualties with 1,650 bullets. Dyer says his intention was to inflict a lesson that would impact all of India. An official asks if he had been able to take in the armored car, would he have ordered them to use the machine gun. Dyer says he probably would have. He is asked if he knew there were women and children in the crowd. He says he did, and he says he would have treated any wounded who applied for help.
Gandhi and Nehru stand by the well of the Amritsar massacre.
The Viceroy is speaking to the independence leaders who are sitting on one side of a large table while British officials and officers sit on the other. The Viceroy says the British government and people repudiate the massacre. Gandhi says that matters have gone beyond legislation. They must realize that they are masters in someone else’s home and that it is time that they left. Kinnoch (Nigel Hawthorne) says that without British administration the country would be in chaos. Gandhi says people prefer their own bad government to that of an alien power. A general says India is British, and they are not an alien power. The Viceroy says the King has a duty to his Muslim subjects who are a minority in India. He says his troops and administration are essential to secure peace. Gandhi says like other countries with religious minorities they will have problems, but they will be their own problems. Gandhi agrees that the British will walk out of India because 100,000 British cannot control 300 million Indians if they refuse to cooperate. They intend to achieve peaceful, nonviolent noncooperation until they see the wisdom of leaving.
Later the British laugh about the conversation, but the Viceroy says he does not intend to make a martyr of Gandhi.
Kasturbai in the country tells many people there is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness. People applaud, and some stand up for Gandhi and chant his name. He says to gain independence they must prove worthy of it. They must have Muslim-Hindu unity. They must remove untouchability from their lives and hearts. They must defy the British but not with violence. English factories make the cloth that makes them poor. He asks them to bring the cloth from Manchester and Leeds so that they can burn it. He tells them to wear home-spun cloth with dignity.
People throw clothes on a large bonfire as two British soldiers watch.
Patel gets off a train, and Herman greets him and Azad who came third class. Miss Slade gets off, meets Kallenbach, and says Gandhi has named her Mirabehn (Geraldine James).
Kasturbai is teaching Gandhi how to spin, and he welcomes Mirabehn and says she will be his daughter.
Later Azad tells Gandhi that they imposed martial law, but the marches are bigger than ever. Gandhi says this shows the British are desperate. Mirabehn says she sent for her clothes from India, and he says the workers in England understand. Gandhi tells her to learn to spin also. Mirabehn says she would rather march, but Gandhi tells her to spin first.
People carry torches at night and chant for Gandhi and independence. A straggler is attacked by policemen who beat him up. She shouts for help, and the marchers run back and chase the policemen into their station. The marchers break in the windows and use the torches to set the building on fire. The policemen come out and are attacked by the mob.
Patel tells Gandhi they did not censor that news. Jinnah says it is all over the world. Gandhi says they must end the campaign. Jinnah says it is an “eye for an eye.” Gandhi says that makes the world blind. Patel says all India is on the move, but Gandhi asks in what direction. He wants no part of freedom gained by murder and bloodshed. Nehru says he is the father of the movement, but now Gandhi is ashamed of that. Nehru says they will not stop even if they ask them. Gandhi says he will fast until they stop. Jinnah says the British will not censor that. Nehru says they will not stop. Gandhi says if he dies, they may stop.
Gandhi is coughing while lying in bed. Kasturbai says Mirabehn is there. Mirabehn gives him water with a little lemon juice. She says Herman has gone to see Nehru. She says a telegram says it has stopped almost everywhere. He says when it is everywhere. He asks if she thinks he is stubborn. She feels he is right but wonders if this is right. He says in history truth and love has always won. Tyrants always fall in the end. He tells her to think of that when she doubts this is God’s way. Nehru comes in and takes his hand. He says that Jinnah, Patel, and all of Congress has called for the end of non-cooperation. There has not been one demonstration. All over people are praying for him to end his fast. They are even praying for British soldiers. Gandhi says he may have overdone it.
Gandhi is walking with help from Kasturbai and Mirabehn. A British officer arrives and says Gandhi is under arrest for sedition. Nehru says he just stopped a revolution, and he does not believe even the British could be that stupid. Gandhi says if there is any demonstration, he will fast again. He tells Nehru they are not ready for his kind of independence. This may be the best they can do now.
Judge Broomfield (Trevor Howard) calls in the prisoner, and Gandhi walks in. A man reads from the writing of Gandhi which says sedition is their creed. Gandhi admits that he believes noncooperation with evil is a duty and that British rule of India is an evil. The prosecution rests. Gandhi says he has no defense and that he is guilty as charged. He says if he truly believes in this system of law, he must inflict on him the severest penalty. Broomfield says he is different from anyone he ever tried. He sentences him to six years in prison, and he hopes that the government will reduce his term later.
Several years later in the Porbandar state Walker is driving a car and being told Gandhi’s story. Walker says he met Gandhi many years ago in South Africa.
By a river Gandhi and Kasturbai are reliving their wedding vows. The seventh step is that they may ever live as friends. He says they were both 13 years old.
Walker says it is beautiful. Gandhi says he came because something is going to happen. Gandhi recalls South Africa and says he has traveled far since then. They are sitting by the sea. Gandhi says Hindus and Muslims worship the same God. He recalls a song he sang as a child that influenced him. He smiles and gets up. Walker says he knows what he is going to do. Gandhi tells him to follow him. He says he is going to prove to the Viceroy that the King’s writ no longer runs in India.
Lord Irwin (John Gielgud) asks an official what it has to do with salt, and the official says he is going to march to the sea and then make salt. The officer Fields says there is a government monopoly on salt, and it is illegal to make it or sell it without a government license. He explains that it is not the revenue, but it is symbolic. Everyone needs salt, and it is their way of controlling the people. Irwin asks if that is the basis of this declaration of independence. Fields says that on the day Gandhi leaves everyone is supposed to raise the flag of India, and then after walking 240 miles to the sea they are to make salt. General Edgar suggests they ignore it so that the symbolism will not matter. The official says he is going to arrive at the sea on the anniversary of the massacre at Amritsar. Irwin says Edgar is right; they will ignore it.
Many people have gathered to follow Gandhi, and he begins walking with Walker. Gandhi says it does not matter if he is arrested or not. He says they will provoke a response until they change the law. He believes he is in control. People throw flower petals at them. Hundreds are walking, and they pass through villages. Gandhi greets Mrs. Nehru who joins them. His group is joined by a larger group that has been waiting for them.
Thousands of people have arrived at the sea. Gandhi picks up some salt by the water and says man needs salt as he needs food and water.
This is reported in a newsreel seen by Lord Irwin. The military officers say they are making salt and selling it everywhere. They feel they are being made fools. Irwin says the government has ordered them to stop it. He orders them to arrest as many as they can but not Gandhi. They will cut away his strength and then deal with the Mahatma.
At the beach people are putting salt in paper to sell it. Soldiers on horses attack a crowded street, and Nehru is clubbed. He tells another man not to hit back.
Fields tells Irwin that 100,000 are under arrest. All the leaders are in jail, even Mrs. Nehru. He says an officer opened fire with a machine gun. Irwin learns there has not been violence on the Indian side. Fields says Gandhi sent him a letter and told him that he is going to lead an assault on the Dharasana Salt Works. Irwin tells him to put Gandhi in jail and keep the Salt Works open.
Outside the Dharasana Salt Works a woman explains to the demonstrators that they will not raise a hand to defend themselves. An officer tells the soldiers he wants firmness and discipline. The soldiers block the road to the gate. Azan tells the men they will not lose heart nor fight back. They walk slowly toward the soldiers who use sticks to hit the men who fall to the ground and are helped away by women. Row after row of men are knocked down and taken away by the women and treated by them. Walker observes and writes the story that he reports by telephone. He concludes that the West lost its moral ascendancy today. India has not cringed nor retreated.
A car arrives at a palace. Gandhi walks up the steps in sandals and goes in. He enters an elegant room and tells Irwin that he hopes the trouble he has caused will not stand between them as men. Irwin invites him to a attend an all-government conference in London to discuss the possible independence of India.
Gandhi on a ship is shown in a newsreel. Gandhi stays in the east end of London, and he meets leaders and famous people. He goes to Buckingham Palace for tea.
At the conference Gandhi listens to a speaker.
Gandhi walks in the rain with an umbrella. He goes to a cotton mill. He goes back to meet with Prime Minister MacDonald.
Gandhi sits on the deck of a ship going back to India.
Jinnah tells Gandhi they sent him back empty-handed. Gandhi is spinning and says their will has gone. Independence will come sometime and somehow. Nehru says the time is now, and they will decide how. Gandhi says they are preparing for war. He will not support it, but he will not take advantage of it. He says they have come a long way with the British, and he would like to see them off as friends.
Gandhi at a train station is asked about the subject of his speech. He tells an officer that he will speak against war, and he is arrested. Kasturbai says if he is arrested, she will speak in his place. She is arrested too.
Margaret Bourke-White (Candice Bergen) in a jeep is brought to the prison by a soldier. Inside Gandhi tells her that he has heard of Life magazine and her. She takes pictures of him and says he is the only man she knows who makes his own clothes. He says that is not much of an accomplishment. He says independence will come after the war. He is concerned what shape the independence will take because Jinnah has cooperated with the British and gained power and freedom to speak. He has made Muslims afraid of what will happen to them in a country that has a Hindu majority. He finds that hard to bear. He shows her how he spins, but she doubts this is a solution in the modern age. He says happiness can come from work and pride in what you do. He says the local skills of Indians must be revived to keep them out of poverty. He does not want to import the corruption of the West. She asks if he could use nonviolence against Hitler. He says there will be injuries and losses, but they will not be as bad as those in war. He shows her how to spin and be patient.
Kasturbai tells Margaret about the slavery of women and the untouchables in India that he has fought against. Margaret asks if she misses her husband. Kasturbai says that Gandhi has struggled to find the way to God. She says that four times he tried to give up sex, and then he took a solemn vow. She says he has not broken that vow yet.
A soldier says that Kasturbai had a massive thrombosis and could not survive a trip. Gandhi goes to her bed and takes her hand, saying he is going for his walk. He pauses, and Mirabehn and others leave the room. Gandhi sits with her. Later a soldier comes in and checks her pulse and heart. Gandhi is grieving.
An airplane lands, and Lord Mountbatten (Peter Harlowe) and his wife get off the plane. He announces that he is to be the last British viceroy.
Jinnah tells Gandhi that he is concerned about the slavery of the Muslims. Gandhi tells Patel and Nehru that Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of India; no one will be master or slave. Nehru asks how they will divide the country. Jinnah says they will do so by giving areas with a majority of Muslims to Pakistan, and the rest will be India. Patel says the Muslims are in a majority on the western and eastern sides of the country, but Jinnah says they can let the Muslims worry about that. Mountbatten asks them to reconvene.
Protestors are shouting “Death to India!” Gandhi is spinning and hears them. Nehru comes out, and they stop. Two young nieces help Gandhi to get ready. He goes out and gets in a car with Nehru. The car stops, and Gandhi says he must meet with Jinnah. He tells the fanatical Hindus to stop their hateful chanting because that is not the India he wants.
Jinnah asks the Hindus to come to the meeting after their prayers. Gandhi tells Jinnah that he is asking Nehru to stand down so that Jinnah can be the first prime minister of India and choose his own cabinet with heads of the departments. Nehru says he and these others could accept it, but out there already they are rioting because they are afraid he will give too much away to the Muslims. Patel says if he did that, no one could control it. Jinnah says Gandhi must choose an independent India and an independent Pakistan or civil war.
Mountbatten salutes as the flag of India is raised.
Mountbatten also salutes where the flag of Pakistan is raised.
Gandhi is spinning outside.
In August 1947 on the border of India and Pakistan thousands of people are migrating. Hindus move one way, and Muslims the other. One man starts throwing rocks at the other side, and men begin to fight.
At a meeting Nehru says that at Calcutta it is like civil war. If they cannot stop it, there will be no hope for the Muslims in eastern Pakistan. He says they have no more troops to spare. Gandhi gets up and says he does not want to hear anymore. He says he is going to Calcutta.
At night in Calcutta men are fighting in various places. A British soldier tells Gandhi he cannot protect Gandhi in a Muslim house in a Hindu quarter. Outside Hindus chant “Death to Muslims!”
The next day soldiers arrive to try to stop the fighting.
Nehru reads in the newspaper that Gandhi is fasting to the death to stop the violence. He says he will go there in four days.
Nehru comes to visit Gandhi where he is staying on a roof. Gandhi tells Patel he has gained weight and should join his fast. Patel says if he fasts, he dies. Nehru says he waited to come because it has been helping. He says it is enough. He says 5,000 Muslim soldiers and 5,000 Hindu students are going to march for peace. Gandhi says it is not enough. Nehru warns him he is not young anymore. Gandhi says he cannot watch the destruction of all he has worked for.
That night fighting breaks out.
On another day Nehru comes to Gandhi, and a man shouts, “Death to Gandhi.” Nehru asks who said that and says to kill him first. Mirabehn says Gandhi’s pulse is irregular and that his kidneys are not functioning. Nehru introduces the man who told the Muslims to rise and says he has told them to go their homes and lay down their arms. He urges Gandhi to live so that he can do more. He asks what he wants. Gandhi asks that the fighting stop and that they persuade him that it will never stop again.
Nehru speaks to a crowd and tells them that Gandhi is dying because of their madness. He tells them to put away their revenge. He asks them to have the courage to do what they know is right. He begs them to embrace as brothers.
That night some gangs bring their swords to Gandhi and promise they have stopped. A frantic man tells Gandhi to eat because he is going to hell. The man says he killed a child because the Muslims killed his son. Gandhi says he knows a way out of hell. He tells him to find an orphan child and raise him as his own and make sure that he is a Muslim and that he raise him as one. The man is shocked and backs away. Then he kneels down and cries.
At dawn Calcutta is quiet. As the morning goes on, Mirabehn tells Gandhi that there has not been any fighting anywhere. He says they did it to save the life of an old man. She says they have pledged to die in every temple and mosque if they lift a hand against each other. Others standing around assure him it is true. Gandhi asks his friend Maulana for some orange juice, and later he would like a piece of bread. Nehru takes his hand and smiles.
People are gathering in a garden for prayer.
At home Gandhi tells Margaret that he does not want to be remembered that way. She asks if he is going to Pakistan and says he is stubborn. He wants to prove that the only devils are in their own hearts, and that is where they should fight their battles. She asks what kind of warrior he has been. He says he is not very good, and that is why he is tolerant of others. She says she is an admirer, and he says nothing is more dangerous for an old man. He walks out. Margaret asks Mirabehn why he thinks he failed. Mirabehn believes that he offered a way out for a world of madness; but she says he does not see it nor does the world.
The nieces help Gandhi walk in the garden. He prays before a Hindu who picks up a gun and shoots him twice. Gandhi cries, “Oh God.”
At the funeral the body is burned on a bonfire. From a boat the ashes are scattered at sea. Gandhi’s voice is heard talking about how truth and love have always triumphed.
This biopic dramatizes the world-changing, nonviolent methods of Gandhi from his experimenting with them in South Africa and India to his fasting after independence was achieved to reduce violence between Hindus and Muslims. The story is very accurately presented, and this enables the message to be very powerful as the antidote needed if human civilization is to survive and prosper.