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Gandhi pic hits South Africa

An ambitious South Africa-India venture on the formative political life of Mahatma Gandhi is now set to roll in Johannesburg, after two years of negotiations between the two countries.

Shyam Benegal – one of India’s best-known directors – has been selected to helm the film. He left for Johannesburg the first week of June with his principal crew and cast to start the shoot.

The film, “The Making of the Mahatma,” will be shot entirely in South Africa in the cities of Johannesburg and Durban, using a largely Indian crew. The executive producer in South Africa is Anant Singh of Video Vision Entertainment, who also worked on “Cry, the Beloved Country.”

Lead roles are being played by well-known Bombay actors, with the remaining cast handled by local talent. Rajit Kapur, Indian stage and newly turned screen actor, will play the role of Gandhi. TV actress Pallavi Joshi will play Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba. Other key roles have been assigned to Keith Stevenson and Siraj Khan.

Mohandas Gandhi, revered in India as “the Father of the Nation,” arrived in Johannesburg in 1893 in his mid-20s immediately after his education as a lawyer in England. His working and married life began in South Africa, where his 21-year stay transformed him into the great political activist who led his country to freedom through nonviolent means.

South African activist and writer Fatima Meer penned the script with Indian scriptwriter Shama Zaidi and Benegal. The film is scheduled to be released by year’s end.

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