The lead role was played by Ben Kingsley for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film begins directly with the assassination of Gandhi and the funeral ceremony, which was attended by dignitaries from all over the world. The early life of this great leader was not shown in the film. After this the story cuts back to the most memorable moment in the life of Gandhi when in 1893, he was thrown off a South African train. The reason for throwing him was that he was a 'kaffir' and traveling in a first class compartment. It was here that Gandhi started the nonviolence movement for the rights of all Indians in South Africa.
The story gradually proceeds where a victorious Gandhi returns to India and is welcomed as a hero. He takes up the cause of freeing India from the clutches of the British. Thousands of people respond to Gandhi's nonviolent, non-cooperation movement to oust the Britishers from India. Numerous strikes, boycotts, satyagraha movements and fastings ultimately deterred the British to carry out their rule in India. After years of struggle India gained freedom at the cost of partition. Gandhi opposed the idea but the partition was carried out. However Nathuram Godse assassinated him creating a vacuum in the Indian political scenario.
The film was released in 1982 while the shooting began in 1980 and took seven months to complete the shooting. Sources say that 300,000 extras were used in the funeral scene and the largest for any film according to the Guinness World Records.
The other actor who were a part of this film were Rohini Hattangadi as Kasturba Gandhi, Roshan Seth as Pandit Nehru, Saeed Jaffrey as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Candice Bergen as Margaret Bourke-White, Amrish Puri as Khan, John Gielgud as Lord Irwin, Alyque Padamsee as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Nigel Hawthorne as Kinnoch, Edward Fox as Brigadier General Dyer, John Gielgud as Lord Irwin, Martin Sheen as Vince Walker (reporter) Richard Leech as Brigadier, Ian Charleson as Reverend Charlie Andrews, Shreeram Lagoo as Professor Gokhale, Geraldine James as Mirabehn (Madeleine Slade) Om Puri as Nihari, Trevor Howard as Judge Broomfield, John Mills as Lord Chelmsford Nigel Hawthorne as Kinnoch,Athol Fugard as Gen. Jan Christiaan Smuts, Richard Leech as Brigadier, Daniel Day Lewis as Colin, South African street thug, Supriya Pathak as Manu (Gandhi's niece),Neena Gupta as Abhu (Gandhi's niece),Pankaj Kapur as Pyarelal Alok Nath as Tyeb Mohammed, Mohan Agashe as Tyeb Mohammed's friend Dalip Tahil as Zia ,Jalal Agha as Passenger on train roof,Tom Alter as Doctor at Agha Khan's palace and John Ratzenberger as Bourke-White's military escort.
The movie received eight Academy awards in the various categories. Best Picture, Best Actor by Ben Kingsley, Richard Attenborough for best direction, Stuart Craig, Bob Laing, and Michael Seirton for best art direction, John Bloom for best editing, John Briley for best original screenplay, Bhanu Athaiya and John Mollo for best costume designing and Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor for Best cinematography. The movie also received six Golden Globe Award and also the Best picture awards from BAFTA(British Academy of Film and Television Arts).