Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Richard Attenborough: A Cinematic Visionary Passes Away

Richard Attenborough is certainly among the greats who have influenced mass communications media and, especially, cinema. He passed away on August 24 and was 90 years of age.

Thanks to the Jurassic Park, we do know Attenborough was a capable and exceptional actor, but he was an equally remarkable filmmaker. His style of filmmaking largely set the direction to biopics of epic proportion and genres such as political dramas set in the colonies and war movies.

Apart from his performance as Prof. John Hammond, the theme park financier in Jurassic Park, he played a memorable part in the Steve McQueen World War II thriller, The Great Escape. He is also remembered as a warm Santa in the Miracle on 34th Street. He also played a part in Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players.

Known for his charming demeanor, Dickie's directorial debut was the cheeky musical satire Oh, What a Lovely War, which was set in the World War I scenario. The film featured a star studded ensemble including Laurence Oliver, John Gielgud, Jack Hawkins, John Mills, Michael and Vanessa Redgrave, and Maggie Smith.

Having appeared in quite a few war movies in his early career, his A Bridge Too Far looked like a masterstroke from an accomplished general. This ensemble featured the likes of Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neil, Liv Ullman and, of course, Laurence Olivier. He had this knack of attracting top stars to his films.

Or even discover completely new ones for grand roles.

Richard Attenborough was truly a cinematic visionary, creating some of the grandest spectacles in the history of film. But it was not until his biopics, which were probably the last films of their kind in the English speaking world, that set him on the path to greatness.

In 1980, he produced and directed Gandhi, a film which remarkably reproduced the Indian Raj in the times of one of the most extraordinary human beings in history. And with a natural like Ben Kingsley, it seemed that Gandhi himself had come to life. The film won 8 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.

During the production, thousands of Indians had actually mistaken Kingsley to be Gandhi back from the dead. And who could possibly forget those amazing visuals of the funeral in Delhi and the scenes from the migration. But more than anything else, Gandhi told the story of a peacemaker, and as a storyteller, Richard Attenborough created history with it.

A decade later, he produced Chaplin, which was an astonishingly moving recreation of the life of film genius Charlie Chaplin. Just like he utilized Kingsley for Gandhi, he handpicked a brand new actor, who we today know as Robert Downey Jr. to play the title part. The masterful impressions and brilliant portrayal of Robert Downey of the cinematic giant won the hearts of millions in cinematic audiences worldwide.

He continued making powerful films in Cry Freedom, Magic and Closing the Ring and left a lasting mark on the history of motion pictures.

It seems that a golden age of cinema is ending with his death. 

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