Richard Attenborough – the legend lives on

Richard Attenborough – the legend lives on

Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park. Photo Credits - Philippe Freyhof/

August 24th marks the fifth death anniversary of actor, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and politician Richard Attenborough.

Having won several Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards, he produced, directed and acted in some very fine movies.

He served in the film unit of the Royal Air Force in World War II and sustained permanent ear damage. Later, his acting career began with stage performances before getting into the movies.

DH lists a few prominent movies Attenborough was involved in:


Critically acclaimed across the world, this 1982 historical drama on the life of Mahatma Gandhi (played by Ben Kingsley) is what every Indian can relate to because of obvious reasons. The movie is a history lesson of sorts. Produced and directed by Richard Attenborough, this movie depicts the time when Gandhi was thrown out of a train in Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) for sitting in a compartment meant only for white people, his transition to a satyagrahi wearing unstitched clothing, his efforts in the freedom struggle or even the pain of Jallianwala Bagh and partition.

The movie won eight awards out of 11 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. The movie also won many other awards.

The other big names in the cast included Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Martin Sheen, Geraldine James, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, Alyque Padamsee, Amrish Puri, Shreeram Lagoo, Om Puri, Tom Alter, Alok Nath, Mohan Agashe, Neena Gupta, Supriya Pathak, among others.

Shatranj Ke Khilari

This 1977 movie was directed by Satyajit Ray and set in old Awadh, the last prominent kingdom in the region the British East India company wants to take over. Attenborough plays General Outram, who feels king Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan) is a ‘frivolous, effeminate, irresponsible, worthless king’ and ‘who deserves to be the last king’.

The passage where General Outram is discussing taking over Awadh with Captain Weston (Tom Alter). Outram is not very familiar with Indian ways and Weston enlightens him. Outram is fascinated with how many times the king prays, how he dresses up like Hindu gods and also his fascination for Urdu poetry. Outram’s strong resolve in the British taking over and his acting are fascinating to watch.

The Great Escape

This 1963 World War II film is based on Paul Brickhill’s book by the same name. This American movie was directed and produced by John Sturges.

Attenborough plays RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, who is masterminding the escape of Allied prisoners of war from the German camp in Sagan (Poland) along with Group Captain Ramsey (James Donald).

While the American Air Force’s Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) makes vain (and ridiculous) attempts to escape, the role played by Attenborough is that of an ‘escape expert’ and a serious and careful planner of the escape.

The detail and seriousness with which Bartlett and Ramsey plan the escape is captivating. In the end, those who manage to escape, including Bartlett, are caught and shot in an open field by the Nazis.

It is believed that Attenborough became a familiar face in America after this movie was released.


Attenborough’s direction and production (co-produced with Mario Kassar) of the biographical drama-comedy movie Chaplin (played by Robert Downey Jr.) was released in 1992. This movie on British comedian Chaplin was well received and got positive feedback from audiences. However, there was criticism of the movie that it did not really go beyond what is commonly known as formulaic biopic. There was also a bit of criticism that it was a bit dry at times.

However, Downey got a lot of praise for the role he played.

A Bridge Too Far

Attenborough’s direction of this brilliant war movie, released in 1977, is a must-see for anyone who enjoys war movies. This was an adaptation of a book by the same name and authored by Cornelius Ryan in which 35,000 Allied troops have to be flown some 300 miles and dropped behind enemy lines in the Netherlands in Operation Market Garden.

There were mixed reactions whether the move was historically accurate or not. However, one of the most impressive aspects of the movie was the star-studded actor line-up of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, James Cann, Laurence Olivier and several others.

Attenborough also played an uncredited cameo role as a Dutch civilian.