Old-timers recall shooting at Collectorate, Digha Ghat

Patna, Oct 03 (PTI):
The year was 1981, the landmark Gandhi Setu across Ganga had not been built, and celebrated filmmaker Richard Attenborough and his crew were in Patna shooting some of the key scenes for his biopic on the Mahatma that went on to win multiple Oscars and hearts of people.
The movie immortalised Mohandas K Gandhi or ‘Bapu’ as he would be fondly called and recalled by generations after generations, as also the historic buildings of the centuries-old Patna Collectorate which served as an iconic site for the filming of the Bihar scenes forty years ago that had set the capital city abuzz with excitement. Gandhi’s 152nd birth anniversary fell on Saturday and octogenarian Razi Ahmad, secretary of the Gandhi Sanghralaya in Patna, recalled the “Attenborough days of Patna”.
“He was a man of great details, and he wanted every scene to capture the essence of life and times of Gandhiji as it must have been back then. After arriving in Patna, he went around the city and Danapur, scouting for old buildings and locations that would help depict the era on screen as faithfully as possible,” Ahmad told PTI. The avowed Gandhian even recalled the shooting at the Patna Collectorate, where the ‘Champaran scenes’ were shot, and reminisced watching the British filmmaker in action. “Attenborough’s equipment and all used to be kept on the premises of Gandhi Sanghralaya. And, he would move around from there. There was no bridge across Ganga from Patna side, the famous Gandhi Setu would come up a year later. And, he had huge cameras and other equipment, so going to Champaran from Patna was very difficult,” Ahmad said, recalling the pre-Mahatma Gandhi Setu era.
And, therefore after much consideration, “Attenborough sahab chose Patna Collectorate for recreation of the important Motihari scenes, as he saw in its buildings, a component he was looking for as part of his cinematic vocabulary,” he recalled. In the iconic film, the Dutch-era Record Room of the Collectorate, was dressed up as a Motihari Jail, while the British-period DM Office was used for depicting the famous court room scene, a moment that turned Gandhi into Mahatma.
Ahmad, who at times had ringside view of the shooting, recalled the “artificial rain” that was created outside the DM Office Building when ‘Gandhiji’ played by actor Ben Kingsley, emerges out of the court room and into the corridor, acknowledging the crowd on the ground that chanted “Gandhiji, Gandhiji” in unison.

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