A long open-topped motorcar slides its way through the bazaar, preceded by an armoured vehicle and followed by a company of Gurkhas and Baluchi soldiers, trotting along holding Lee-Enfield rifles. The car stops. Brigadier Rex Dyer, crustily played by Edward Fox, gets out and strides to a broad but enclosed space known as the Jallianwala Bagh. While his soldiers line up on either side of him, Dyer observes a large, peaceful-looking crowd to whom a Sikh orator is preaching Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violent resistance. Declining to give the crowd a warning, he orders his men to open fire and to keep on firing for a cinematic eternity. He even directs the Gurkhas to aim at a group of people trying to escape over a wall.
In the long catalogue of cinema’s historical distortions, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi is not in the Braveheart league of inane offenders. The depiction of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 is roughly accurate, even though the speakers were less Gandhian and the crowd less pacific than the director made out.