News East West
TORONTO: Anant Singh, Indian-origin South African producer of the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, says he feels “very honoured’’ that Mandela trusted him to bring his story to global audiences through his film.
In town for the gala presentation of the film at the Toronto International Film festival, Singh, who is a third-general Indian in South Africa and started his career in films during the apartheid era, said he is privileged that Madiba (as Mandela is fondly called) paid so much trust him by granting him the exclusive rights to produce the film.
Recalling how he bagged to the rights to make the film, Singh said, “This is going back 25 years when I wrote to him when he was in prison about trying to tell his story into a motion picture…he was very flattering. He sent a note via a friend because he couldn’t write letters easily and said: Would anybody want to see a movie about his life?And here we are 25 years later and there have been several movies about him.
“When he came out of prison, I got to meet him, and I again I pursued on this path and finally he chose me and granted me the rights against tough competition to Long Walk to Freedom – his autobiography – and I was very honoured.”
Singh said Mandela told him, “I trust you, go and make the movie, adding that “it is the only one (on his life) he has endorsed and blessed.’’
The Indian-origin producer said “the good thing is that Mandela never pressured me.”
Calling his film the `quintessential South African story’ of an international icon, Singh, “We believe that it will bring attention to the entire South African film industry as it represents the incredible skill and talent that can be achieved by locals. The film is of world-class standards and will enhance the country’s reputation in the international arena.’’
Asked whether he showed the film to Mandela, Singh said he see him last year to show some scenes from the film.
He recalled how Mandela was amused when he saw his transition from a young man to an old man in the film. “He laughed and endorsed him (Idris Elba who plays Mandela),’’ Singh said.
When Idris Elba, the 41-year-old British actor, was asked how tough it was to play the role of the great leader, he said he didn’t get to spend much time with Mandela because of his illness.
He said he just went there to soak up the atmosphere in South Africa where everyone has a story to tell about Nelson Mandela. “It was an energy thing, and I plugged into the energy, the Mandela thing.’’
The 152-minute film, which premiered at the Toronto film festival on Saturday, has been directed by Justin Chadwick.