Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Sir Ben Kingsley, Man of Peace, May Surprise You

  Nadene Goldfoot                                                                      
Last night on the Jimmy Fallon show, which comes on about midnight, the first and main person introduced was Sir Ben Kingsley, who played Gandhi.  He proudly told his audience that his mother was a Russian Jewish lady and that he also had Muslim and Christian roots as well, so he was indeed a man of peace. A man of 3 major religions playing the man of peace, the Hindu, Gandhi,  is really an amazing guy.

When this man appeared on Fallon's stage, he owned the program. He had command of the whole evening.  He sent out vibes that reached even me!   One could feel the command he had in his appearance and stance.  And funny!  He was hilarious and such a good sport.  He had also been on Jay Leno's show the night before as well.  He's making the rounds because of a new movie he's in and he's getting publicity for it.  He spoke with an Indian accent and my goodness, nobody does it better than he does, being he has Indian heritage.  He was truly at his best both nights.

I was so proud of him to say that on TV.  It was almost like the fellow who just came out about being gay and admitting it to people.  I see that on Wikipedia, Ben  wasn't completely sure about his mother's heritage.  Anna Lyna Mary Goodman, actress and model, was born British but out of wedlock and was "loath to speak of her background."  Her father said the family thought they had been Russian or German Jews while  Kingsly's maternal grandmother was English and worked in the garment district of East London.  This has been an area  and work where Jewish women coming over from Europe did find employment.  Kingsley said, "I'm not Jewish...and though there might be some Russian-Jewish heritage way back on my mother's side, the thread is so fine there's no real evidence."

He must have done some research by the time of last night's show, for now he stated it proudly.  In Judaism, if the mother is Jewish, the child born to her is Jewish.  Like he said, "if they weren't practicing Jews, he would know nothing about it."  I suggest he could do some dna testing, if he's curious enough.  We have tests that can tell you a lot about yourself and see what his mother's mt DNA line is and if it matches up with anyone who is Jewish.  Then he'll find out if his mother had German or Russian roots.

 What a combination he is  and look how wonderful he has turned out to be; a little of the 3 major religions.  Ben was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire, near Scarborough, England on December 31, 1943, which is quite a serious time in history, right in the middle of WWII when  England was being shelled by the Germans.  He was a New Year's Eve baby bringing in the New Year.

His paternal grandfather was a spice trader who had moved from India to Zanzibar where his son and Ben's father lived until moving to Britain at the age of 14.  Ben's father, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji,  was born in Kenya and was of the Gujarati Indian Ismaili Muslim Khoja descent.  He was a physician.

Kingsley grew up in Pendlebury, near Manchester, England.  He studied at the University of Salford and at Pendleton college, which later became home to the Ben Kingsley Theater.  He turned down the opportunity to become a pop star to join the Royal Shakespeare Company after an audition.  His name change as an actor was so that his foreign name wouldn't be used to hamper his career.  His paternal grandfather's nickname was "King Clove," thus out of this grew Kingsley.

Finally, after years of acting, he found fame  when he played the part of Mohandas Gandhi in the Academy Award-winning film, Gandhi in 1982, his best-known role to date.  He was chosen as Best Actor.  He is famous as well in England.  He was named a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.  He was made a Knight bachelor in 2002, announced on December 31, 2001 which was his 58th birthday.  The award came from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.  People call him "Sir Ben."  He's won a Grammy Award in 1984 in which he had the best spoken word or non-musical recording for The Words of Gandhi. He was given the award of the Indian Civilian Honour Padma Shri in 1984.  Then on May 2010, Kingsley was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  This year in April he received the Fellowship Award at the Asian Awards in London.

He has played such roles as  an Arab potentate in Harem, 1985; the Jewish Meyer Lansky gangster in Bugsy 1992;  a Jewish bookkeeper in Schindler's List 1993, a suspected Nazi war criminal in Death and the Maiden 1994, a proud Arab-American patriarch in The House of Sand and Fog which won him a 3rd Oscar nomination.  He was the star in the 1981 Chariots of Fire, about the 1924 Olympics with the British Track team and Ben was a Jewish member competing against a Christian member.

Ben is proud of his mother's heritage.  I hope he learns more history about this side of his family.  What is known about Jews in India is very sketchy, I've read.  I have to smile.  His mother is the Jewish girl who married the doctor, every Jewish mother's dream for her daughter.  I acted in an old time Yiddish play, "She Must Marry a Doctor" by Sholom Alecheim in Safed, Israel, myself.  Coming out of either Germany or Russia at that time would have been a traumatic experience for any young Jewish girl.

NBC Late Night Shows:   Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon

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