I watch a movie for different reasons. Sometimes the hype gets me, sometimes it’s the actor, director or story that interests me. But of late it’s because I’m at a loose end and in front of the television when it’s being aired. 

And so Darkest Hour happened to me. It’s the cinematic depiction of the first five weeks since Winston Churchill was entrusted with the Prime Ministership in May 1940, as a matter of ‘revenge’ as he put it, to his wife. Nobody wanted to lead when Britain was starring at a massive defeat against Hitler’s Germany. 

I’m no big fan of Winston Churchill, but one can’t deny him the credit for winning the war from a position of despair. Darkest Hour is adapted from the book by Anthony McCarten and Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Elizabeth Nel, with some cinematic liberties. Would anyone have imagined he would lead his country to victory when most of their men were lost in earlier battles? Maybe, his wife and he himself believed it, somewhat doggedly.  

Leadership, I assume, mostly has nothing to do with popularity, being liked or even having complete confidence in oneself. Sometimes all it takes is courage and pride, for defending what appears to be the right thing. And I wonder if that takes a while to gain. Does learning from one’s life and others’ give better results than a college degree alone? I just wonder.

Could the age factor and the wisdom that one expects to gain from life’s experiences make all the difference? Would Churchill have the same result at 40? His wife is quoted as telling him all his life’s experience had prepared him for that moment in history. Same can be said of Mahatma Gandhi, who had a non-remarkable life till his later years at Natal and then took on a larger than life figure  after returning to his homeland in his late 40s. Martha Stewart, became a TV hostess and entrepreneur in her golden years. Most Chairmen of large companies have to wait for their knowledge to turn to wisdom to take on the mantel, older cricket captains have had greater success than in their youth (Mike Brearley comes to mind).

Most of us have witnessed how leaders are picked in school. The most fancied girl or boy is made the Head Girl/Boy. I wonder how many actually showed leadership or achieved anything remarkable in their adult lives. Did many do definitely better than those who didn’t stand out? Achievements, not necessarily at the work place but in the community, at home handling adversity, achieving something through their own talent and hard work, not entitlement through family name etc.

It’s never too late to succeed, not too late to lead and make history but for that one needs tons of experience and the ability to introspect and hone oneself. 

“Those who never change their mind, never change anything,” so said Winston Churchill in 1940 as he grappled with whether to sign a peace pact with Herr Hitler.


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