Ben Kingsley wasn’t always Ben Kingsley. Born to an Ismaili and Gujarati father of Indian descent (according to Radio Times), and his mother, who was English and Russian Jewish, he was given the name Krishna Bhanji (Traveling boy). However, he decided to change his name in order to gain more recognition in the English-speaking acting community.
In an interview with BAFTA, Kingsley recalled an audition for “Rada” and heard the casting director announce that he was ready to face “Christina Blange”. After waiting in awkward silence, Kingsley realized, “Oh my gosh, it’s me.” As it turned out, the director had difficulty pronouncing “Krishna Bhanji” and could not read Kingsley’s sloppy handwriting—hence the “Christina.” As a result, Christina did not get the role.
After this incident, Kingsley said that his father gave him some rude advice: if his name hurts his chances of getting gigs, then he should just change his name. The moment he Anglicized his name, job offers started coming in. Kingsley added: “I changed my clumsy Asian name to a more pronounceable and acceptable generic name to play Mahatma Gandhi. Here is your irony. Of course, Kingsley has come to terms with his new name and now does not present it differently. “Over the years, I signed my portraits with Ben Kingsley,” he told The Radio Times. “That’s who I am.”