[10 October 2006]
From the User’s Guide to Indian Films Intro
The movies described in the User’s Guide are the hit list of Indian cinema. They’re not only the best films of all time, but they give you the best glimpse of what Indians enjoy, their sense of tragedy and comedy, their aspirations, their regrets. In short, it’s a visual chronicle of Indian society in the last 50 years. Enjoy.
Fire (1996)/ Earth (1998)/ Water (2005)
dir: Deepa Mehta
Inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs Trilogy, Deepa Mehta set out to make three films that would provide an unsparing look into the hypocrisies of Indian society. Fire and Water concerned such thematically controversial topics as lesbianism and abuse of both the lower castes and women that they are still banned in India. Mehta forces contemporary India to explore they ways in which it justifies oppression and inequality, all in the name of religion. Narratively, Fire tells the story of a young woman trapped in a loveless arranged marriage who finds an emotionally and physically fulfilling relationship with her elder sister-in-law. Earth takes us to Lahore just before the traumatic 1947 partition of India and Pakistan and shows us the chaos of people being uprooted and displaced, and how generations of friendships forged between Hindus and Muslims, overnight, transform into murderous hatred as the city erupts in communal riots. Water, the final film in the series, casts light on the struggle of poor Hindu widows abandoned by their families to live a life of celibacy in overcrowded ashrams. All three films demystify the sacred values that Indians hold family, love, homeland, and identity. They give us a glimpse of all the insidious compromises and sins we are willing to commit in the name of duty and faith.