Sawnet - Cinema - Reviews
Directed by Deepa Mehta
last few weeks, I have been reading many of the posts on
Deepa Mehta's Fire as well as the critiques of her work by Madhu
& Sawnettors. I have to agree with the points about accuracy and
support those who posted comments about DM's use of artistic license.
I think the same can be said of Earth. I was one of several people
attended the launch of Earth in Toronto Yesterday (sept 3rd) (a
for the United Way). I found that Earth was not a bad film -- it was
a mediocre film. There was nothing in it that made it a film of
distinction -- I kept thinking that DM's take on partition is like any
other film I have ever seen by Bollywood about independence & cultural
politics/violence of the time. Her characters lacked development -- I
kept thinking at the end that I felt nothing for any on them including
the child whose story DM is telling. There were many people who felt
that it was a powerful tale, but I kept thinking that it was just not
moving enough. Why? We have all seen films about the violence and
bloodshed during partition. Why is it that film makers continue to use
carnage as a way to provoke audience reaction? Why is a train full of
bloodied Moslem/Hindu bodies used to illustrate the madness of that
time? Doesn't any one see that DM exploits the cinema/images in her tale of
religious hatred for the commercial/shock value. This is not to
discount the importance or relevance of partition on India/Pakistan's
continual conflict, but I am tired of seeing the same old religious
violence & conflicts of interfaith couples dealing with the "turmoil"
unfolding around them. I suppose, I would prefer stories where people
achieve victory despite the madness around them.
There are other things in the film that bothered me too, but not
particularly well versed in the cultural practice of the time -- I will
not judge DM. However, I know many of you are either from that
or are scholars of that time period. Is it acceptable that a nanny
during that time would consort with only men and never have any female
friends except for her boss? Would she be able to take the child
her care all over town in the company of single men without fear of
employer? There are many such questionable instances.
My final rambling on Earth is that DM has selected or highlighted
aspects of the story that I am sure will no doubt bring her more
controversy in India. I think that she uses controversial scenes as a
way to distract us from a film which is for the most part quite
-- Meena Narahari
I myself was
disappointed, felt it was a movie made for a non-Indian
audience, too "Hollywood". I felt the movie was more about getting
reactions and satisfying audiences....rather than telling the story
that needed to be told. But that's just my humble opinion.
However, I must say, the movie did encourage me to learn more about
what facts of 1947.
-- Kavita Chetty
1947: Earth I too was disappointed, not sure why. The film does
contain many evocative scenes, but it is somehow unsatisfied with its
understated approach and so sometimes overstates things -- this burden
of narration falls unfairly onto the characters. But the acting is
and Aamir Khan certainly showed his stuff (after that sorry role in
"Mann"). Woudl be better if we didnt feel like the director was
talking down to us.
-- Aravinda Pillalamarri
Earth...and was less than impressed. As someone (like many other
sawnetters, I am sure) whose family was displaced during partition, I
welcome any attempt that gives visibility to this issue and generates
discussion/interest. My sense is, the fact that 1 million people lost
their lives and another 12 were displaced during partition is not very well
known outside the sub-continent.
I felt that the movie did not adequately address the political
forces that were unfolding at that time. As a result, it didn't prepare the
audience for such defining moments in the film as child marriage,
riots and the train arriving with massacred bodies. It made the fear,
hatred and violence appear
almost pathological. I have been also wondering whether it was intended to
catch the audience by surprise since the protagonist is a child to whom all
these make no sense. Yet, since it was made for an audience outside India, I
personally would have preferred a more complicated approach. IMO, a
reference to history does not diminish or justify the immense human tragedy
of partition; rather it makes the connection between the private and
the public....how life can really be turned upside down by forces way beyond our
Probably I felt this way because I have seen much more moving treatment of
the issue in other films and literature. There was a television serial made
out of Vishma Sahni's `Tamas', I think in the early 90s. I liked it
-- Sujata Pal
I saw Earth last week in DC, and found myself quite moved by the film.
Several of the actors were splendid -- the little girl Maia Sethna, Nandita Das
(who looked gorgeous), Aamir Khan (ooooh).
I especially liked it that all the people spoke in
appropriate languages, and those that weren't in English were
Even the little girl spoke a Parsified Hindi or an Indianized English.
This is really the only way a film like this would work: it's so
when everyone is forced to speak the same language. Lovely music, too.
I read the various criticisms of the movie posted on Sawnet, and it
seemed to me that some were really criticisms of the book on which it
was based. (I read the book, Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, and liked
too). Yes, there were overdone moments, where the symbolism was
excessively heavy, but I found it easy to overlook those. I was more
bothered by the implication that it was all the fault of the Brits,
the final speech by Lenny was a bore.
Deepa Mehta and Bapsi Sidhwa were both present at the screening, and took
afterwards. The first question was from an Indian, who said he had the
impression that this Partition story was from a very "Indian" p.o.v,
Indians often thought that Partition was unnecessary, and he wondered
the Pakistanis had the same feeling. It was an interesting question,
one that Sidhwa did not quite answer -- she said Partition was something
that could no longer be discussed, it had Happened, and we should now
accept it and move on.
-- Susan Chacko
I too was unimpressed by Earth as a movie about the Partition. Tamas and
Garam Hava were much more powerful, I felt, in conveying the complexity and
emotions of that time. I haven't seen Train to Pakistan yet, but have heard
mediocre things about it as well.
- [...]Earth, I felt, went for shock value--the blood, the bodies, the atrocities,
whether shown on the screen or narrated--I felt some of it was
disjointed...show as much as possible in the time allotted. Other
movies/serials left viewers with an equally clear mental/emotional picture
of these horrors and what the *people* must have experienced (vs. a series
of horrible events), yet they did so by, for example, the expression on
someone's face--in fact, if I recall correctly, in Tamas not one drop of
blood or act of violence was shown, yet it left me more
devastated/gut-wrenched at the end than Earth.
- On the bright side...the music and the acting in Earth were, IMO,
-- Reeta Sinha
About Earth: I saw it too and was disappointed (though I don't know why
I had expectations after Fire and the wayit was directed). I think I bought
the hype before the film. I didn't care at all for the way the film was
directed. I cannot understand the relationships angle in the film and the
character that Nandita Das played irritated me endlessly with her
inconsistent personality the way it is in most Indian Bollywood films these
days. In other words, I feel Deepa Mehta tried to take away the focus from
personalities in a personality based situation(that is the relationships).
The film had all the ingredients of a regular tearjerker. I think the theme
is a dramatic one but all the drama came from the wrong sources like the
music. That's my two paise on it:))
-- Nithya Krishnaswami
While the film certainly has its flaws, I feel that fellow sawnettors are being
unnecessarily harsh on the film and Mehta. The essence of the film, I
feel, is the sense of betrayal that it portrays. Not only at the
personal level but also between two religious communities. Hindus and Muslims
have never been able to trust each other after the partition. This
thought, was brilliantly portrayed by Mehta and Aamir Khan. The movie was
not about the horrors of partition. It was about a change in the feelings
of people of one community towards another and vice-versa.
I went to see Earth eagerly,
partly because it is just such a seductive package and partly because
I come from a Partition family.
I was more than disappointed, I was profoundly annoyed with the
because it was initially so damn dull, suffering from a horrible
full of cliches, repetitive scenes, flat characters and great music
poorly used. I do feel the film was redeemed by a very powerful end,
which came together at every level - narrative, cinematic, acting- and
left me shaken and disturbed. There was
some sensationalism in a couple of scenes but I maybe preferred it to
the endless, stupefying scenes of unimaginative flirting and dead
symbolism (broken plates and ripped up dolls, somebody save me!).
But, whatever its artistic merits and flaws, Earth annoyed me for
the historical understanding it chose to present. It stated very much the
mainstream HIndu Indian view of history - that Partition was created
by people "up there" - the Brits, the politicians, etc. and the common
people did not want Partition and there was actually great amity and
harmony before. This as we know was not the reality and there were
tremendous parallel division along economic and religious lines.
I recently read two fabulous books about Partition, which I highly
recommend, Urvashi Butalia's "The Other Side of Silence" and "Borders
and Boundaries" by Ritu Menon and Kamala Bhasin. There have lengthy
interviews with women and every single one sees Partition as an
inevitable occurrence, born of class issues as much as communal
politics. Perhaps the architecture of Pakistan and the violent nature
Partition would have been different, had there not been so much
arbitrariness and haste and uncertainty. i wish the film had tried to
convey the many factors that contributed to Partition rather than
aggressively assert this simplistic viewpoint.
Another thing which bothered me, though I don't know if I am being
oversensitive, was the film's relationship with religion. To me its
subtext clearly read - if you are definedly (yes. I know that's not a
word!) religious then you cannot be secular (whatever that is). So
whole good Muslim bad Muslim thing play into the stereotype of the
Muslim who will not give up his religious for anything and who is
therefore a fanatic and therefore violent. Aamir Khan is so
Muslim from the beginning while Rahul Khanna' religion is not visually
clear. Rahul Khanna also tells Nandita Das that they can go to
and he will become a Hindu - fitting neatly into this middle class
belief that only a person who does not care about his/her religion can
be secular/good. All the Hindus in the film are also presented in
way - having no difficulties about changing religion and usually
presenting a rational point of view.
Two days after I saw the film I saw a letter in a Bombay newspaper
said -" Earth is a great film because it shows us the Truth about
Partition - the Muslims were fanatical, Sikhs were hot headed and the
Hindus have suffered because of this." I have heard this echoed so
by people around me, for so many years as a justification of Hindu
fundamentalism (which is never recognized as fundamentalist or
of course) that I really don't think we needed another document to
this belief system!
One last gripe - yes, the actors were great, but I swear if
had simpered one more time I would have fled screaming from the
But she is beautiful, so I guess, she's excused!
-- Paromita Vohra
Film description: Based on Bapsi Sidhwa's "Cracking India", a searing story set around the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947.
Interview at the Toronto film festival. in Himal.
"If people want to separate they should understand what it would really mean.
Pics of actors,
authors and director, from a SAJA event.
Interview with Deepa Mehta in Earth Times.
Review from Palo Alto Weekky (scroll down).
Review from the Hindu, 10 Oct 99.
from Outlook, 11 Oct 99.
Review from Pakistan Link
from Planet Bollywood
Review from the Washington Post
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