Earth


Love triangle: Dil Navaz and Hasan compete for the affections of Shanta while India is torn in two (l to r Khan, Khanna and Das).
dir-scr Deepa Mehta
with Nandita Das, Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna, Maia Sethna, Kitu Gidwani, Arif Zakaria, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Gulshan Grover, Eric Peterson, Pavan Malhotra
99/India 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Set in 1947, Earth examines the turbulent division of India into two countries as the British Empire withdrew and granted independence. It's a warmly made film, with solid performances that give fascinating insight to the time and place. But it's also just a bit dull and uninvolving.

At the centre is Lenny (Sethna), an 8-year-old girl growing up in Lahore without understanding what all the fuss is about. Her family is Parsee, neutral in the conflict between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, and she watches carefully as her nanny Shanta (Das), a beautiful young Hindu, is courted by two eligible bachelors, both Muslim. The ice candy man Dil Navaz (Khan) is a charming rogue, while the masseur Hasan (Khanna) is a sensitive soul. Then as independence approaches, Lahore is suddenly placed in the Muslim state of Pakistan and violence begins to replace trust and community.

In only a few days, more than 1 million people were killed in clashes as 6 million Muslims moved to Pakistan and 5 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. This is a period in history we rarely get to see--especially from this perspective. To watch the brewing tragedy is utterly horrific, and yet the film misses the chance to make it personal by never quite getting under the skin of its characters. These people are just a too empty-headed--like their simple life was paradise before the troubles began. As a result, the dramatic/romantic storyline pales in significance to the historical background. And even there the film seems to place the blame far too simply on the British, who certainly inflamed the situation. But the reality I'm sure was far more complicated than this film admits.

[15--adult themes and situations, violence] 7.Apr.00
US release 10.Sep.99; UK release 14.Apr.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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