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Circa 1920, during the Indian British rule, Dr. Aziz H. Ahmed was born and brought up in India. He is proficient in English, and wears Western style clothing. He meets an old lady, Mrs. Moore, at a mosque, who asks him to accompany her and her companion, Adela Quested, for sight-seeing around some caves. Thereafter the organized life of Aziz is turned upside down when Adela accuses him of molesting her in a cave. Aziz is arrested and brought before the courts, where he learns that the entire British administration is against him, and would like to see him found guilty and punished severely, to teach all native Indians what it means to molest a British citizen. Aziz is all set to witness the "fairness" of the British system, whose unofficial motto is "guilty until proved innocent." Written by
Adela lights a match when she enters the cave. She turns round and the match slowly burns down. When she has turned all the way round and looks up to see Aziz, the match is back to almost full length. See more »
Indian crowd member #1:
[pointing at Mr. Fielding and Adela leaving in the carriage]
That was Mr. Fielding!
Indian crowd member #2:
And Mrs. Moore!
Entire Indian crowd:
Mrs. Moore! Mrs. Moore! Mrs. Moore!...
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A Passage Through India tells a story about the radicalization of a native Indian who happens to be a Moslem. This was in the days before the idea of a separate Pakistan took hold in the independence movement.
Victor Bannerjee plays Dr. Aziz Ahmed and as you see by his title he's a professional man. But he's still looked down upon by most of the British who are ruling India. He's befriended by Peggy Ashcroft who is visiting India with her daughter-in-law to be, Judy Davis. Peggy's son is a magistrate. Bannerjee is also friends with James Fox who is an administrator at a local college.
He's warned against fraternizing with the British by his friends and family, but Bannerjee goes on a picnic with Ashcroft and Davis and Davis has a horrifying experience in the historic caves at Marabar. It's only her claustrophobia acting up, but Bannerjee winds up accused of rape. And his trial becomes a cause celebre for the Congress Party. Note that Bannerjee has two defense attorneys, a Moslem and a Hindu.
E.M. Forster who wrote A Passage to India brought two elements of his background to the writing of this novel. He served as a private secretary to a local maharajah so he knew the customs of India as well as the political scene. Most in the United Kingdom wanted to see India free after World War I. A few very powerful folks like Winston Churchill and some influential press lords, most prominently Lord Beaverbrook did not. There opposition kept India a British colony until after another World War.
Secondly Forster was a closeted gay man. His homosexuality was not publicly revealed, he wasn't 'outted' until after he died in 1970. One of his relationships was with a Moslem Indian who died at a young age. He's the model for Dr. Aziz. The India Forster writes about is not Rudyard Kipling's India. A place where the native population is made to feel like outsiders. Forster identified with them in a way Kipling could never conceive.
Peggy Ashcroft won a Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as the kindly Mrs. Moore. I've got a sneaking suspicion that Forster modeled her character on his own mother who lived with him until she died in 1945. Judy Davis got a nomination for Best Actress and A Passage to India was nominated in a whole bunch of technical categories.
A Passage to India is a disturbing look at a bygone era in a place where you can see a lot of the problems we face today being nurtured.
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