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Barry K. Barnes
This unpretentious little gem came out around the same time as David Lean's PASSAGE TO India, and has been unfairly overshadowed by the blockbuster. I was charmed by the quiet, sensitive, yet emotionally charged portrayal of how an insecure, aggressive widow of a tea garden manager reluctantly develops an affectionate relationship with an Indian housewife and her family. What I found particularly good was that the Indian housewife, played excellently by Madhur Jaffrey, is no impossible goody-goody, but as much a human being with likes, dislikes and prejudices as the widow played by Deborah Kerr. There is also the sad irony of the grandchildren of the Indian family inevitably leaving their 'Indianness' behind in favour of a British lifestyle. Strongly recommended for those in the mood for subtlety and understatement. And it should be watched with Lean's PASSAGE TO India for fruitful comparisons. To my mind, and I'm probably in a minority of one, THE ASSAM GARDEN is the better of the two films. I once possessed a video recording of it, which is now the property of the Film Studies Department of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India.
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