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Fire (1996)

Unrated | | Drama, Romance | 22 August 1997 (USA)
Ashok runs a family business that sells takeout food that also has a video rental store at the side. Ashok's extended family includes his wife Radha, his brother Jatin, their ailing mother ... See full summary »



7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Karishma Jhalani ...
Ramanjeet Kaur ...
Young Radha's mother
Dilip Mehta ...
Young Radha's father
Jatin (as Jaaved Jaaferi)
Guide at Taj Mahal
Kushal Rekhi ...
Ranjit Chowdhry ...
Alice Poon ...
Ravinder Happy ...
Oily man in video shop
Devyani Saltzman ...
Girl in video shop (as Devyani Mehta Saltzman)
Sunil Chhabra ...
Milkman on bicycle


Ashok runs a family business that sells takeout food that also has a video rental store at the side. Ashok's extended family includes his wife Radha, his brother Jatin, their ailing mother Biji and their manservant Mundu, all living under the same roof. Jatin, at the insistence of Ashok and their mother, Biji, agrees to marry the beautiful Sita in an arranged marriage, although he is actually in love with Julie, a Chinese-Indian. At first glance, you see a happy middle-class family going through the normal paces of everyday life. However, as the layers are slowly peeled back, we find a simmering cauldron of discontent within the family, with almost every family member living a lie. Both marriages in the family turn out to be emotionally empty, without love or passion. While Ashok is an ascetic who has taken a vow of celibacy, Jatin is a handsome ladies' man who is still openly seeing Julie even after his marriage to Sita. Ashok has pledged his total devotion to a religious holy man, a... Written by Hariharan

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Beneath the surface lies a burning secret. See more »


Drama | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

22 August 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fire - Wenn die Liebe Feuer fängt  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$14,384 (USA) (22 August 1997)


$402,749 (USA) (10 October 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


On its opening day in India, some movie theaters were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists, and the movie was eventually banned for religious insensitivity. The film was banned in Pakistan for the lesbian relationship that the movie plays around. See more »


Sita: Isn't it amazing? We're so bound by customs and rituals. Somebody just has to press my button, this button marked Tradition, and I start responding like a trained monkey. Do I shock you?
Radha: Yes.
Sita: You're lovely.
See more »


Followed by Earth (1998) See more »


Bombay Theme
Composed by A.R. Rahman
From the Bombay (1995) soundtrack
Available on CD & cassette from PolyGram India Ltd.
Courtesy of Mani Ratnam
See more »

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User Reviews

Fire has a moving story to captivate you
26 December 2011 | by See all my reviews

Congratulations to the makers of Fire, specially Deepa Mehta and Giles Nuttgens – they have succeeded in entertaining us. Fire is a wonderful film and is a landmark in the Indian History of Cinema. 1996 is the time when we were used to watching blockbusters with not much story, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) et al. It was the time when the song 'Sexy Sexy' from Khuddar (1994) was censored to 'Baby Baby' (it sounds funny now though). It was also the time when people enjoyed family dramas or even violent drama films, Ghatak (1996) for instance. To make such a movie in India in that period was a courageous effort from the complete crew of Fire.

Story is nothing new to talk of; everybody knows it – two women (Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das), ignored by husbands, come together, find solace. Cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is fabulous. There is not much space in the set of the house to move the camera around (and that is evident in the film as Mehta wanted to make the set look real) but still, Nuttgens manages to give some wonderful cinematography. Observe the movements in the beginning of the film, in the huge field and later in Taj Mahal – that itself proves his abilities. There is a dusky brown tint throughout and many sequences are shot in a single go. He has planned the movement very well.

Shabana Azmi as Radha is superb in the film. She is remarkable towards the final sequences where she is confused whether she is doing the right thing or not. Her outburst with Khulbhushan Kharbanda (who plays Ashok) is the highlight of the film, which is accompanied by wonderful background music by A. R. Rahman. Khulbhushan has got nothing to do throughout except in the end and he utilizes the opportunity well. I was surprised to see Javed Jafferi as Jatin in the movie. I never knew this famous comedian-dancer has acted in this masterpiece. He proves that not only is he good at comedy and dance, but also at acting.

I was a bit perplexed to see Ranjit Chowdhary as Mundu masturbating. I wondered long why Mehta has induced this into the film, why not any other mischief by him, and this is answered towards the end and becomes the root cause of Radha's confusion. Every scene in the film has some meaning, be it Jatin's humiliation by his Chinese girlfriend Julie's parents, or the continual use of the scene from Ramayan where Sita plunges into the pyre to prove her purity, or even Radha's dream sequence. Amidst the fast paced drama, we get some relief in the form of 'Mundu's Fantasy.' For example, he imagines the story Radha narrates in the movie in which he is the king, Radha his wife, Sita (played by Nandita Das) his mistress and Jatin his servant. Also, the sex scene in the end is aesthetically filmed and doesn't go above what was required.

Such a film can never be imagined to come out of India, even today, 15 years after its release. It is only now that we are witnessing gay characters in Hindi Movies – Dostana (2008), I Am (2011) – implied masturbation – Ek Chotisi Love Story (2002) – but not as explicit as in this film. Not only from the theme and content point of view, also from the presentation point of view, the film is different. The scenes are moving along with the camera and the drama develops at a fast pace and maintains the speed throughout. Some jokes drop by but the story is continuously moving within the small house. The dialogs of the film are witty and at times humorous (e.g. Sita – Are you coming home tonight? Jatin – Maybe! ; Radha – Where is Jatin? Sita – He is away to meet his girlfriend). You cherish them and at the same time get involved in them and feel the character's pain. The production design is completely different from other films then.

A marvelous effort by Deepa Mehta (though didn't gain recognition in India due to the explicit homosexuality in the film) and the rest of the crew. Kudos to them. And I must appreciate the censor board of India that they released this film without any cuts and an A certificate.

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