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Reviews & Ratings for
Fire More at IMDbPro »

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22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Wonderfully tender treatment of sensitive subject matter

Author: Hira Bluestone ( from seattle
21 December 1998

This film powerfully demonstrates the struggle of two women in love in a culture so deeply entrenched in ritual and tradition. All this against a backdrop of an India which itself is struggling for freedom from these same values. This film is both political and personal and never too preachy or idealistic on either front. It is easy to see why "Fire" has caused riots in India, but tragic nonetheless. A true film such as this one deserves to be seen by all people of the world, not just privileged westerners.

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

A Sensitive Love Story of Two Women Living In a Repressive Society

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
26 September 2004

In the contemporary India, Jatin (Jaaved Jaaferi) is a man in love with the Chinese Julie (Alice Poon), who does not want to get married and become a housewife, since she intends to move to Hong Kong and become an actress. Due to the pressure of his family asking for a baby, Jatin decides to get married with the virgin Sita (Nandita Das) in a arranged marriage. Sita moves to the house of Jatin's family, where live on the second floor the matriarch Biji (Kushal Rekhi), the servant Mundu (Ranjit Chowdhry) and the unfertile Radha (Shabana Azmi) and her husband Ashok (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). On the first floor, they run a small business of video rental and food. Ashok opted for the celibate, since in his opinion, sex would be only for procreation and never for lust or desire. Both women are neglected by their husbands, and their loneliness turns into a lesbian relationship. I do not know much about Indian society, but I found this movie a sensitive and delicate love story of two needy women, born and raised in a repressive and male society. The story is never vulgar or erotic, and it is very easy to understand their attraction. The beauty of Nandita Das is very impressive. The direction and the performance of the cast is outstanding. Another excellent example of the Indian cinema. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'Fogo e Desejo' ('Fire and Desire')

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Worthwhile foreign film, good acting

Author: smatysia ( from Houston
30 April 2005

A fairly interesting look at some characters from India's burgeoning middle class. Although India is rapidly modernizing, her culture is not keeping up. This film involves the patriarchal society, where women are not yet truly free citizens. A land of arranged marriages, men who dally with mistresses with total impunity, and women who are expected to tolerate all this, will eventually come up short. I was impressed with Nandita Das, who was quite attractive, and played her character with total earnestness. But I was even more impressed with Shabana Azmi, who I understand is a long-time fixture of Bollywood. Her quiet beauty and low-key psychic suffering was excellent. The lesbian subtext of this film was never particularly erotic, and never titillating. (Darn!) Worth a look for those interested in vastly different cultures.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A near perfect drama

Author: Mark Severin ( from Chicago, IL
2 December 1998

This intelligent, moving and beautiful film is a study in the ways people react to tradition (reminds me of William Faulkner's novels).

The characters all feel trapped by the weight of the roles they are expected to assume, and seek for a way to live within those roles rather than throw them off altogether. But as the story develops the two wives, trapped in loveless marriages, draw together. Drawing on the strength of their friendship and love, they give each other the courage to abandon their roles.

They have found that living within their traditions is no life at all, it is a sort of living death: without passion, without true connection to others, without fulfillment. Although they know there will be a price to be paid for their rebellion and freedom, it is a price much less dear than the sacrifice called for by a comfortable, predictable existence.

The screenplay is wonderful, the acting marvelous. Near perfect!

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:


Author: bwdiaz from Philadelphia, USA
13 April 2003

I was so pleased to discover this movie. The box here in America makes it sound like it is soft core porn with descriptions such as "erotic heat" and the like.

But I was moved by the relationship of these two women and how it reflected their place in society. I was so impressed by how Shabana Azmi (Radha) showed her character growing as she began to understand what she really needed in her life.

Also, early in the film I began to worry that maybe it would just be a movie about how younger women influence traditional families by bringing in new ideas, but the first time Radha and Sita make love, Sita (Nandita Das) seems innocent and unsure about what has happened (even though she initiates it.) I realize that as a character she is going through her own development that starts with a woman who is unsure of expressing her opinion to one who can give voice to what she thinks.

Also, how the family is portrayed seems real in that people do not just immediately change when presented with new ideas. What I mean is that in American movies, we have the tendency to have all the main characters "work things out" by the end of the movie. So when Radha's husband finds Radha and Sita together he doesn't just say he was wrong to ignore Radha and make it up to her. He struggles and falls just like real people do.

This was great work. Radha and Sita have a true romance and the world they occupy is believable and impressive.

P.S. Also a reviewer before me described several parts of the movie and said negative things about it, but couldn't have been watching it too closely since the reviewer confuses the names of all the principle characters. It is Radha that catches on fire not Sita, and Radha who is the elder wife.

Also, I disagree with the characterization that the movie portrays men as the bad guys. I feel it shows very human people. Even the eldest female character Biji turns a blind eye to the pain and feelings of her caregiver Radha. People (men and women) are not perfect and the mistakes made by Radha and Sita's husbands are real things that men actually do and think their wives should just go along with because they are the wives. Does that make them bad men? No. But it does make it a bad system, which I believe is the real foe in this film.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Exquisite use of mythology

Author: dana-196 from United States
20 November 2005

It's worth boning up on the Hindu pantheon before watching this film. Three main female deities -- wise Sita, nurturing Lakshmi and Kali the Transformer -- as well as three main male deities -- grave Rama, playful Krishna and Shiva the Ender -- are all alluded to. Knowing the folklore as surely every Indian member of an audience does lends a richness to the telling of the present-day story. In fact, one folktale is enacted first on stage, as part of a lesson in spirituality, and then in the movie's "real life." "Fire" speaks out against the misogyny and homophobia in the society to which its producers are native, and it does so with a beauty that weaves the message into multiple levels of the viewer's awareness, making it a deeply satisfying presentation. This is the finest film i've seen in the past ten years; very highly recommended!

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"Fires" burn physically, emotionally and spiritually in this feminist film from India.

Author: Kathryn-17 from Tucson, AZ
29 January 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

CONTAINS "SPOILER" INFORMATION. Watch this director's other film, "Earth", at some point. It's a better film, but this one isn't bad just different.

A rare feminist point of view from an Indian filmmaker. Tradition, rituals, duty, secrets, and the portrayal of strict sex roles make this an engaging and culturally dynamic film viewing experience. All of the married characters lack the "fire" of the marriage bed with their respective spouses. One husband is celibate and commits a form of spiritual "adultery" by giving all of his love, honor, time and respect to his religious swami (guru). His wife is lonely and yearns for intimacy and tenderness which she eventually finds with her closeted lesbian sister-in-law who comes to live in their house with her unfaithful husband. This unfaithful husband is openly in love with his Chinese mistress but was forced into marriage with a (unbeknownest to him) lesbian. They only have sex once when his closet lesbian wife loses her virginity.

A servant lives in the house and he eventually reveals the secret that the two women are lovers. Another significant character is the elderly matriarch who is unable to speak or care for herself due to a stroke. However, she uses a ringing bell to communicate her needs as well as her displeasure with the family members. She lets them know through her bell or by pounding her fist that she knows exacly what's going on in the house and how much she disapproves.

In the end, the truth about everybody comes out and the two female lovers end up running away together. But, not before there is an emotional scene between the swami-addicted husband and his formerly straight wife. Her sari catches on fire and at first we think she is going to die. However, we see the two women united in the very last scene of the movie.

The writer/director of this film challenges her culture's traditions, but she shows us individual human beings who are trapped by their culture and gender. We come to really care about the characters and we don't see them as stereotypes. Each on surprises us with their humanity, vulgarity, tenderness, anger, and spirit.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Wonderfully Executed Drama with Touching Realism

Author: Haroon Riaz ( from Rawalpindi, Pakistan
24 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The thing which makes "Fire" even more appealing to watch apart from its magical artistry, is its touch of femininism and rebellion. To my mind, the very character played by Shabana Azmi is a symbol of the Indian feminine protest against the Indian society. The name of the movie and the scene when Radha walks through flames in her kitchen are symbloic of Hindu Mythology's Lord Rama's wife Sita's walking through fire for the proof of her immaculacy, as per the same narrative which appears in the film too. The film could be a great inspiration for women, particularly those in the subcontinent, to search for their liberties and to attain control of their lives.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Fire has a moving story to captivate you

Author: Srinivas G Phani
26 December 2011

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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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

one of best movies ever

Author: sspinola-1 from Guatemala
13 December 2005

one of best movies is not much about sociological description of India is the mind blowing use of light that never stops, never becomes...normal...even this sense the movie is almost unique...both leads are of very good quality...the origin of Das as a street performer are pretty obvious...her performance is a superb "cammeo"...but the use of the light...I have look at it and looked at it, again and again...still mind blowing after ages...nothing torrid in the story...rather "pure" way of facing the a way it is sad that in the bizarre world we live today, a major art work is usually known as a gender film...Fire can stand face to face with Dryer's Jeanne D' Arc or Ichikawa's Biruma no Tategoto or some of the major Kurosawa movies, just to name "some". Wish my input could help a little this movie to its deserved way to fame.

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