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Deepa Mehta lets us in the opening scene the theme of her film as a small
girl smashes a plate on the floor and asks her puzzled mother, "Can you
break a country?" The film shows exactly how that happens. The first half
of the film depicts an idyllic society. The scenes in the park are
reminiscent of Eden, as the nurse Shanta holds court amongst her Hindu,
Muslim and Sikh suitors. The kite-flying scene is probably the
lightest-hearted in the picture. But gradually the cracks start to
driving apart friends and lovers. The hatred which spreads as partition of
the country approaches is shown to be a madness coming from deep within the
human heart, which twists and deforms relationships. The worst betrayal in
this film results from an irreconcilable confusion of loyalties in a
trusting heart. This film presents a disturbing but authentic picture of
The score by A.R. Rahman is a powerful blend of Indian and western film music, lightening the joyous moments (such as the kite-flying scene) and deepening the foreboding in other scenes (such as the train of death).
A beautiful and haunting film, "Earth" is set in India during 1947, which
saw independence granted and the Indian sub-continent divided between Muslim
Pakistan and (largely) Hindu India. History is seen through the eyes of
Lenny, an eight-year-old girl from the numerically tiny Parsee sect, the
members of which are professedly "neutral" in the conflict between Hindu and
Muslim. The action takes place in Lahore, in the Punjab, an ancient
cosmopolitan city where Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Parsee lived side by side in
reasonable harmony until partition, when unspeakable violence broke out, as
it did in many other parts of India. Over a million people died in the
sub-continent and perhaps 12 million people fled their
The film, based on the autobiographical novel "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa, concentrates on the effect the civil turmoil has on personal relationships. Somehow, politics brings out the worst in everyone; submerged resentments and trivial jealousies fuel shocking atrocities. Even innocent little Lenny manages to act badly, despite her "neutral" status.
Despite the presence of at least one "Bollywood" star (Aamir Khan) the director, Deepa Mehta, has not made a crowd-pleaser here. There are survivors, but no surviving heroes. The story unfolds first at a leisurely pace, gaining speed as independence day approaches and ends in a montage of mobs, destruction and violence. Every scene is beautifully composed and almost every part sensitively played. Maia Sethna as Lenny, Nandita Das as her beautiful young nanny Shasta , Rahul Khanna as Hasan, Shastas' lover and Aamir Khan as Dil Navaz the 'ice candy man" are all stand-outs. While not actually filmed in Lahore (the authorities there were not keen, it seems) the film evokes superbly a hot, ancient and troubled land. The whole style of the film is quite different from anything to emerge out of Hollywood and that alone makes it worth seeing.
It is suggested in the film that perhaps the villain here was that old standby, human nature. It does seem, though, that the British India administration (represented here only by one drunken official at a dinner party) and particularly the British government, had a lot to answer for. The twenty-five years or so leading up to independence were marked by the failure of successive conservative British governments to allow a truly responsible democracy to emerge in India when it was quite clear by the end of World War One that independence was inevitable. (The white Dominions on the other hand were practically pushed into independence.) Then, when the post-war Labour government decided to grant independence it did so with unseemly and disastrous haste. No, the chief villain was perfidious Albion, or rather British "muddling through". Here we get a beautiful, moving, elegiac account of the victims of bad colonial policy driven by racism and unenlightened self-interest.
Go see this film. It is wonderful. But it is not for everyone.
Most of the comments here on IMDb are positive and I agree with these reviews. However, for me the cynicism of the critics was unfounded because I was not expecting the usual Hollywood movie. If you cannot relate to this film in a positive way then I suppose that you have not traveled much and have not lived in other cultures, at least not in Asia. This is not an American film made for an American audience.
This is very much an adult film for a sensitive and mature audience. It is certainly not for those seeking the usual thrills and spills and formula love stories. We are given a look at a very important and prominent country being split up by a colonial power, and how this political decision affects millions of people in some of the most awful manners. A million lost their lives! The tension between India and Pakistan still haunts us all ! So don't expect a nice and sweet film, although there were some beautiful scenes of childhood innocence and the romance of young lovers.
The symbolism is rich. At the start we see a dinner table with the main groups of people represented in the formation of Pakistan: English, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Parsee. Throughout the film Lenny Baby represents the innocence and naivety which so many people remain in during geopolitical processes. When it is this young girl's birthday, she can find no one who cares. Her birthday is the same day of the Pakistan-India split, and the symbolism is obvious. She then finds a Muslim refugee boy whose mother was brutally killed by Hindus. He asks her if she is a Hindu and when she replies "no" she also asks if he wants some cake. "Cake? What is cake?" Lenny-the-Naive is baffled, and again the symbolism is obvious. So many of us cannot really relate to the plight of refugees. What happens to this innocent and naive position at the end? We are stunned to see the results. Naivety leads Beauty and Love to a terrible fate. Innocence is tragically deceived. It wasn't until my second viewing of this film that I saw the many symbolic references. Watch the film with this perspective and you will see through the cynicism such as writer "Pass the pappadom" makes elsewhere on this page.
One symbolic reference that I am not sure if I understand was that of the Sikh man and his family, hiding from the Muslim killer mob. He was such a sincere and gentle man, and even his dagger raised in defense did not detract from his positive qualities. Was he portrayed in this way because the Sikhs had too much 'bad press' about their warrior ways? Were the Sikhs ineffective in protecting themselves during the division?
A friend of mine told me that he cried all the way home after seeing this film. He is 46 years old and not a weak and overly sensitive person. My wife and I were quite emotionally moved by this film, and we cannot relate to the film critics that say otherwise. By the way, my wife lived in India for a year and she loved seeing the various scenes of everyday Indian life, so you may enjoy the film just for the sake of seeing people living life outside of Hollywood America.
One last symbolic reference to ponder was the touching romantic scene between the two lovers amidst the ancient ruins. Here we see a Muslim man saying that he would convert to Hinduism so that the marriage would be possible. All they needed to do is to leave to live in the newly divided India. The ancient ruins indicate the past, but unfortunately the lovers return to the present.
This is a film that I will remember for a long time. I highly recommend that you see it, if you don't mind a serious film about major issues, seen from a non-American perspective.
Director - writer Deepa Mehta deserves much credit for depicting the complexities of one of the world's worst tragedies with diplomatic balance, not placing blame on any one group but yet revealing the errors and brutality that each group made.
This movie has attempted and succeeded at trying to get a handle on the brutal days of 1947 when British India was separated into independent India and Pakistan. I would suggest that this movie be a required viewing for anyone studying the past and present of these two countries. Lahore of 1947 is not very different from Sarajevo of the 90s. And this too is no fiction. Mayhem depicted in the movie is *very* tame compared to what actually happened. It is my ferevent hope that the people of India and Pakistan view this movie and hope "Never Again".
EARTH will seem familiar to anyone who has ever seen a historical epic. Its
tale of political and national disjunction and horror is filtered through a
precariously neutral upper-middle class family, in particular through the
eyes of a young child, a scenario not dissimilar to, say, EMPIRE OF THE SUN.
Further, this child, beautiful but lame, is somehow a figure for India
itself, its scar of partition masked by her disability, or an embodiment of
this soon-to-be-lost, dangerously naive innocence, scenes of great personal
intimacy contrast with scenes of mass violence, until the two collide in the
gut-wrenching climax. As with any historical epics, the film's sweeping
smoothness conceals formal ruptures, as the film moves registers from the
'naturalistic' or narratively, psychologically plausible to Expressionism,
to blatant allegory. This internal conflict may mirror the struggle over
boundaries the film narrates.
If the film is conventional is outline, it is also intelligent, beautiful and economical in a way most stodgy historical epics are not. Its predominantly Western structure is filtered through with a restrained Bollywood sensuality, and, in the first half especially, after one has gotten used to the rather stilted dialogue and stylised situations, one is astounded by the caressing fluidity of the camerawork; the uncommon beauty of compositions, especially indoors, where the essentially muted 'earth' colours of the decor are pierced by unearthly shards of light; the profusion of dazzling colours, in costumes, and especially in the horrific marriage sequence, undermining the strained sobriety of most historical epics; the unforced breaks into song and dance, the accumulation of vignettes, some comic, some full of joy and promise, some bursting with foreboding, that give a sense of life being lived, a life already fragile in status, waiting to be destroyed; the unabashed use of melodrama, its critical framing device (in one horrible scene, the protagonists watch helplessly from a balcony the strangely beautiful conflict, passive like us the audience), and its emotional demands on the audience I realise that much of my pleasure comes from a racist 'Orientalism', a projection of my desires of exoticism and Otherness on the East, but my own country has a traumatic history of British Imperialism and partitions, so I don't feel too guilty.
The first half is as good as anything in cinema this year, once one has got used to the shifts in register. It is full of the autumnal sadness of a Chekhov play, or Ray's CHARULATA, or LE REGLE DU JEU, where we observe people living life, being friends, making love playing games, while we know history is sadistically poised on the brink, waiting to crush everything. Mehta never falls into nostalgia for this doomed idyll - she records the legacy of the British Empire; the horrors of the caste system; the emotional repression, the arranged marriages between senile paedophiles and pre-pubescent girls. But this section is also full of epiphany, the thrill of the sexual chase, friendship, poetry and, above all, comedy, all the things about to be distorted and destroyed by history as it performs a body snatching operation onto people we have come to love and turns them into vicious murderers.
The second half is an unrelenting catalogue of jolting spasms of violence. Day gives way to night, earthy browns and sun to blackness, friendship and love to death and hate. The film is also a bildungsroman, the tale of the development of a young girl as she learns about life, love, family, gender, language, society, history, culture, politics a development cruelly cut short, distorted, vandalised - when we see the charming dew-eyed narrator half a century later, emotionally in ruins as she stands self-effacingly in the ruins of Imperial pomp (an amazing shot, the film's sparing use of ruined architecture gives the film on occasion a ghostly feel), we sense irreperable loss.
This question resonated in my mind as the credits rolled.
The release of this movie came at a high point in India's history - 50 years
after independence from the British.
As an Indian-born American this film had an intense emotional impact on me, as it did with my best friends sitting to my right and left - a Muslim and a Sikh. It seems melodramatic but we sat in our seats, tears in our eyes, stunned.
One of the things I look forward to after every movie going experience is the inevitable discussion that follows. All three of us were silent for almost half an hour. It dawned on us that we could have been the group of friends who were so close at the beginning only to be divided by our demons in the name of religion at the end.
As an aspiring film-maker, I would like to congratulate Deepa Mehta for her courage and determination in presenting such amazing human stories. In an industry where Bollywood sachharine seems to prevail, it is reassuring to see a true artistic voice strike a lyrical chord with the world.
She makes me proud to be Indian first and foremost.
Deepa Mehta's second element, "Earth" clearly shows her maturity as a
director. She has really worked on the overall aspects of film-making and
make it more presentable to a wider audience, as compared to "Fire". Like
music, for instance. A R Rahman is clearly the best performer in this film
with excellent scores like "Rut aa gayi re" and "Banno".
I felt, this film mainly focuses on the character of Dil Navaz (brilliantly enacted by Aamir Khan) ... a person who turns from a cheerful, romantic and simple common man to a person who becomes violent and villanious in his hatred for a sect of people. The 1947 partition riots is an example of a social upheaval that can trigger such a change in a person. As the character says, we all have a lion encaged within us and the day the cage breaks open, God only can save us from the aftermath.
Aamir Khan is astonishing in his performance. He is gaining considerable mileage as a class actor ( a rarity in Hindi commercial film industry ) because of his recent pick of movies and definitely "Earth" marks a high point in his career graph. The different shades of emotion Dil Navaz undergoes through the film are effectively communicated through his face, articulation and body language. The climax scene is particularly memorable. Nandita Das and Rahul Khanna have given able support. The little girl Maia Sethna as "lenny" is also very promising. The direction has been very controlled and Deepa handles the events beautifully with excellent cinematographic support.
To sum it up, Earth offers an excellent viewing experience to all and makes the audience really "feel" for the victims ( both physical and mental ) of such events in World history as the India-Pakistan partition.
Deepa Mehta has such a commanding presence in her films that she is
able to leave her audience both educated and devastated by her stories
and by the ingenious ways in which she tells them. EARTH is a
magnificent example of her gifts and while it may not be as visually
luxurious or as touching as her subsequent WATER, it is a fine film
that not only depicts a troubled time in India's history, but also
informs us of the intricacies of how people relate to each other -
first as humans, second as religious sects.
The film has at its heart the year 1947 when India was given its independence from Great Britain and at the same time bifurcated into two countries - India and Pakistan. The story opens with a tranquil park picnic in Lahore where friends - Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Parsee - while away the afternoon in camaraderie. Only slight overtones of edgy topics about religion mar the conversation until the topic focuses on the incipient split of the country into two countries. Each of the friends represents each of the religious sects and it is how these differences, at once unimportant to friendship, end up in separating the friends under the influence of the devastation of bloodshed that follows the division of the country and the displacement of millions of people, all under the guise of independence.
There is a strong love story, a committed crippled child who experiences all of the happiness and subsequent tragedy that is to follow and the story ends with some words of wisdom by the grown little girl reflecting on choices made, and other sidebars that maintain interest at every frame.
The acting is first rate from a beautiful cast and Mehta's direction makes this tale of change whir by the viewer. For those not educated in the differences of the four religious sects of Hindu, Parsee, Muslim, and Sikh the tale can become confusing: would that Mehta would have included a discussion about the film in an added feature the way she helped us understand the plight of widows in WATER. And the subtitles unfortunately do not translate the English spoken portions of the film, portions that while very important to the story are nearly indecipherable due to the accents of the characters speaking.
But these are minor quibbles in a film that pleads for repeated viewings, so beautiful is the movie and so very important is the message. Highly Recommended.
I find it quite ironic how 2 countries who separate due to their religion
status; deals with it thru defying their religion (killing people, torturing
people, etc). But it happened, and the people living at this time amongst
this chaos, has stories that they need to tell. Like an anecdote from some
animosity or experience that they need to alleviate themselves from by
This movie is based on the fiction novel "Cracking India," by Bapsi Sidhwa. And although this book is fiction, it is based upon Sidhwa's life experience. The adaptation of this book, "Earth," is very much alike this book.
The movie is about a young girl, Lenny, who has polio. She cannot play with and like other children, so she spends all her time with Shanta (Ayah), who takes care of her like her own mother. Lenny, is from a Parsee family. Parsees in India, have always been invisible within the time of the Muslim and Hindu uproar. They do not get effected by the war; Parsees are very wealthy. Yet, Shanta is Hindu; and during the division of Pakistan and India, Lahore remains on the Pakistan side. Yet Shanta doesn't want to leave Lahore, because she had been w/Lenny's family for a long time; and she felt safe within a Parsee household. Yet she is beautiful and is loved by many men; most importantly, by 2 Muslim men. Yet, before Partition really causes problems, Lenny, Shanta, and the two men who love Shanta, are all together as friends. They did not see or predict how the environment at that time would change them all; and destroy their friendship. But it did.
"Earth" has very graphical images of the horrors during Muslim and Hindu riots. It made people angry, it made people want revenge. There were children who were lost, because their parents were killed by a Muslim or a Hindu. Is this justice? The movie seperates revenge from justice. Justice isn't revenge, because the actions taken aren't just.
A very good metaphor that keeps me thinking and thinking in the movie. This is when Ice Candy man tells Lenny why she is afraid of the lion in the cage; Its because the lion wants to come out it wants revenge, it wants to be free, but once the cage is open, what would happen? Lenny in the end of the movie asks, "who's guarding the lions?" Ice Candy Man answers "nobody." This is symbolic to how no one was controlling this bloodshed between the Hindus and Muslims. Once the cage is open, revenge and hatred comes out; this is the price for their freedom.
I liked how the narrator was Lenny, why? (Besides the fact this is based on Sidhwa's book).Because she is a young girl, she just turns 9 years old. What she experiences in this movie is not supposed to happen to an 9 year old. She is young, but in the end; she becomes an adult; she has seen and gone thru what innocence isn't supposed to see.
The anecdote? Well if u see the movie, you'll see why this time and the politics at this time affected this girl at her stage in life. The everlasting regret and feeling that you have betrayed someone so close to you, because of a tragedy effected by the actions and response by people about the Partition of Pakistan and India.
I saw this film about 10 years back and have seen it thrice since
then.Last time I saw it was on the "independence day" but this time
after reading the novel "ice candy man".It made me appreciate the movie
more and understand how beautifully Deepa Mehta adapted this partition
story to a character study.After fire which was a brilliant film,ahead
of its times in the Indian context this was her most accomplished
work.Deepa Mehta keeps her objectivity without indulging or being
judge-mental of the dark side of human nature as it emerges in the face
For me this movie is not about partition,but about human nature.The veil that separates us from animals becomes an anomaly in certain situation.So it is not so much the partition that drew the worst out of the characters but the demons such as lust,violence,jealousy,anger,resentment that already exist at the very core of human nature.It may or may not manifest itself in its most carnal form.But in this case it does.
The innovation of songs as a part of narration was a masterstroke and when you have A R Rehamn at the fore,there will be magic."Raat Ki Dal Dal" is probably one of the most wonderfully pictured songs I have have seen in recent times,as the camera zooms in on Aamir as he is waiting for the train from India,encapsulating his anxiety.The art work is accurate enough,the cinematography is excellent(notice how the camera-work changes from being still and peaceful in first half to more vibrant in the second half).
The performances of the entire cast is brilliant,whether it is the parsi family or Dil Nawaz's friend circle or even Gulshan Grover for that matter.Everyone seems to be on the money.Rahul khanna is a natural talent like his brother(which explains why he is not making it big in this superficial industry),he is rightly understated through the film.His is the only character which doesn't have as many demons and is probably at peace with himself after having the women of his dreams.Nandita Das is a brilliant actress whom I have long admired along with Seema Biswas and Konkana Sen.Her courage and talent shines through as she plays a character who is oozing sexuality,is flirtatious and maybe some what naive.
In case of great actors,I try not to use the "best" and "greatest" to describe their performances,because it in a way diminishes their remaining equally brilliant body of work.But this was a new high for Aamir khan in my book.Before this movie I thought he was one of the most talented,versatile and courageous actors within the industry.This film is where he transcended to greatness and stayed there.To be very honest,most of the ground work was laid in the novel for this role,but one needs great vision to convey this charming character's journey into madness.The use of body language and "silence" is what separates the great actors from others.Al Pacino,George C Scott,De Niro,Sanjeev Kumar understood the value of it and here Aamir showcases his class especially in the climax.
This film is not for the faint hearted.But that is what I have admired Deepa Mehta for.She has always been ruthlessly truthful when it comes to human nature whether it is "earth" or "fire".Unfortunately most of the Indians like the "escapist" mode just to "make them feel good about themselves".If you are one of those this not for you.
P.S.Majority of the reviews here are spot on and people not aware of the horrors of partition were also able to connect on a human level which fulfills the purpose of this film.
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