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1954, the Malabar Coast. British and Anglo-Indian identities blur when an English-woman with a neglectful husband births a sickly baby. Cotton Mary, a hospital aide and moralizing Anglophile who claims her father was a British officer, takes over the infant's care and, without a word to the mother, takes the baby daily to her sister to nurse. Mary moves into the English household, taking over more and more duties as she plays on the mother's fatigue and lack of spousal counsel: in effect, Mary colonizes the English household while she pilfers its stores and tells tall tales to her own family. For how long can Mary sustain her rule before the Englishwoman stands on her own feet? Written by
This film suffers from the usual shortcomings of films about "The British Raj":it ignores the stories of a whole swathe of ordinary British and Anglo-Indians between the ruling Raj and the new Indians.I have the greatest respect for the two main actresses, Jaffrey and Scaatchi but it was a poor script and plot.The caricature of an Anglo-Indian woman was such a racial stereotype it is clear that Merchant/Ivory did little to acquaint themselves with the Anglo-Indian community either in India or in England.The idea that this community was such a self-hating hybrid of the British is short sighted in the extreme.Also the fact that the majority of Anglo-Indians didn't live in South India but in central India and the North which were "British India" is a glaring inaccuracy.Also another fact that by 1954 the majority of Anglo-Indians had emigrated to other parts of the old Empire including England to make a new life as they felt that they didn't have a future in an Independent India.Cotton Mary perpetuates an unpleasant stereotype projected on this community by British and Indians alike during the previous 200 years of Imperial rule.The film was eventually removed from circulation through the protests of Anglo-Indians worldwide.All in all this film was unworthy of Merchant/Ivory, a great disappointment.
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