Harriet, now an adult, narrates the story of her coming of age, growing up as a British national and as a daughter of a jute press manager in the Bengal region of India, they living in the big house on the banks of one of the holy rivers. At the time, she is the eldest of six siblings - five girls and one boy - with another one on the way and with her being significantly older than the rest of her siblings. As such, she spends much time with an honorary member of their family, a late teen - not quite an adult - named Valerie, also a British national and the daughter of the jute press owner. Another friend, who recently arrived home from her western schooling, is Melanie, the biracial daughter of British national Mr. John and his deceased Hindu wife. Both Mr. John and Melanie realize her difficult position, straddling both the Hindi and western cultures. Their small world is shaken up with the arrival of Captain John, Mr. John's cousin and an American ex-military man who has one ...Written by
I believe that both Karina and Gabridl are slightly off when they say that the film is supposed to depict post-independence India. I don't believe this is true and, therefore, Renoir cannot be taken to task for not covering India's independence struggles. Although the film was made post-independence (1951), it does not cover the period of independence itself (late 1930s to actual independence in 1947). Remember, that the film is a "memory film" and is based on the autobiography of Rumer Godden, who was born in 1907. The adult narrator is a grown-up Harriet. A grown-up Harriet in 1951 would be speaking of an earlier time--probably sometime in the 1920s--that was a more peaceful time for the English colonial inhabitants. The clothing and hairstyles can't be used to indicate when the film takes place. Harriet's blue sack of a dress would have been worn by any 13 year-old girl from the 1920 through the 1940s. And Valerie's rather unkempt and flowing hair could be anytime, too.
As for Melanie having an Indian accent. I don't believe that it was ever said that Melanie was educated in England. I believe that the film says she was educated in a convent, and there were certainly convent schools in India in the 1920s. I find it interesting that when it is said that Melanie will probably marry Anil, an understanding that they have had since childhood, she is still wearing her convent uniform. When she develops a crush on Captain John, she starts to wear saris, maybe hoping to attract him through the exotic.
All in all, a beautiful, lyrical film that should not be missed.
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