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A Passage to India (1984)

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Cultural mistrust and false accusations doom a friendship in British colonial India between an Indian doctor, an Englishwoman engaged to marry a city magistrate, and an English educator.

Director:

David Lean

Writers:

E.M. Forster (by), E.M. Forster (based on the novel by) | 2 more credits »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Judy Davis ... Adela
Victor Banerjee ... Aziz
Peggy Ashcroft ... Mrs. Moore
James Fox ... Fielding
Alec Guinness ... Godbole
Nigel Havers ... Ronny
Richard Wilson ... Turton
Antonia Pemberton Antonia Pemberton ... Mrs. Turton
Michael Culver ... McBryde
Art Malik ... Ali
Saeed Jaffrey ... Hamidullah
Clive Swift ... Major Callendar
Ann Firbank ... Mrs. Callendar
Roshan Seth ... Amritrao
Sandra Hotz ... Stella
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Storyline

It's the early 1920s. Britons Adela Quested and her probable future mother-in-law Mrs. Moore have just arrived in Chandrapore in British India to visit Adela's unofficial betrothed, Ronny Heaslop, who works there as the city's magistrate. Adela and Mrs. Moore, who long for "an adventure" in experiencing all India has to offer, are dismayed to learn upon their arrival that the ruling British do not socialize let alone associate with the native population, such people as the Turtons - Mr. Turton being Ronny's superior - who openly thumb their noses at the idea in their belief that the Indians are an inferior peoples. They are further dismayed to see that Ronny adheres to that custom in not wanting to jeopardize his career. At the local white only club, Adela and Mrs. Moore find a like-minded Brit in the form of Richard Fielding, the school master at government college, he who offers to organize a small but truly inclusive social gathering with some natives for them, unlike the large ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

india | doctor | cave | 1920s | small town | See All (72) »

Taglines:

David Lean, the Director of "Doctor Zhivago", "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai", invites you on . . .[A Passage to India]


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Hindi

Release Date:

1 February 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pasaje a la India See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$16,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$84,580, 16 December 1984, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$27,187,653
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

The visiting British women, in addition to a band, are treated to reed instruments which resemble (South Indian) naadaswarams and not local Bihari music, though everybody including Fielding speaks Hindi and Urdu. When Dr Aziz is being felicitated for his freedom, the music is in Hindu Marathi - "Govinda Ala re," a music reserved only during Janmashtami ( Lord Krishnas' birth) in Maharashtra, whereas the audience is predominantly Moslem. See more »

Quotes

Ali: How is Britain justified in holding India?
Dr. Aziz H. Ahmed: Unfair political question!
Richard Fielding: No, no! Well, personally, I'm here because I need a job.
Ali: Qualified Indians also need jobs!
Richard Fielding: I got here first.
[laughter]
Richard Fielding: Well, I like it here and that's my excuse.
Advocate Hamidullah: And those Englishmen who do not like it here?
Richard Fielding: Chuck 'em out.
[laughter]
[...]
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Stiff Upper Lips (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Tea For Two
Written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Treads the borderline of historical fiction and fantasy with breathtaking skill
24 May 2003 | by SpleenSee all my reviews

Never mind whether or not it's as good as "The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Doctor Zhivago", et al.; the point is, it's a great film that was clearly made by the same David Lean that made the earlier masterpieces.

The stuff that usually gets dismissed with a wave of the hand - the art direction, the music (Maurice Jarre reserved his best scores for David Lean, although there's less music here than there usually is), the photography, the editing, the indefinable assuredness of narrative flow - everything that makes up the heart and soul of cinema, in fact - is as marvellous as ever. It's amazing enough when you consider that this was Lean's first film in fourteen years. More astonishing is that it was the first film on which he's credited as editor in forty-two years. Forty-two years earlier, he was working for Michael Powell (the only other British director as good as Lean), who considered him the best editor in the world; and while Lean's wielding the scissors again after all that time may have made very little difference to his overall style, I still think there's something special - even more special than usual - about the way "A Passage to India" flows. Maybe it's that Lean adapted the screenplay, then shot it, then cut it himself, but he has such an strong feel for the pulse of the story, such an unerring feel for what follows from what, that even the several jump cuts - jump cuts are usually the most ugly, the most offensively flashy, and the most intrusive of all cinematic devices - are beautiful, natural, even classical. In a way you don't notice that they're there.

I've never heard it said that two-time collaborators Powell and Lean have much in common - and they don't. But of all David Lean's creations this one comes closest to being like a Powell and Pressburger picture. There's an element of mysticism (threatening as well as comforting) darting in and out of the story with such fleetness and subtlety that it's hard to tell when it's there and when it's not; and, of course, the incident at the caves (explained exactly as much as it needs to be, and no more) could as easily have come from one of Pressburger's scripts as from Forster's novel. If you've seen "Black Narcissus", admittedly a very different kind of film, you don't need me to draw attention to the points of similarity.

Lean's imagery may be less openly bizarre than Powell's but the effect can be much the same. "A Passage to India", although it lacks the beauty of the films of the three Lean films shot by Freddie Young, contains Lean's most disturbingly powerful shots, yet they're of such things as these: monkeys (echoed later on in the film by a startling shot of a man dressed like a monkey - actually, that IS the kind of thing I can see Powell doing), someone clutching her hand to her chest, the moon, the first raindrops of a storm hitting a dirty window pane, even water - simple cutaway shots of nothing but moonlit water.

I haven't read the book, but I do know that if you HAVE to have read the book to see what's wrong with the film, why, then, there's nothing wrong with it. I don't know how much of the book has been lost in the translation but I do know that if too much has been lost to make a rich and powerful film, then whatever has been lost has been more than adequately replaced.


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