Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Canada/India, 2005. Deepa Mehta Films, Flagship International, David Hamilton Productions, Echo Lake Entertainment, The Harold Greenberg Fund, Noble Nomad Pictures, Téléfilm Canada. Screenplay by Deepa Mehta, dialogue by Anurag Kashyap. Cinematography by Giles Nuttgens. Produced by David Hamilton. Music by Mychael Danna, A.R. Rahman. Production Design by Errol Kelly. Costume Design by Dolly Ahluwalia. Film Editing by Colin Monie. Academy Awards 2006. National Board of Review Awards 2006. Online Film Critics Awards 2006. Toronto International Film Festival 2005.
In India in the 1930s, a little girl is sent to an ashram when her husband of only a few days dies and leaves her a widow. There, she is housed with other women of her situation, enduring their bitterness at having to live in a society where they are treated hardly better than lepers. She befriends the house beauty (Lisa Ray), a woman whose comforts are sold to local noblemen by the house matriarch as a method of economic survival, and witnesses as Ray loses her passive resistance when an idealistic university student (John Abraham) falls in love with her. It’s basically an Indian version of La Traviata, but in Deepa Mehta’s hands it is also a carefully studied, ever so delicate investigation of a society being crushed under the weight of its own prejudices. The photography is gorgeous, the acting is superb, and Mehta’s direction has rarely been better.