Literature and Cinema Unit 3 Ice Candy Man

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Literature and Cinema Unit 3 Ice Candy Man

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3. Discuss the life and works of Bapsi Sidhwa.

Ans: Bapsi Sidhwa, a Pakistani Parsi woman writer, now settled in the USA can be considered a respected name in the Commonwealth fiction. Born in 1938 in Karachi (of undivided India) to a Parsi business family, Bapsi Sidhwa was educated in Lahore. She had polio in her right leg. Due to this her childhood passed more with the servants in her house than the children of the neighbourhood. She shifted to Bombay with her marriage but went back to Pakistan in just five years. At Pakistan, after her second marriage to Noshir Sidhwa, Bapsi Sidhwa took to writing to fill up the intellectual vacancy of her life. She could fill up this vacancy with four novels and one adaptation. The Crow Eaters (1978), The Bride (1984), Ice Candy Man (1988) and An American Brat (1999) are the four novels and Water is the print adaptation of Deepa Mehta’s film Water. In the meanwhile she settled in Houston, USA with her husband.

Sidhwa was the first English writer in Pakistan to receive international acclaim. In Pakistan, when Sidhwa started writing, there was no specific tradition of both, women’s writing practice and English language literature. She gets the credit of being considered the pioneer in both the fields. As quoted by R.K. Dhawan and Novy Kapadiya, before she became a writer, she held writers in awe. As she told David Montenegro, she “never thought of the writer in human terms but almost as some disembodied power that automatically produced books.” (Dhawan and Kapadiya 1996: 15) Only after she accidentally met an Afghan woman on a plane, who introduced herself as a writer, Sidhwa realized that writers were very much creatures of flesh and blood. This Afghan woman inspired her to write. Sidhwa wrote a short piece which was later published. A turning point in Sidhwa’s life came when she was invited in Northern Pakistan. Here she heard of a young Punjabi girl taken across river Indus to be married to a Kohistan tribal. 

The girl, due to certain reason, ran away from there. Her husband with other tribal of his area searched her out and murdered her. Back at Lahore, Sidhwa was continuously haunted by the murder of the bride, the innocent girl. She wanted to make the world aware of this girl’s story. She thought of writing a short story but the nature of her experience was so intense and compelling that it shifted to a bigger form of narrative and turned out to be her first novel. Commenting on this shift of narration, Bapsi Sidhwa writes:

“The girl’s story haunted me; it reflected the helpless condition of many women not only in Pakistan but in the Indian sub-continent. Telling it became an obsession. I thought I’d write a short story; after all it had barely taken 30 minutes to narrate. Before long I realized I was writing a novel.” (Dhawan and Kapadiya, 1996: 28) Bapsi Sidhwa thus entered the field of writing with her first novel on the helpless condition of women of Indian Sub-continent titled The Bride or The Pakistani Bride, as titled in India. It focuses on theme of marriage between two totally different cultures turned difficult and treatment of women in Pakistan. Thereafter, Sidhwa wrote The Crow Eaters with full focus on the various aspects of her community. No doubt, the Parsi writers have mostly been community specific. It is an engrossing story of a resourceful and accommodating community tucked away in the forgotten crevices of history. Sidhwa, in her article ‘Why Do I Write?” writes, “…in The Crow Eaters, a novel about my community, the Parsis, I wanted to tell the story of a resourceful and accommodating community tucked away in the forgotten crevices of history.” (Dhawan and Kapadiya, 1996: 33) However, some members of her community misunderstood her for the depiction of the Parsi milieu in this novel and felt offended. She had never intended to do so.

Bapsi Sidhwa’s third-novel, Ice-Candy Man focuses on the theme of Partition. Set in Lahore, the events and happenings of the year 1947 are narrated by Lenny, an eight years old Parsi girl child. Although the child protagonist is from the Parsi community, concerns of the community, unlike The Crow Eaters is not at the centre.

The core of the work holds within trauma and pangs Partition of the sub-continent.

This novel can be considered the best example of three aspects: first, the pattern of communal amity among the Hindus, the Muslims and the Sikhs; second, the Parsi perspective during Partition period and third, the exploitation of women by the male tormentors trying to show their strength over weaker sex.

Sidhwa’s fourth novel An American Brat is one more aspect of the Parsi community, the experience of migration. It is a collection of the adventures of a young Parsi girl Feroza at America. Feroza, a narrow-minded Parsi girl is sent to America by her parents with an aim to change her mind set. This changed mindset is later not acceptable to her parents. The novel can be coined as one more family saga, this time discussing the Parsi immigrants’ experiences and conflict between the world left behind and the sparkling one he or she has entered. Dealing with Feroza’s marriage as a problem in particular it also focuses on the marriage problems of Parsi girls in general. Sidhwa’s works has been appreciated world-wide with awards from Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Frankfurt Book Fair’s literature Prize of 1991 and New York Times as Notable Book of 1991. Her works have also been translated into languages like French and German. Sidhwa, who once looked at the writers with awe, today strongly believes that for her writing has become “…a natural condition of existence, and very often an act of joy …it can be painful, slow, and difficult at times, but it is always a labour of love.”

4. Give a critical comment on the movie 1947 Earth.

Ans: The film 1947 Earth, like Sidhwa’s novel Ice Candy Man is a collection of memories, of a Parsi woman. Memories of that what had changed her life, of that what she lost at the age of eight. Shabana Azami’s talented voice to grown up Lenny in the beginning and then in the end, takes the viewers back to first half of 1947, Lahore (then India), several months before Partition. With Lenny as the participant narrator and her personal experiences she had at that time, the filmmaker tries to convey what the sub-continent was passing through. According to Jeanette Herman, “…Earth emerges in a kind of memory work, using the mode of film melodrama to participate in an attempt to enlist an effective form  of public participation in a transnational moment of remembering Partition.”

Mehta begins the film with the full screen earth followed by fragments of the word EARTH coming together to form the film’s title. This is accompanied by the string instrument notes. The scene is followed by the eight year Lenny (Maya Sethna) and the voice over narration of elder Lenny (acted by Bapsi Sidhwa and voiced by Shabana Azami). Child Lenny is colouring the Map of India at her luxurious house at Lahore just a few months before Partition. The voice of the narrator settles the viewers within her (Lenny’s) memories of 1947:

“I was eight years old, living in Lahore in March of 1947, when the British rule in India started to subside…. The subjective line of division the British could draw to carve up India in August of 1947 would scar the sub-continent forever.”

Lenny, then stands up, limps ahead, picks up a plate, holds and intentionally drops it. The plate breaks into pieces. Lenny stares at the plate. She wants answers to questions disturbing her:

“Can we break a country? What happens if the English break India where our house is? How will I get to the park then?” (Film)

Thus very soon after a few moments of narration, Lenny becomes a part of the story, shifts to the present of the past and becomes a camera to the viewers. With this first scene itself, Mehta succeeds to describe India as a previously whole, unified entity, scarred and broken by partition and people afraid of the result.

This film can be coined both bold and gentle. Mehta has filled it with comments denouncing partition and double talking local politicians. But the bold part is that, most of the comments come from the minor characters. One of the noteworthy scene is that when Lenny with Dil Nawaz (Ice Candy Man-Aamir Khan), Shanta (Ayah – Nandita Das), Hassan (Masseur-Rahul Khanna), Sher Singh, Hari and others is listening to a Radio Broadcast, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is heard saying/declaring: “At the stroke of midnight hour of August 15, 1947, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”.

The multi religious group reacts with disgust and disbelief. One of the characters from the group (Hari, the gardener, enacted by Raghuveer Yadav) comments: “The Independence from the British will be soaked with our brother’s blood.”

This suggests what the minority and lower class experienced and felt at the moment. The upper class was involved and interested in the events. This is shown in the film through Lenny’s parents (enacted by Kitu Gidwani and Arif Zakari). But the lower class suffered the maximum. Gita Vishwanath and Salma Malik rightly points out one of the strategies employed by film-makers of such Partition movies: “….strategy employed by film-maker is to eschew violence all together and instead focus on the impact of Partition on the lives of ordinary people.” Mehta’s expertise in giving importance to minor characters should not be missed here. Most of the heart touching and change is bringing dialogues come from them.

Mehta has given a very simplified representation of the complex multifaceted image of partition. Of these, one is the ghost train scene. In here Dil Nawaz is seen waiting at Lahore railway station for his sister to arrive by the train from Gurudaspur(now India). But instead he finds a train full of cruelly butchered and mutilated bodies. While Dil Nawaz waits for the train at the station crowded with waiting eyes like his, the train approaches slowly and mysteriously. First out of focus with light shining from its engine, the train appears behind him slowly into the frame. The chugging sound of train is followed by providing of feet. Not a word is used in this scene. The viewers learn of the tragedy occurred immediately. But they learn of the tragedy occurred to Dil Nawaz later, i.e. in the scene following the train scene. 

His sisters had been on the same train in which everybody was killed and sacks filled with women’s breasts were found. This one scene differs from all other scenes in the movie. In the novel, Lenny and Shanta are provided with the information related to this train by Shanta’s group of admirers and Dil Nawaz who has himself only heard the things. In the film Lenny, who is present throughout the memories recollected, is not present in this scene. Again, away from the source text, it is no story heard or made. Dil Nawaz sees the horror himself. And this becomes the only scene that the audience watches with not Lenny but Dil Nawaz. Lenny is kept away from the horrifying scene. The child is not made to watch the mass killing. But Dil Nawaz sees it. This can be considered a beginning of transition in Dil Nawaz’s character which ends to an extremely cold blooded cruel murderer of Hassan, of Lenny’s trust and innocence, of Shanta’s identity and existence and of his own love and affection. The scene plays with the physical sensations and also corresponds to emotional sensations. The showing of the ghost train wakes up memories of the historical events that have its effects today too. 

A similar ghost train halts at Mano Majra in Pamela Rooks’ Train to Pakistan too. The difference lies in who sees the ghastly scene and its reaction. In Train to Pakistan the bureaucrats sees the horror happened. They feel helpless. The common men are not allowed even to get a glimpse of the horror except for once when a local sees the mass burial. On the contrary Deepa Mehta makes Dil Nawaz (Aamir Khan), an ice-candy vendor, a common lore the first person to get encountered by the horror. The murder of Hassan and abduction of Ayah are the beastly reactions seen in unaware, ignorant common man who is over ruled by communal frenzy and mob psychology.

In one more such a crucial segment, at night Lenny, Shanta, Hassan and Dil Nawaz are shown witness riots filled with extreme cruelty from the roof top of Dil Nawaz’s place. It is the same place where before a month, these same people had gathered and enjoyed kite flying. This scene showed carefree life lived by these people and how much were they yet untouched by the political problems crouching their region. The bright colours of the kite can be considered a metaphor of their happy life. The brightest smile was on Dil Nawaz’s face, who always tried to flirt with Shanta. But once into the clutches of communal riots, they see brutality itself happening from the same roof top. All four of them, (Hassan, Shanta, Lenny and Dil Nawaz), watch the terror acting its part. This happens after a few days of the ghost train episode. 

Except Dil Nawaz, the others watch the horror with shock and sorrow. Dil Nawaz, who in the beginning behaved with tolerance towards his Hindu and Sikh friends, reacted with a different shade. When they see from the rooftop the Muslims kill a Hindu in a very cruel manner, and Muslim fireman spray petrol to fuel the already emblazed Hindu buildings, Dil Nawaz’s face shows beastly joy, a feeling of revenge taken. This frightens the others. This is later on followed by Hassan’s murder. The beast awakened in his heart seems to be responsible for this. He had pleaded for Shanta’s love to pacify the beast in him. But her helpless look worked as fuel to the fire rose. Shanta loved Hassan and was going to marry him. Mehta’s film ends far before the source text’s end. Its third last scene is the dead body of Hassan in a sack seen by Lenny and Hari, the Gardner (now Himmat Ali) and the second last scene is the abduction of Shanta. This second last scene becomes important. Amidst communal frenzy a Muslim mob approaches the Shethi residence seeking for Hindus, specifically Ayah. Surprisingly it is led by a Muslim admirer (Pawan Malhotra) of Shanta.

He asks Lenny’s mother (Kittu Gidwani) to hand them over the Hindu Ayah. He calls her not ‘Shanta’, but ‘Hindu’. All living there – Hari (converted to Islam as Himmat Ali), Iman Din, the Muslim cook (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), other servants, Lenny’s mother and Lenny too deny Ayah’s presence. Dil Nawaz enters the scene at this moment. He picks up Lenny, wins her trust and asks her to tell him the truth. As soon as Lenny replies innocently, he puts her down and tells the mob that Ayah is hidden inside the house. Shanta is dragged out and driven away from confused Lenny’s bewildered eyes. The story ends here with camera on grown up Lenny enacted by Sidhwa. The camera lens is zoomed out showing her sitting by the statue of Queen Victoria, in Lahore long after the Partition. She concludes the film taking Shabana Azami’s Voice:

“Two hundred and fifty years of the British Empire ended in 1947, but what is the result? a country divided?… Fifty years have passed since I betrayed Ayah. Some say she married Ice Candy Wallah, some say she was seen in a prostitute house at Hira Mandi, and some say that they saw her in Amritsar. But I did not see her ever again, after that day in 1947 when I lost a large part of myself”.

The loss Lenny speaks of is her trust, her innocence, her life outside the four walls of Shetty residence. Mehta’s story stops here, but Sidhwa’s novel goes ahead. In the novel Lenny, with her God Mother’s help, finds Ayah with Dil Nawaz at Hira Mandi where she is made to work as a prostitute. Ice Candy man turns a pimp then. Lenny’s mother and God Mother arrange and could manage to bring her out from there. Ayah is first sent to recovered women’s camp and later back to India to her family.

Mehta stops at abduction. Her film does not give details of Ayah’s recovery. Jeanette Herman calls Mehta’s refusal to resolve Shanta’s story with closure of an easy recovery, a powerful choice for the film.

“By leaving Shanta’s fate unresolved and her body unrecovered, the film demands an acknowledgement that the trauma of partition runs deeper. At a symbolic level, moreover, Shanta’s abduction signifies the loss of that community united across so many lines of differences, and by refusing to resolve her story; the film asks us to mourn this loss.”

On the other hand, betrayal of Shanta according to Gita Vishwanath and Salma Malik is not entirely communal in nature, but an act made possible by the existing situation of those times.

“…since the dominant focus of the films is on the religious divide, such subtleties are invisibilized.”

Apart to all these, the film walks out of the source text walls at less important events. Mehta has avoided many characters that occupy much space and give important clues in the source text. She avoids the characters but not the clues to Independence, Partition and Parsis’ point of view. A few of these characters are Col. Bharucha-Lenny’s doctor, God Mother, Slave Sister, Rana, Khatija etc. In the film, Mr. and Mrs. Shethi and Lenny’s innocent questions give voice to the thoughts of Col. Bharucha, their counterpart in the source text. A small half clad boy at the refugee camp talks to Lenny and Adi (the cousin). This boy in just two minutes replaces the long description of violence made by Rana, Iman Din’s grandson. As the story is cut short by Mehta, the major work done by God Mother does not get scope. And so this character, quite important in novel, too is edited. Although both novel and film share the function of story telling, there is a significant difference in the making of the two.

Novels are shaped by individuals and are to be consumed by a specific class only. The film is created by a team, a group, the film unit led by the director, and is to be consumed by mass belonging to all and different class. Thus bigger the cast, difficult it becomes for the film maker to give them needed space in just two hours screen play. Equally difficult it becomes for the audience to accept too many minor characters.

The film maker has to make definite changes from the novel, add or omit certain things too. This is necessitated because the film has its own limitations. It is to be viewed in two to three hours. Neither can it afford complex narrations nor disputable scenes in it. It has to cater all classes of audience and also the censor. Those who would call a novel realistic too may not accept to see the same reality on the screen. Mehta has proved herself a practical film maker too. She has avoided Sidhwa’s opinions about Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah. 1947 Earth has not sided any of the two nations or their personalities. It has given the story of Partition, the happenings at specifically Lahore. Mehta, a practical film maker said in her interview to.Assem Chhabra:

“Bapsi is from Pakistan and now a U.S. citizen. I am from India and now living in Canada. If neither of us had moved from our respective homelands, the film just wouldn’t have been possible”.

Even after saying so, she has taken care so as to avoid comments on any of the national or political leaders. In the same interview Mehta describes her style of film making as “hybrid”, not “Bombay” and not “Western” which granted her a freedom with her subject matter and also the making of the film. Much instinctive about the casting, Mehta can easily find her characters out. She knows her characters. “The New Yorker’ commented that “… the cast is so likeable that they wear the larger themes like beautiful garments.” (27 September, 1999) Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna, Maya Sethna, Kitu Gidwani, Kulbhushan Kharbanda bring alive the shades and colours of their roles as the way they did. One cannot imagine anybody else in any of these roles. Sidhwa’s short appearance with Shabana Azami’s voice at the end neither adds to nor spoils the taste.

When engaged in translating stories related to a period, especially an immediate one like freedom fight or partition, the tendency has been to do it into a historical realism in which everything must look authentic and true to period. Set in Lahore, the film was shot in New Delhi. “Ta recreate a period piece in present Delhi was a heroic task,” says Mehta, “To dress the television antennae and plastic water tanks itself became a mammoth task…” The film uses not just Hindi and English languages but also Gujarati, Urdu and Punjabi. This use of multiple languages helps the period to emerge as that of Partition time, the characters too to gain originality.It also gives the picture of India as multilingual and multicultural country.

Colours play a very important metaphor in Mehta’s films. All her element trilogy has used the appropriate colours. Fire is filled with shades of yellow, orange and red blended with darkness of black. Water has the peace and purity of the blue colour. 1947 Earth, Mehta has made the use of Terracotta colours par excellence. The film begins with the dry brown earth all ready to get parched. This becomes a metaphor to the cracks created due to the draught of love, trust and fraternity.Similarly it ends with brown dusty roads of Lahore, a metaphor to Lenny’s lifetime loss of her beloved friend Ayah and all the emotions and activities attached to Ayah’s presence, loss of trust on friends like Dil Nawaz. 

It also suggests the pain of parting and distrust everyone passed through during the Partition period. Throught, the film uses variety of red, brown, green, orange and yellow. Nandita Das enacting Hindu Ayah comes on screen mostly dressed in terracotta colour sarees leaving an instance or two. Her admiration, abduction, rape and exploitation very smartly symbolize the explotation of the once blooming and adored one whole India.

Song and music and dance are significant in conveying the meaning of the story and in generating the desired emotions. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics and A.R. Rahman’s music in 1947 Earth, give voice to the feelings of every character. Sarod and Santoor accompanying the titles and the beginning scene establishes the melodramatic mode of the film. Rahman’s music adds to the horror of the ghost train. The long silence followed by thumping drums, joined later by different instruments and a chorus increases the intensity of grief on Aamir Khan’s face. 

It makes difficult for the viewers to digest the terror and it makes equally easy to understand why Dil Nawaz changed all of a sudden. Thus 1947 Earth a tale of one of the worst tragedies of the 20th Century, on silver screen is bound to be different from its purely literary medium, Ice Candy Man to a great extent even while presenting the same subject matter. The use of bright and dull colours, sharp, slow and touching music, lights, settings etc. probe into the psyche of the characters involved. It also caters the aesthetic sensibilities. Its technical brilliance like its perfect editing by Barry Farrell, use of sync camera by Gilles Nuttgns, covering away the disturbing articles and sounds make it more accessible to mass as both a commercial film and a reality reflected in its truest version. The New York Times described it as “a powerful and disturbing reminder of how a civilization can suddenly crack under certain pressures”. Talking about Ice Candy Man Githa Hariharan says in Economic Times, “Sidhwa captures the turmoil of the times, with a brilliant combination of individual growing up pains and the collective anguish of a newly independent but divided country”.

The way anti human actions dehumanising effects of communalism is revealed in Ice Candy Man is quite blood curdling and moving. Above everything it can be considered painfully relevant to our present day India and may be equally to Pakistan. Train to Pakistan and Ice-Candy Man pursue two similar portrayals of brutality experienced on both the sides of the border almost during the same time frame. Though one by a Sikh from the Indian side, another from a minority woman writer, a Parsi on the opposite side of the border, both carry similar concerns, similar emotions and pathos presenting a realistic picture of Partition. The same is captured in their film versions. 

Both the films, with the origin moulded in a little different, a little similar mould narrate the happenings in a dramatically realistic manner. Excluding or including of any incident or part in a film (adaptation) depends on the maturity and good judgement of the filmmaker and the film unit. They may include or exclude any incident, part, character or item and may even give an alternative, different from the source text. The film, using all the fidelities actually throws light on the original work, the novel. This compels us to call adaptation as not just the arty reconstruction of the original but an innovation itself. This is what Deepa Mehta did to Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man. What came on screen is the Partition memory. It is not just recollection of the past, but also the present engaging with disturbing histories of the subcontinent.

5. Discuss the summary of the play in act wise.

Ans: An age-old vendetta between two powerful families erupts into bloodshed. A group of masked Montagues risk further conflict by gatecrashing a Capulet party. A young lovesick Romeo Montague falls instantly in love with Juliet Capulet, who is due to marry her father’s choice, the County Paris. With the help of Juliet’s nurse, the women arrange for the couple to marry the next day, but Romeo’s attempt to halt a street fight leads to the death of Juliet’s own cousin, Tybalt, for which Romeo is banished. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, Juliet follows the Friar’s plot and fakes her own death. The message fails to reach Romeo, and believing Juliet dead, he takes his life in her tomb. Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s corpse beside her and kills herself. The grieving family agree to end their feud.

Act I: Romeo and Juliet begins as the Chorus introduces two feuding families of Verona: the Capulets and the Montagues. On a hot summer’s day, the young men of each faction fight until the Prince of Verona intercedes and threatens to banish them. Soon after, the head of the Capulet family plans a feast. His goal is to introduce his daughter Juliet to a Count named Paris who seeks to marry Juliet.

Montague’s son Romeo and his friends (Benvolio and Mercutio) hear of the party and resolve to go in disguise. Romeo hopes to see his beloved Rosaline at the party. Instead, while there, he meets Juliet and falls instantly in love with her. Juliet’s cousin Tybalt recognises the Montague boys and forces them to leave just as Romeo and Juliet discover one another.

Act II: Romeo lingers near the Capulet house to talk with Juliet when she appears in her window. The pair declare their love for one another and intend to marry the next day. With the help of Juliet’s Nurse, the lovers arrange to marry when Juliet goes for confession.

Act III: Following the secret marriage, Juliet’s cousin Tybalt sends a challenge to Romeo. Romeo refuses to fight, which angers his friend Mercutio who then fights with Tybalt. Mercutio is accidentally killed as Romeo intervenes to stop the fight. In anger, Romeo pursues Tybalt, kills him, and is banished by the Prince.

Juliet is anxious when Romeo is late to meet her and learns of the brawl, Tybalt’s death, and Romeo’s banishment. Friar Laurence arranges for Romeo to spend the night with Juliet before he leaves for Mantua. Meanwhile, the Capulet family grieves for Tybalt, so Lord Capulet moves Juliet’s marriage to Paris to the next day. Juliet’s parents are angry when Juliet doesn’t want to marry Paris, but they don’t know about her secret marriage to Romeo.

Act IV: Friar Laurence helps Juliet by providing a sleeping draught that will make her seem dead. When the wedding party arrives to greet Juliet the next day, they believe she is dead. The Friar sends a messenger to warn Romeo of Juliet’s plan and bids him to come to the Capulet family monument to rescue his sleeping wife.

Act V: The vital message to Romeo doesn’t arrive in time because the plague is in town (so the messenger cannot leave Verona). Hearing from his servant that Juliet is dead, Romeo buys poison from an Apothecary in Mantua. He returns to Verona and goes to the tomb where he surprises and kills the mourning Paris. Romeo takes his poison and dies, while Juliet awakens from her drugged coma: She learns what has happened from Friar Laurence, but she refuses to leave the tomb and stabs herself. The Friar returns with the Prince, the Capulets, and Romeo’s lately widowed father. The deaths of their children lead the families to make peace, and they promise to erect a monument in Romeo and Juliet’s memory.

6. Discuss the critical reception of the movie.

Ans: Reviews: The film holds an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and states that Earth, “is effective because it doesn’t require much history from its viewers, explains what needs to be known, and has a universal message.” The New York Times, described it as “a powerful and disturbing reminder of how a civilization can suddenly crack under certain pressures.” The New Yorker argues that, “Deepa Mehta handles her material convincingly, and the cast is so likeable that they wear the larger themes like beautiful garments.” notes that, “Aamir Khan has probably given the best performance of his life. It is hard to imagine another actor bringing alive the nuances of the ice-candy man the way he does.”[6] Planet Bollywood gave the film 9.5 out of 10 and stated that “Earth is strongly recommended to those who want to see a different type of Hindi film and who are tired of the usual boy meets girl stories and revenge dramas.”

Awards and nominations:

(a) Asian Film Festival – Best Film Award [8]

(b) Filmfare Best Male Debut Award – Rahul Khanna

(c) Filmfare Best Female Debut Award – Nandita Das

(d) Earth was India’s official entry for the 71st Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999, but was not included among the final five nominees selected by the AMPAS.

7. What was the director’s influence in the movie?

Ans: Earth, released in 1998, is the second instalment in Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy, the first being Fire (1996), and Water (2005). Deepa Mehta chose some very uncomfortable subjects, namely lesbian relationships among sister-in-laws and prostitution among widows, for her trilogy leading to several controversies which led to eight-year delay in production of Water. All the stories centre in North India, and are set around different timelines.

Earth is set during the Partition of India, when the communal tension was high leading to widely spread riots between different religions. The protagonist of the story, a girl named Lenny, belongs to the Parsi community who chose to not take any sides to avoid being in the bloodshed, and thus Lenny begins to observe her surroundings with a privileged detachment.

Through this particular protagonist, Mehta creates portrait of dying innocence. Lenny observes cordiality in the circle of her aayah, Shaanta, with whom she spends the most time. The many admirers of her aayah who belong to different religions share a common space and live in peace. Dil Nawaz, the ice-candy man, points out how communal hatred might be the end of the peace. Ironically, he is the one who gets Lenny to divulge Shanta’s hideout to drive her out.

Dill Nawaz’s character arc is the most conflicting of all. Tormented by the brutal rape and death of his sisters, he turns into a maniac demanding revenge. Fuelled by rejection from Shaanta, who choses Hassan, another Muslim, he decides to target Shaanta when the opportunity for revenge presents itself. It is typical of Mehta to add such conflicts in her characters. Unlike other movies that use the backdrop of Partition, but often infuse Bollywood elements of irrelevant songs and subplots, Mehta stays focused on her plot. She also doesn’t try to sweeten the end of an event as tragic as this, unlike other movies. It is one of the most difficult movies to watch, but one that deserves a mention among her best.

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