Friday, February 25, 2011

All Good Things Come In Threes

Mini-Review of Deepa Mehta's Element Trilogy:

This is just my third mini-reviews-post, while the amount of normal-review-posts is 12 at the moment. I could say I'm proud of this, and I am somehow a little bit proud, but let's not forget that there's a certain virtue in writing/ reading mini-reviews, too. As for writing, it's clearly that you 1) don't need to write that much, 2) can write about more than one of your recent views and 3) can combine films that resemble each other in some way or another. 

For this (falling due) post, I chose to present these three films by Deepa Mehta, as they are not only my most recent "Indian" views (I, personally, categorize them as Hindi-Films, and therefore also as Bollywood, but others might not; the language in "Fire" is English, for example), but also three films that will stay with me for quite a while, and that are majestic epics to me (just like the quote on the "Water"-poster says - by the way, just because I call them this, doesn't mean they're my favorite films, but you'll notice what I mean, when reading the reviews). Finally, it doesn't happen very often that I borrow Indian DVDs from my library; they don't have many, and I've seen all of them - so I get really excited, when I find new ones. Actually, they had all three films in a collector's box, so I got even more excited. My weekend was saved (it was last weekend, so this post is a little behind schedule). Okay, I wish you a nice weekend, and hope you enjoy reading.

Fire (1996) फायर
I forgot to mention, that these were my first Deepa Mehta films (except for "Bollywood/ Hollywood", but that one wasn't really mind-blowing) and "Fire" was also my introduction to Nandita Das. 
The eye-catching thing about Deepa's films (except for B/ H) is that sedate, but still rebellious atmosphere, which is also how I think she is in real life (I saw some of the bonus material on the DVDs). The actors are of big importance in this connection, and it doesn't surprise me that she likes working with the same crew, or some of them. It's needless to say that Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das are magnificent, but I'd like to mention Javed Jaffrey as one of the impressive Indian talents we sadly don't hear enough of. 
Though I couldn't identify with the main characters on all levels, - and this is not about being lesbian; I was almost able to identify perfectly with two well-known cowboys - "Fire" is a great film dealing with a dateless problem. Also, it's a perfect match for Deepa-Mehta beginners, for the language is primarily English. As the other two films, it has a length that eases the question of when to watch it.

Rating: 7.3

Earth (1998) अर्थ
Earth is, until now, my favorite Deepa-Mehta-film. Why? Again, it's a matter of the identification; I said I was almost able to identify with those cowboys - but I have felt perfect identification with heterosexual characters in other films, so that's one of the reasons, and as for "Water" - the film made me feel angry, irritable and helpless, and especially the last feeling isn't my favorite thing to feel, so even though it was a great film with a superb screenplay, story, cinematography etc., "Earth" was the one film that'll stay closest to my... soul or heart, or whatever. 
Maybe it's the good old triangle-drama, newly-invented almost each year, which made a new impact on me, maybe it's Nandita, Aamir and Rahul, maybe it's the universality of the context; not everyone is homosexual, not everyone is a widow/ widower - but in every human soul we find, in whatever dimension, weaknesses, desires and brutality. 

Rating: 7.8

Water (2005) वाटर
According to Wikipedia, "Water" is a Canadian film, which brings us back to what I wrote at the beginning: I don't blame anyone for seeing these films as Canadian productions, or whatever else, but for me they are not only Indian films, but because of language and setting: Bollywood. 
One might also notice, that while the characters in "Fire" speak English, and in "Earth" a misc of English and Hindi (not to be confused with Hinglish, though), "Water" was filmed in Hindi, completely. 
As I already mentioned in the foregoing review, "Water" didn't leave me with the most desirable feelings. More clearly: this Gulabi and Madhumati were so freaking annoying, while both Kalyani and Chuyia - and Narayan, for that matter - were so freaking naive, that I really got some exercise, baling my fists or doing other aggressive movements. The subtitles for deaf people were also annoying (though I do speak Hindi, I don't feel secure enough to watch a film entirely without subtitles - what if I miss a word and then don't get the meaning of the whole scene?), but there were no normal subtitles.
But even though the nice A. R. Rahman music was always announced as "happy music", "romantic music", "playful music" etc., and even though it didn't kill me softly (in the pos. way), it was a nice score - but only nice, just as the film was, well, nice. 
One of the best things was the cinematography... Varanasi was captured in an almost poetic way, like a poem, I'd say, without having been there. I don't want to bash the movie, though: many people will probably like, or even love, it - and I can't say why not; the actors are superb, the story is fresh and not boring... but as I've told you now, it just wasn't made for me. So this rating is entirely subjective and not about the objective greatness of the film - because in an objective way, it is great.

Rating: 6.4

Thank you for reading,
Mette M. K.


  1. Nice triple-review post! Loved the closing line in your review of Earth, especially. I found that the film ended at exactly the right moment, while the book dragged on a bit after that. (Wrote about that in a post on my blog ages ago.)

    Water, by the way, was not filmed in Varanasi although it is set there. It was shot mostly in Sri Lanka. They started shooting in Varanasi, but found themselves in a spot of bother with the locals who objected to their portrayal of widows. The film was in limbo for a bit after that, and then got restarted in a new location with a new cast (Ray and Biswas instead of her Fire starts Das and Azmi).


  2. @ ramsu: Yes, I knew about that Water thing, there was really much trouble about the film. It also came at our cinema, I remember, but I was on a class trip back then.


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