Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Benares/Varanasi, 1938. Following her husband’s death, wilful seven-year-old Chuyia (Sarala) is abandoned, kicking and screaming, at a widows’ ashram – and immediately silenced by the commanding Madhumati (Manorama, superbly menacing), mistress and madame of this impoverished, self-governing ‘prison’ of untouchables. Whether young, middle-aged or, like the cadaverous ‘auntie’, ancient, these widows are serving a virtual life sentence for innocent crimes against Hinduism’s harshest dictates. Naturally cheerful Chuyia is sustained by a precious, if delusional, belief in imminent rescue. But even that is threatened when beautiful ally Kalyani (Lisa Ray) begins an affair with handsome Brahmin’s son Narayan (John Abraham), leaving only devout Shakuntala (Seema Biswas, ‘Bandit Queen’) to offer friendship and hope in this living hell.

Made in Sri Lanka, this is the second version of the concluding part of Indian-born, Canadian-based Mehta’s ‘elements’ trilogy – a resurrection of the 2002 Indian production burned down by Hindu fundamentalists. Sumptuously shot (by Giles Nuttgens), earnest but engaging, its outrage and campaigning zeal are sufficiently tempered to allow the expression of individual portraits. Nor does the lovers’ eye-catching romance swamp what is, fundamentally, a microcosmic humanist study, replete with Ozu and Ray quotations. If its emotional and intellectual effects are sadly muted, blame its too-transient focus and unsettling clash of competing East-West styles and sensibilities.

By: Wally Hammond



Release details

Release date:
Friday June 1 2007
114 mins

Cast and crew

Deepa Mehta
Deepa Mehta
Lisa Ray
John Abraham
Seema Biswas
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