Backdrop trumps action in this latest ploddingly earnest period melodrama from Merchant Ivory Productions, the masters of the form. Before the Rains is enlivened by its lush southwestern Indian setting, and director and cinematographer Santosh Sivan (helmer of 1999’s more inspired The Terrorist) has an undeniably keen eye and ear for the rugged serenity of the terrain. But its narrative of forbidden love in the twilight of the British raj is worn out and indistinct in comparison.
Part of the problem is a lack of lustful chemistry between the naughty lovers, upper-class twit Moores (Roache) and his sultry housekeeper, Sajani (Das); Sivan’s insistence on filming their trysts in supertight close-ups doesn’t help either. The moral struggle of Moores’s majordomo, T.K. (Bose), who’s drawn into the secret of his married boss’s indiscretion after its shocking termination, ought to fill the void, but it’s as flimsily realized as the rest of the story. There’s a commendably outré trial-by-red-hot-spoon sequence (no kidding) late in the movie, but Before the Rains otherwise fails to find a spark, and no amount of lingering shots of nature’s rich pageant can make up for its lack of human involvement.
Cast and crew