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Thursday, September 23, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 23

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New movie Earth portrays India during a time of struggle


Earth

Starring: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna and Kitu Gidwani
Running Time: 110 Min.
Not Rated

Grade A-


By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff 

Earth is the screen adaptation of the novel Cracking India, by Bapsi Sidhwa, an Indian author who has lived in Houston for 15 years. The story is about India entering a state of civil war after the English withdraw and split the nation into independent India and Pakistan.

The plot features many similarities to the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, but without the fantastic elements. Earth, directed, produced and adapted by Deepa Mehta, presents many realistic scenes dealing with history, religion, passion and rage.

Earth is the second film of Mehta's trilogy, Fire, Earth and Water. The film illustrates how Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs lived in harmony for centuries, and how the situation changed after 1947 when the English give up their empire in India.

Earth is presented through the eyes of an eight-year-old Parsee girl named Lenny Sethna (Maia Sethna). While growing up in Lahore, she enjoys a wealthy and kind life. Her parents take a neutral position about politics and associate with people of different races.

In the good times, the Sethnas are friendly people, and in the bad times they never forget their friends. They adopt the English language and lifestyle but maintain some of their own customs.

Because of Lenny's age and charm, she is allowed to move around with ease in different worlds. She goes from her home and childlike existence to the more mature and unpredictable world of her Ayah (effectively her nanny), Shanta (Nandita Das).


Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films


Nandita Das (left) plays Shanta, the Ayah, and Aamir Khan plays Dil Navaz, the Ice Candy Man in Earth, a cinematically-impressive take on life in independent India and Pakistan.

They both enjoy the park, and the company of locals who are a mix of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs men. Iman Din (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), the cook, Dil Navaz (Aamir Khan) the Ice Candy Man, Hasan the Masseur (Rahul Khanna) spend their afternoons admiring Shanta's beauty and trying to win her affection. There is very little animosity between the group in the initial scenes, but the situation slowly changes.

While the friction between races becomes more apparent, the incriminations begin to grow. Suddenly, the festivities and joyful existence come to an end. The fighting between the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs intensifies, and soon the massacre of people begins everywhere.

When Lenny, Shanta and Dil stand on the rooftop of a building and observe the city in flames, they realize things will never be the same. Dil, who was once a joyful man, becomes bitter as he observes how his people are massacred. He tells Shanta that only her love can stop his rage.

The competition between Dil (a Muslim) and Hasan (a Hindu) for the love of Shanta (a Hindu), becomes violent. Even the peaceful Parsee are interrogated by a mob of Muslims looking for Shanta. Because of the circumstances, the once playful and naïve Lenny is forced to grow up too quickly. Her peaceful world crumbles after the girl is exposed to war.

Earth contains violent, graphic scenes that illustrate the massacre that took place in India. The cinematography, by Giles Nuttgens, is remarkable. The afternoons and shots of the city and park are truly beautiful.

Earth reminds us of the dark side of imperialism and how quickly people change their attitudes when ruling parties or countries create division. We are rarely reminded about the effects of World War II on other continents beside Europe and America.

Earth presents a perfect opportunity for people to travel in time to a different world and observe how people change their attitudes when politicians decide issues of love and hate for everyone.
 

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