Written and Directed by Deepa Mehta
In one particular interview, the interviewer asks Deepa Mehta “What bugs you?” and she replies – “people who are dumb!!” with a bit of annoy.
From the three films I’ve seen of Mehta’s this had been the premise – an attack on dumb people especially those from the conservative society of India.
Let it be the religious extremism of ‘Earth’, the super old school beliefs and rituals in ‘Water’ or the lame attitude of not being able to accept people for who they are in ‘Fire’.
‘Fire’ is definitely one Indian movie which a lot dumb folks of India need to watch, not that every other country is contemporary and open minded, let’s just say “its better to start at home”.
‘Fire’ is the story of two women from the 90’s society of India.
One a very “nothing can be done about the traditional, stereotypical and stupid tradition” kind – Shabana Azmi playing Radha.
And the other “I know these practices have been in place for some time, but, I can’t take it anymore” sort – and this is Nandita Das playing ‘Sita’.
Sita gets married to Jatin (Javed Jaffrey) much against Jatin’s will. Jatin by then has a Chinese girl friend (Julia played by Alice Poon) and marries Sita to gift the family with a baby. Even though Jatin’s family has no problem with a Chinese bride, Julia is not willing to get married and spend the rest of her life in a joint Indian family.
Radha’s story on the other hand is a sorry tale about a staunchly religious husband and the ‘control of temptation’. The husband – ‘Ashok’ (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) is a full time devotee of a local Swamiji who keeps watching the scene of Ramayana where Rama tests Sita about her purity. The Swamiji believes that the only good enough reason to have a sexual relationship is to have a son to carry the family name. And Radha’s incapability about having babies brings in a world of gap between her and the husband for 13 years since their marriage.
The film’s central theme however is sex and sexuality. The servant of the house keeps watching porn in the presence of a grandmother of the house who can only see but can’t talk, this is the film’s very original character scripted with great finesse about sex starvation in the Indian scenario.
Both Radha and Sita discovering that they are attracted to women or each other and deciding to leave the house, Ashok’s discovery of his wife’s sexuality and Sita’s constant crib about the ‘don’t make sense’ traditions go through the final few minutes of the film. The film hardly has any scenes of happiness, but, does have a few brilliant scenes like the one where Sita puts on her husband’s trouser, holds a fag and dances in front of the mirror.
Not a movie to enjoy but in a way a movie of the ‘must watch’ category for a lot of reasons, one of which is the wonderful cast.