Written and directed by the acclaimed Deepa Matha this film explores passion, marriage and morality. Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi play the two female leads with such superb conviction that the film essentially belongs to them. The male actors especially Javid Jaffrey are superperb in their protrayal of male agressors. They are inherently selfish and this is accepted by the culture they live in.
andita plays a beautiful, clever girl who enters a loveless marriage with Jaitin, an imorral, faithless man who continues to cheat on her. She lives with the extended family who own a video store. Radha, Sita's sister-in-law, is unable to conceive. Her disappointed husband Ashok has taken a vow of celibacy and no longer cares for his wife or her problems.
Radha is a beautiful, intelligent woman who is used by her husband in many ways. He uses her to test his commitment to celibacy by making her lie with him and rejecting her every night. She is the main carer for her disabled mother-in-law who resents Radha's inabillity to have children. Radha's days begin and end with rejection untill Sita arrives.
Sita is a breath of fresh air for Radha and brings a youthful optimism into Radha's life. Unfortunatly Radha sees the extended family sucking this out of Sita.Eventually Sita and Radha develop a physical relationship which is far more emotionally sustaining than they have found with their husbands. Their relationship seems to be one of necessity rather than true love. It explores the human need for comanionship and physical closeness. The need that each of us have which is just to be understood and cared for. Sita who has been down trodden by her husband and abused mentally and physically begins to stand up for what she wants. This new founded strength comes essentially from her relationship with Radha. She begins to strike out against the small injustices that occur in her life. She eventually stands up to her husband telling him she doesn't want him.
In my opinion this film is full of underlying cultural contexts and once you become aware of these the film gains a new dimansion.
For example in Indian Mythology Sita was the ideal wife, she was pure and beautiful and married to Ram. She was kidnapped by the evil Ravan and was saved by Ram, Lakshman and the gods. However on her return she was made to walk through Fire to prove that while she was separated from her husband she had remained faithful. The premise here being that if she did not burn she was still pure. In this film we see Sita who is indeed pure being married to a man who is anything but. It is clear that we also needed a test of fire for sita's husband.Radha in Indian mythology is the platonic lover of Krisha (the celestial playboy). Her characteristics are loyalty and wisdom. She is unable to marry Krisha and suffers a kind of rejection, albit mutual. This used of mythological contexts is a very clever way of showing the way certian morals are deeply rooted in indian culture.This is a film that is beautiful in every way. It is a visualy breathtaking . As we would expect from a Deepa Metha film it explores complex front line issues dealing with love and morality. Iwas banned in Pakistan due to the lesbian relationship and riots took place in india upon its release. However I feel that this is a rare gem in indian cinema and is a must see film.
The DVD for this film has subtitles which are accurate to the Hindi script. Much of the film is spoken in a Hindi and English mix but if you do not understand Hindi you will need to rely on the subtitles. Special features include interviews with the cast and directors with some behind the scenes footage.