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Fire

Director: Deepa Mehta


The Indian-born director Deepa Mehta emigrated to Canada in 1973, where she built up a career in film and television. She came to international prominence with this controversial third feature, which is the first in a trilogy of films set in India and taking their titles from the elements of fire, earth and water. Fire is set in a contemporary household in New Delhi. It’s a film about desire and thwarted passions, in which Mehta explores the tensions that exist between the old and the new in a contemporary India where material progress has created a desire for greater freedom and independence.
Radha (Shabana Azmi) is the consummate Indian wife, displaying unwavering devotion to her husband Ashok (Kulbushan Kharbanda). Their arranged marriage of fifteen years has remained intact, despite the social stigma associated with Radha’s barrenness. The couple live with Ashok’s brother, Jatin (Jaaved Jaaferi), above the family’s take-away shop, where Radha cooks and Jatin operates a makeshift video store. Jatin has been pressured into an arranged marriage with Sita (Nandita Das), but has no intention of giving up his relationship with Julie, a Chinese hairdresser. As their daily lives unfold, the tensions between the characters increase until, finally, Sita expresses her love for Radha and an affair begins.
Mehta’s delicate, tender film skilfully delineates the crises arising from the straitjacket of proscribed sexual indentities in a traditional society. Azmi and Das bring depth and sensitivity to their parts, not least in an explicit but deeply moving love scene. It took great courage for the two actresses to take on these roles, and indeed the film caused a storm of controversy in India.

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