Amanda Richards | Georgetown, Guyana | 12/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not your grandmother's old Rishi Kapoor or Hema Malini movie, where kissing was taboo, and romance was limited to making goo-goo eyes and performing elaborately choreographed dances in the mountains.
By Hollywood standards, this is an intriguing movie, where two women rebel against their traditional roles, and turn to each other for love, respect and sexual gratification.
By Bollywood standards however, this shocker has committed several major offenses, the least of which are the on-screen love scenes between two women. The issues that shocked the traditionalists to the bone are that firstly, the women are Hindus, secondly the movie challenges the very core of male dominance, and thirdly, that women have the right to be independent and happy in their marital relationships.
Radha (Shabana Azmi) is married to Ashok (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and has been unable to fulfill his desire for a child. Ashok has been consulting a Swami, and in the belief that desire is the root of all evil, keeps her close to him without intimacy so that he will become a better person.
Sita (Nandita Das) is a young bride with a longing for love and adventure, married to Jatin (Javed Jaffrey) who is unwilling to provide her with either, because he is in love with someone else. Their marriage is a sham, as Jatin only married to please Ashok and his grandmother Biji.
As per custom, the whole extended family lives under one roof, and their unhappy marriages draw Sita and Radha together. Sita turns out to be the one who inspires the break with tradition, and finds a willing convert in Radha.
Director Deepa Mehta handles this controversial movie tastefully and tenderly, the romance balanced by traditional family values and the comedic activities of the servant Mundu (Ranjit Chowdhry, a Mehta regular). Shabana Azmi is perfect as the more mature woman, but Nandita Das sparkles as the enlightened abandoned bride.
My only regret is that the DVD version lacks subtitles, as even though the actors all speak English, their accents and Hindi references are sometimes difficult to catch.
A beautiful and powerful movie, but not your usual Bollywood fare.
Amanda Richards, December 27, 2004
Fire, fire burning bright...
Kali | United Kingdom | 05/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I went to see this film at the cinema I was uncertain as to what I was letting myself in for. However I am glad that my friend persuaded me to give it a chance. This is a beautiful film, about a taboo subject in India, and it is handled magnificently by the director and cast alike. It follows the story of two sister-in-laws (Azmi and Das) who dare to fall in love with each other. Not only do they fall in love but they conspire to leave their inadequate husbands. Azmi is married to a man who is unable to consummate their marriage, and Das' husband is unfaithful to her, desiring his Chinese mistress over his chosen bride. Azmi and Das are living in an unforgiving world. The path they have chosen to follow is fraught with intolerance and danger and they have no allies save each other. As their relationship deepens so does the need for escape. This is not just an artsy movie, it is funny, sad and genuinely moving. It also has some darkly funny moments, watch the scene with the family servant, and the porno movies, it has to be seen to be believed. Leonard Maltin saw this film as a male bashing Lesbian chick flick, claiming that the male characters in the film were nothing more than "simplistic chauvinist pig[s]." It is obvious that Mr. Maltin has not lived in India where more often than not men rule and women obey and should you want to be different then God help you because no one else will. This film is ultimately about love, hope, redemption and purification; fire being a purifier and therefore when Azmi survives her husband's attempt to burn her to death she proves to the viewer that she is pure, and the Gods do not disapprove of her sexuality. This is a wonderful film, well acted and superbly directed. It's worth seeing especially now as you will be able to buy or rent it on DVD."
The best movie I have ever seen, a true gem.
Amanda Richards | 10/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a teenager that is used to watching over-hyped Hollywood flicks. But one day I took a chance and rented FIRE. I could feel the frustrations of the two women as they lived day to day in loveless marriages. The characters are trying to fulfill roles their culture expects of them. But they are torn between what they want and what they are expected to want. I was moved by the outstanding performances of Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das. It's incredible how the director, Deepa Mehta, was able to weave suck complex social issues into a genuine and sincere film that leaves a lasting impact on anyone fortunate enough to view it. I was surprised to see that the older brother would devote himself to a life of chastity simply because he could not have children of his own. I felt empathy for the younger brother when he was pressured to leave his Chinese girlfriend in order to enter into an arranged marriage with a young Indian woman. There are tragic consequences for the leading female characters as their desires offer them a chance at happiness. I loved every moment in this movie. Hopefully the issues in this movie will be discussed by the many who see it. It's thought provoking and will leave a lasting impression, even for those who oppose the controversial subject matter of lesbianism."
The Unforgettable Fire
Ashputtle | 06/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It haunted me. I could not get the movie out of my mind for days. The story, with its tension, passion, and, frankly, eroticism, was amazing. As an Indian woman raised in the U.S., exposed to Western cinema and its free exploration of controversial issues, I could not believe such a movie could be made by an Indian cast,(expatriot)Indian director, and heavily Indian crew. The acting and cinematography was mesmerizing. The radiant Shabana Azmi, a true legend, and the beautiful Nandita Das portray their characters with a genuineness and bravery not often seen and never surpassed. Their displays of love and longing were probably the most passionate I've seen in cinema- of any genre. Without a doubt, this is one of the finest, and probably the most thought-provoking, films made by anyone in India or her diaspora. I am proud such a film has finally been made; and hopeful it will let India finally confront the changes occuring in its society."