Spotlight on Deepa Mehta

Spotlight on Deepa Mehta

By Jan Lisa Huttner

(First Posted in 2006)

SOMETHING OLD: Camilla

SOMETHING NEW: Water

SOMETHING BORROWED: Earth

SOMETHING BLUE: Fire

Water, the third part of Deepa Mehta’s “Elements” trilogy, premiered at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival after years of disappoint- ment and delay, and is finally being released in the USA this spring.

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Mehta first achieved interna- tional promi- nence with the release of Fire in 1996. Newlyweds Jatin and Sita are both from proper middle-class fam- ilies. They’re expected to find satisfaction in their arranged marriage, but nei- ther of them can.

Ignored by her husband, the bride slowly devel- ops a passionate interest in her sister-in-law Radha. Jatin’s brother Ashok is a religious man and Sita assumes that Radha is equally devout, but as the two women get to know each other, Sita realizes that Radha’s spirit has been stifled by Ashok’s ritualistic self-abnegation.

The release of Fire sent shock-waves throughout India where a lesbian relationship between two characters named after Hindu goddesses was per- ceived as a deliberate affront by fundamentalists. But Mehta’s elegant storytelling skills and the powerfully restrained performances of her two lead actresses (Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das) were widely acclaimed in the West, where Fire received numerous film festival awards.