Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday October 3, 2019 


Eight year old Lenny’s (Maia Sethna) Parsee family in Lahore lives a happy middle class life in 1947 and Lenny loves her beautiful Hindu nanny, Shenta (Nandita Das). Shenta’s suitors come from Muslim as well as Hindu-Sikh families and they all congregate in the park to talk and banter. When the effect of the Partition reaches Lenny’s world, the words turn into horrendous acts of violence. Friends become instant enemies, and even love is destroyed.

"Visually haunting with a richness of life's colourful textures, Deepa Mehta's Earth is an extraordinary and moving experience. Admittedly, Earth has personal significance for me – I was born in India after the Independence, and much of the feelings and aspects of lifestyle portrayed tap at doors that have long been locked with the key thrown away. My family was forced to leave the country, as were many others. But you don't need to have had an upbringing in India to be overwhelmed by this film. If you saw Fire, you will know that Mehta is a remarkable filmmaker, marrying glorious visuals with complex emotions. Here, once again, the ornate colours of India are woven into an exquisite multi-layered portrait, with conflicts and contrasts. The clash of class and sect is at its peak as India prepares to take its independence from Britain. There's an interesting juxtaposition of the neutrality of the Parsees with that of the Swiss in their own country, while Hindus-Sikhs and Muslims are basically at war. Seen through the watchful and innocent eyes of an eight year old girl whose parents have become Anglo-sized, we enter a world where the horrific reality of events explodes in a setting of serenity and beauty. Much of the film is internal, and watching the characters experience and feel is greatly affecting. The kite flying sequence, symbolic of joy, freedom and unbridled happiness, leaves us with a sensation of great beauty and tranquility, while the love scene reflects sensuality and purity in its highest form. From life's brilliance to the shadows of slaughter, the film's heart explores the animal and evil within us; the ugliness that is unleashed with anger, betrayal and hatred. The callous heart of revenge and jealousy is a disease that infects us all. The performances are all superb – Nandita Das as bewitching as she was in Fire, Aamir Khan a real scene stealer, while an evocative sound track with all the symbolic rhythms and tones of heightened emotion resounds throughout. Powerful, joyous, tragic - all visualised with breathtaking beauty, Earth is an important expression of our very nature, irrespective of race."
Louise Keller

"Made with the devotion of a patriot and the passion of a humanist, Earth is a profoundly sad and moving film, a personal account of India’s greatest tragedy; the partition of the country into India and Pakistan in 1947, which ripped apart the whole social fabric of the country. Told from the point of view of the book’s author, Bapsi Sidhwa, a Pakistani now living in the US, who was eight at the time, Earth is very clearly a political film, but the British (who created the partition) are not the only ones who stand accused. As one character says, all the participants (Hindus, Muslim, Sikhs) were equally to blame for their barbaric hatreds, built on nothing but their religious labels. I found the first half of the film episodic and patchy, unengaging even, until the horrendous events began to unfold. Nor does Earth provide any satisfactory rationale for the partitioning itself, even though it seeks to understand the events. As friends turn into enemies, we are forced to ask ourselves, ‘what would we do?’ but there is no answer. Embroidered with a superb musical collage, Earth is a deeply felt film, and its weaknesses notwithstanding, it is a powerful indictment of the downside of religious fervour and stupid, ignorant political decisions. There is no easy let down at the end, no surging note of hope – just a dull ache in the heart."
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article


Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with




CAST: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna, Kitu Gidwani, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Gulshan Grover, Arif Zakaria, Pavan Malhotra

PRODUCERS: Anne Masson, Deepa Mehta

DIRECTOR: Deepa Mehta

SCRIPT: Deepa Metha (From the book Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa)


EDITOR: Barry Farrell

MUSIC: Ar Rahman


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 16, 1999 (Melb; Sydney - Nov 4)

VIDEO RELEASE: April 10, 2000


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019