The Indo-American Arts
Earth, a film by Deepa Mehta
Set during the division of the sub-continent
ink) India and Pakistan in 1947, Earth is a .story about the destruction
of innocence in the name of nationalism and religion. Massacres co-exist
with a luminous love story, betrayals of friendship walk alongside individual
heroics, riots and kidnapping open innocent eyes t0 the unscrupulous
nature of desire.
Lahore, 1947. Lenny is an eight year old Parsee girl, enjoying the soft,
life that loving parents and a household staff of six brings. She travels
Queens Gardens with her Ayah (Nanny), a beautiful young Hindu woman
constant supply of eager male suitors. These men are Hindus, Muslims,
just as the staff -members serving Lenny and her well-heeled family
are a happy
collection of the religions and ethnicities of the Indian sub-continent.
It's an entirely pleasing world, peopled by the beloved Ayah, Imam Din,
cook, by the Ice Candy Man (who gives Lenny treats to win over her Ayah),
Masseur (who massages Lenny's right leg wasted by polio), by her doting
- Godmother, and by her precocious brother-like cousin.
When the film opens, the British are finally preparing to quit their
colonial India and
the searing process of splitting British India into Independent India
and Pakistan is
about to begin.
For Lenny, it first appears in her
Lahore home with angry words between Mr. Singh
and Mr. Rogers, British Inspector General of Police, who have come to
her parents. Words she and Cousin hear while hiding beneath the dining
Words transform into marches and fires. Angry Hindus storming through
one day, angry Muslims the next. Then the serious killing begins. Hindus
attack Muslims; Muslims attack Hindus and Sikhs.
The savagery is thrust into Lenny's idyllic world. Lenny is with Ayah
and a group of
Ayah's admirers outside the servants' quarters of her home. Troubling
been coming over the radio of violence around Gurdaspur in India. While
gripped with fear, listens to the radio, Ice Candy Man waits for his
sisters at the
Lahore Railway Station. The train from Gurdaspur finally arrives with
all the -
Muslim men and children killed and four gunny sacks filled with women's
That massacre sets into motion events that turn Lenny's world upside
down, and the
once charming Ice Candy Man turns into a near madman.
The Muslim Masseur is the only voice of reason amongst
Ayah's admirers. He
implores the group of friends to "stand by each other" and a love affair
and Ayah blossoms amidst the carnage. Lenny's family is spared the slaughter
• because Parsees are not part of the politics and the blood-letting.
But a mob arrives
one dat at their front gate, led by the transformed Ice Candy Man. The
not be touched, but the mob wants all the Hindu servants. That includes
whom Ice Candy Man has desired for a long time.
Lenny's unconscious betrayal of her
beloved Ayah in the face of violence is a
betrayal she will have to live with for the rest of her life. And innocence
by desire and greed, religion and nationalism in the searing division