September 30, 2008

'Before the Rains' - A Role-Reversed Sequel to E. M. Forster's 'Passage to India'?

The storyline of Before the Rains did not enthrall, yet it isn’t a movie I could forget easily, and for two reasons: its surreptitiously sensuous setting and its obvious parallels with E. M. Forster’s Passage to India.

The movie is set during the British colonial period in India, sometime in the 1930s, and it is perhaps a low budget film which accounts for its cast and its low key marketing (if any at all). It is the rich and vibrant colors of Kerala, the setting of the movie, that hold the audience in complete awe. This rapture soon melts into a willing submission of the audience, almost a seduction, to the luscious landscape of South Western India. The photography in the film has opened up a new tourist haven - a tropical coastal paradise. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie does to Kerala what Brokeback Mountain did to Wyoming.

Apparently, ‘Before the Rains’ is adapted from the story “Red Roofs” presented by Israeli director Dany Verete in his movie Yellow Asphalt; Red Roofs is about an illicit relationship between an Israeli Jewish farmer and his Bedouin maid. However, it was not this Israeli connection that I was constantly reminded of during the movie; it was E.M.Forster’s characters, Mrs. Moore and Mr. Fielding, from Passage to India that kept flashing in my mind. Director Sivan’s chief protagonist, TK (Rahul Bose), is the Indian counterpart of Forster’s Fielding in Passage to India. Both characters are intelligent and sensitive human beings, who though wishing to be loyal to their own, are bipartisan in thought and ultimately in their actions as well which ultimately leads to major changeovers in the plot. In Forster’s novel, it is the native Indian, Dr. Aziz, who is accused of a physical assault on a memsahib, whereas in Before the Rains it is Planter Moore who is under suspicion for having an affair with his married Indian housekeeper. The parallel does not end there; there is a Mrs. Moore in the movie, who, coincidentally, has the very name of her Forsterian counterpart. She, like the other Mrs. Moore from Passage to India, is aware of the real nature of the relationship between her husband and the maid, and yet decides to keep quiet about it. Mrs Moore in Passage to India cannot live with the guilt of having kept silent on the Malabar incident and dies on her way to England; the Mrs. Moore of this film knowing the truth, cannot voice it, but decides to go back to England after ending her marriage.

As I said at the beginning, I haven’t been able to forget the movie. I’m still trying to figure out whether the obvious parallels between Before the Rains and E.M. Forster’s Passage to India were a chance happening, or did Santosh Sivan plan this movie as a role-reversed sequel to E. M. Forster’s Passage to India to explore the power and volatility of forbidden/ illicit relationships within a charged socio-political setting.

I would watch this one, if only for its seductive setting – Kerala.


cubano said...

It sounds like an good film. Merchant Ivory movies are generally very good and Nandita Das is a great actor. I guess that I will have to wait for the DVD as it was released here sometime in July.

Anonymous said...

I watched this one. I liked it. thank you.

EYE said...

great to be able to access your blog after a long time. Somehow i was not able to access it for some due to some technical reason.
YES? I have heard of this one. I wish i could get it in France somewhere. Kerala can certainly set the mood for any film