Fri, 27 Mar 2009 13:41:50 GMT

Absolute authenticity is the hallmark of 'Videsh'

When the first slap comes, it hits the audience hard across the face.

Review Videsh


Spousal abuse as a theme is not new to cinema. What sets Deepa Mehta's 'Heaven On Earth' apart from other films including Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Provoked' is the fusion of unspoken unexpressed terror with mythological elements all packed with sardine-like compactness into a small apartment in Ontario, Canada, where Chand arrives fearful and hopeful after her wedding.

What she brings with her is her mother's tales and homilies, songs and mythology that follow the bride into her chamber of horrors.

What follows in Chand's new life is a nightmare that could claim the life of any Indian bride transported into a foreign country after marriage.

Absolute authenticity is the hallmark of Deepa Mehta's vision. Her permanent cinematographer Giles Nuttgens enters Chand's adopted Canadian home with her and remains by her side, living her pain, experiencing her humiliation and agony, as within no time Chand becomes that nightmarish entity whom we all read about in crime sections of the papers: the abused wife.

The film's greatest triumph is its economy of expression. The tightly-wound tale of the tormented wife is never allowed to have loose moments. Ironically, outwardly we see a warm home filled with a Sikh family half of whom seem to have absolutely nothing to do. Within their abject nullity lies the secret to the violence that claims, possesses and tries to smother Chand's domestic dreams.

We know from the start that she'll escape the nightmare of a brutal marriage. That she lives to tell her tale is self-evident. The magic of her existence in the trap of an arranged marriage lies in the illusion of normalcy and compassion that she creates within the ambience of abject terror by inventing a double for her husband... a doppelganger, a spirit in human form, if you will, who applies balm to all of Chand's wounds and gives her the courage to survive when the very breath of her existence is being choked out.

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