Starring: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna
Director/Writer: Deepa Metha
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
So often in times of conflict children are the ones who suffer most. Adults feuding over things like boundaries and religion must seem utterly ridiculous and incomprehensible to those innocents. Why can’t everyone simply tolerate cultural differences and celebrate the rich mix of life? Earth is an exquisite film that forces us to ask exactly such questions.
In it, we witness the horror accompanying the division of India and Pakistan in 1947 through the eyes of an eight year old girl, Lenny Baby (Maia Sethna) who has been struck down by polio. Her gorgeous young nanny Shanta (Nandita Das) lovingly dotes on her, taking her to the park to meet with her gaggle of admirers including the Ice Candy Man (Aamir Khan) and the Masseur (Rahul Khanna), both of whom are Muslims. Shanta is Hindu and although she doesn’t like talking about such things as politics and religion, they are about to impact on her life in a very real and violent way.
For her part, Lenny Baby belongs to a wealthy Parsee family, an ancient group of people whose education has taught them to remain neutral in times of turmoil. They are, as her mother explains, like Chameleons, sweet yet invisible, but when civil war breaks out in the formerly cosmopolitan city of Lahore they don’t know which colour to turn.
This is the second film in a trilogy from Metha, the first being the controversial Fire (1996) in which Nandita Das also starred, and the third, yet to be released, is Water. As their titles suggest, these films deal with elemental issues, not the least of which is human nature. They also expertly juxtapose the personal and the political so while Earth is essentially a love story, history is waiting in the wings to leave its’ indelible and, in this case brutal mark.