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on 29 March 2002
'Heat and Dust;' what better description of India in the hottest season, but the title is also suggestive of stifled desire and sexual restlessness. This is, however, no 'bonkbuster,' rather it is a measured portrayal of repressed sexuality, further bound by racial taboos and British Empire notions of 'decency' and fear of scandal. The story takes place in one location but in two different generations; Greta Scacchi is the end-of-Empire wife of a decent but unexciting Brit, prey to the charms of morally ambiguous Indian princeling, Shashi Kapoor; Julie Christie is her modern-day descendant who parallels her situation by becoming involved with an Indian male while visiting the places and situations occupied years before by Greta Scacchi. The Julie Christie thread of the drama is a little thin and underexplored, bolstered in a slightly contrived way by her conversations with a reminiscing Nickolas Grace. The real joy of the film lies in the visual portrayal of a stultifyingly hot India at the time of the Raj and the luminous beauty and performance of Greta Scacchi, who combines classic, graceful English-rose beauty with a cat-like barely-under-the-surface sexuality. A classic of the Merchant-Ivory-Prabwhala genre.
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This 1982 Merchant Ivory production is a lush, atmospheric period piece based upon the well written book of the same name by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who also wrote the screenplay for this film. It explores Anglo-Indian relations through the power of romance. Set in two distinct eras, colonial India of the nineteen twenties, during the time of the Raj, and the independent, freewheeling India of the early nineteen eighties, during the time when India was a mecca for disenfranchised youth. This is subtly done through the story of two women.
One story is that of Olivia (Greta Scacchi), the young and beautiful wife of Douglas Rivers (Christopher Casenove), a minor district official in colonial India. The film tells of her arrival in India, newly wed and in love with her husband, her subsequent boredom with the staid, British Colonial community, and her blossoming infatuation with the Nawab (Shashi Kapoor), a very handsome and charming, local Indian prince. It is her romance with the Nawab that is to result in a life changing action, one that would forever cause a permanent rift with Douglas, changing her life forever.
The second story is that of Anne (Julie Christie), a beautiful and independent woman, a descendant of Olivia's sister. Nearly sixty years after Olivia's transgression, fascinated by the story of the deceased Olivia, Anne goes to India, visiting those locations where Olivia had lived and those which would have been a part of her existence at the time. As did Olivia, she falls under India's spell. As did Olivia, she, too, has an Anglo-Indian love affair. Hers is with her landlord, Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain). Anne's life essentially picks up where the thread of Olivia's life left off, giving the reader a powerful sense of de-ja vu, bringing reincarnation to mind.
This film is a beguiling story of two women from two different generations who come under the spell of India. It is evocative of British colonial India, as well as of India of the early nineteen eighties. During both eras, Anglo-Indian relations are pivotal to the budding romances, and the film is evocative of the rhythms of Indian life in all its richness and tumultuousness, as well as its lingering poverty and superstitions. Redolent of a time gone by, it is also an interesting dichotomy of the good and bad in both cultures, Anglo and Indian, and the influence that both cultures have on these two women, who are so different, yet so alike.
Julie Christie is perfect as the thoroughly modern, beautiful, free thinking, young woman who retraces her ancestor's footsteps. Greta Scacchi, in her introductory film role, is luminous as the lovely Olivia, a woman who did not let prejudice and narrow mindedness blind her to the charms of India, its people, and its culture. Shashi Kapoor is perfectly cast as the handsome Indian Prince, whose veneer of culture and sophistication belies an injured pride, chafing under British colonialism. While the role of Inder Lal is well played by Zakir Hussain, there does not appear to be much chemistry between him and Julie Christie, in contrast to the smoldering chemistry there is between Scacchi and Kapoor. The seeming lack of chemistry between Hussain and Christie is the one weakness in this film.
The film, one of the earlier Merchant Ivory productions, is beautifully shot. Gorgeous period costumes contribute to the sense of a time gone by. While the story bounces along between the past and the present, it is effectively done, as one sees the transformation of the past to its present. This is a film that will appeal to those who love period dramas, as well as those who simply love a good, entertaining story.
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on 8 January 2009
After all, what can you expect from a DVD company that can't even spell the name of the lead actress correctly? This DVD is NOT DIGITALLY REMASTERED which means the picture is fuzzy and out of focus like TV used to be in the 1980s. Unacceptable in 2008 (!) when Channel 4 released this DVD. Shame on them.

However, the film is also available as a part of "The Merchant Ivory Collection" and that DVD IS remastered and looks just fine. By all means go with that one.
77 comments| 46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This 1982 Merchant Ivory production is a lush, atmospheric period piece based upon the well written book of the same name by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who also wrote the screenplay for this film. It explores Anglo-Indian relations through the power of romance. Set in two distinct eras, colonial India of the nineteen twenties, during the time of the Raj, and the independent, freewheeling India of the early nineteen eighties, during the time when India was a mecca for disenfranchised youth. This is subtley done through the story of two women.
One story is that of Olivia (Greta Scacchi), the young and beautiful wife of Douglas Rivers (Christopher Casenove), a minor district official in colonial India. The film tells of her arrival in India, newly wed and in love with her husband, her subsequent boredom with the staid, British Colonial community, and her blossoming infatuation with the Nawab (Shashi Kapoor), a very handsome and charming, local Indian prince. It is her romance with the Nawab that is to result in a life changing action, one that would forever cause a permanent rift with Douglas, changing her life forever.
The second story is that of Anne (Julie Christie), a beautiful and independent woman, a descendant of Olivia's sister. Nearly sixty years after Olivia's transgression, fascinated by the story of the deceased Olivia, Anne goes to India, visiting those locations where Olivia had lived and those which would have been a part of her existence at the time. As did Olivia, she falls under India's spell. As did Olivia, she, too, has an Anglo-Indian love affair. Hers is with her landlord, Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain). Anne's life essentially picks up where the thread of Olivia's life left off, giving the reader a powerful sense of de-ja vu, bringing reincarnation to mind.
This film is a beguiling story of two women from two different generations who come under the spell of India. It is is evocative of British colonial India, as well as of India of the early nineteen eighties. During both eras, Anglo-Indian relations are pivotal to the budding romances, and the film is evocative of the rythyms of Indian life in all its richness and tumultuousness, as well as its lingering poverty and superstitions. Redolent of a time gone by, it is also an interesting dichotomy of the good and bad in both cultures, Anglo and Indian, and the influence that both cultures have on these two women, who are so different, yet so alike.
Julie Christie is perfect as the thoroughly modern, beautiful, free thinking, young woman who retraces her ancestor's footsteps. Greta Scacchi, in her introductory film role, is luminous as the lovely Olivia, a woman who did not let prejudice and narrow mindedness blind her to the charms of India, its people, and its culture. Shashi Kapoor is perfectly cast as the handsome Indian Prince, whose veneer of culture and sophistication belies an injured pride, chafing under British colonialism. While the role of Inder Lal is well played by Zakir Hussain, there does not appear to be much chemistry between him and Julie Christie, in contrast to the smoldering chemistry there is between Scacchi and Kapoor. The seeming lack of chmistry btween Hussain and Christie is the one weakness in this film.
The film, one of the earlier Merchant Ivory productions, is beautifully shot. Gorgeous period costumes contribute to the sense of a time gone by. While the story bounces along between the past and the present, it is effectively done, as one sees the transformation of the past to its present. This is a film that will appeal to those who love period dramas, as well as those who simply love a good, entertaining story. It is a film well worth having in one's collection.
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on 12 May 2013
Well-made drama by Merchant Ivory about "life" in India towards the end of British rule - it revolves about the lives of two women whose attitudes and morality are highly questionable - we have Greta Scacchi who, after moaning about the boredom of being married to a district Collector, later on finds reclusive contentment living with the Indian Nawab (after becoming pregnant by him and having an abortion) halfway up the Himalayas playing her piano all day and her latter-day reincarnation played by an ageing Julie Christie who has headed barefoot for India to research her former self - she gets into bed with her Indian landlord and ends up trekking to the top of the world to have his child - well-made (as befits a Merchant Ivory production) but really no more than a tale of two sluts - nice clothes, nice scenery, glossy production (oh, and you get to see Greta Scacchi with her clothes off again, no doubt fresh off the boat from Kenya having just had it away in "White Mischief") - OK for an evening's entertainment but not to be taken seriously, I think !
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on 29 May 2011
this is a lovely film and totally absorbing story. the only quibble I have is with the sound quality of the DVD which at times make the dialogue v ery difficult to hear, as it fades away and then comes back.
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on 28 May 2009
This movie has all the merits and drawbacks of most of the other Merchant-Ivory ventures. It looks great, with the budget up there on screen in the locations from Kashmir to Hyderabad via Richmond Park and in the costumes from Savill Row to Oasis. The structure of parallel stories of 1920s and 1980s works well, even if sometimes and annoyingly the switch between them comes at a moment of heightened drama. And that may be significant, as Merchant-Ivory too often struggle in so many of their films to convey the inner life of a drama beyond its look and under its surface.

This problem is evident here, too. We hear Greta Scacchi say she's bored but we don't experience her boredom. We see Julie Christie giving herself to her pressing Indian admirer, but her visit to a back-street abortionist takes place with all the emotion of a nip down to the bazaar for curry powder.

The picture is half an hour too long and moves so stodgily that I lost interest in the dual-structured characters well before the end. Strange this lack of energy and narrative force when these things were there aplenty with the lively adaptation of A Room with a View just three years later.
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on 10 January 2007
If "A Passage to India" was the tragic version of the story, here is the corresponding farce. India at the dusk of British rule, between the World Wars; a young English woman, an Indian man, sex, scandal - but in Ruth Prawer Jhabavala's novel and the subsequent film (which she also wrote), the Indian guy is not an ingenuous, if naive, little doctor but a dubious, if charming, prince who runs a mafia-style organized-crime gang. Nobody is safe from Jhabvala's gently ironic perspective; nobody is a saint and nobody is a victim. The prince's chain-smoking mother is one jewel of a supporting role. For anyone who liked "A Passage to India" but found it too moraline-drenched, this is a truly funny and highly amusing version of the story.
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on 13 February 2014
This is a beautiful film - amazing photography and very atmospheric music - you really feel you are there.
It's one of those films you can watch again and again and just let it wash over you. The plot really appealed to me when I first saw it in the 80s as I was a backpacker in those days. Julie Christie's character travels to India and stays with an Inidian family to research the life of her Aunt, played by a young beautiful Greta Scaachi, who lived there during the Raj era of the 1920s. Would recommend to anyone who has an interest in India.
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on 16 October 2015
This DVD is told in two parts modern day and the past when England ruled India the story is about a young woman who's goes back to India to unravel the past of her great aunt, the white British people in those dàys very often had servants but they were very bored as there was not a lot to do.
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