'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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