BEFORE THE RAINS (Santosh Sivan). 98 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Even without checking the credits, it’s impossible not to recognize Before The Rains as a Merchant-Ivory production. That it’s filmed in India and made in English is only the first clue.
Lushly photographed (another Merchant-Ivory marker), the story revolves around an affair between a married English plantation owner (Linus Roache) and a married servant girl (Nandita Das). Set against the rising and increasingly violent tide of Indian nationalism, their doomed romance highlights the sharp contrasts between the two cultures in this vivid yet dry historical drama.
When the relationship is revealed, with startling and unexpected consequences for everyone involved, it is the Englishman’s right-?hand man and confidante, TK (Rahul Bose), who finds himself most at odds with both his Indian heritage and his new colonial customs. And in the end it’s the face of TK, a man trapped in a country at a crossroads, that stays with you.
While the story feels at once heartfelt and somewhat passionless – melodrama lurks behind every jungle vine and leaf – the film is well acted and beautifully directed by Santosh Sivan, whose The Terrorist brilliantly told the story of a woman who becomes a suicide bomber.
This is a much less political film, despite its setting, and is far more interested in exploring the taboos associated with race and class (another recurring theme in M-I films) and the consequences of breaking them.