Before The Rains DVD
The DVD I am about to review is, in my opinion, a unique masterpiece which marries together many of the aspects of film that interest me - romance, drama and history. This encompasses them all, and the music which you hear in the background of the film is worth purchasing on iTunes, just for the sheer enjoyment of the eerie, echoing, captivating, and haunting sounds, which take me back to Southern India in a moment.
The Setting - Southern India
The film made in 2008 is set in the 1930s in Kerala during the last waning years of the Raj. It features a spice baron, Henry Moores, played by Linus Roache. He has an affair with Sajani, a woman from the local village, played by Nandita Das, who is his servant. This is no ordinary affair, as you have to understand the history of the time. The colonial British rule is grating on the Indian culture; despite bringing much needed economic opportunity, with road building to facilitate the spice industry, there is much undercurrent of unrest amongst the Indians and resentment boils. As much as this film catalogues the affair, it also showcases beautifully the divided loyalties which haunt a young Indian man called TK, working for the spice baron, who has ambition for India, but has deep connections with his people and their culture and history. When news of the affair breaks the film changes from one of romance and mystique. It becomes a terrifying thriller, which I found to be hauntingly disturbing and worryingly accurate. You can watch this film, and take the outcome and the journey, and apply it to any culture in any part of the world where outsiders move in and try to change the infrastructure of a place. It is absolutely fascinating and terrifying at the same time, and it captivated my attention for the entire film.
The scenery in this film is so beautiful. The cast is predominantly Indian, and the acclaimed director Santosh Sivan has to be applauded for this masterpiece, which was shot over a period of six weeks in the Kerala region of Southern India. The cinematography is simply outstanding, and for this and the music alone you could enjoy the film, which really makes you want to visit that part of India. In fact, it is this beautiful serenity of the scenes, which bathe the love affair in the early part of the film, which lure you into a quiet and understanding place. You go with the flow which is tinged with innocence - almost methodical and quietly humble on her part, but you are subsequently to be woken up by the violent and nail biting consequences of this union.
The acting is superb - I think that the spice baron, Henry Moores, played by Linus Roach is a character who we learn to love and hate. The latter more so in parts, but I did see myself liking some aspects of his character and did feel a glimmer of empathy at times- more so from his superb acting skills than for his actions. I think he genuinely wanted to build a better future for India, and his ambition to build a spice road before the rains came was admirable. He wanted this for himself and his family of course, as there were obvious financial gains, but he is not portrayed as entirely selfish, and there were glimpses of a man who became more and more broken by his actions and the consequences as the film developed.
Nandita Das, who plays Moore's lover, is incredibly expert in her delivery of some very moving scenes. She is a vulnerable woman in a desperate place. The contrast between her life and that of Moore's wife is superbly portrayed, culturally so different - disturbingly so in places.
The actor Rahul Bose, who plays the young Indian TK, for me, made the film what it was. His portrayal of the struggle he faced between his loyalties for the old India while embracing the new was simply incredible.
Jennifer Ehle who plays Laura, Henry's wife, puts on a good performance. She is what she is - an English woman who arrives in India bringing all her English ways with her. She even arrives with a bath tub for herself - this made me think of the differences between the two cultures at the time when the villagers were bathing in rivers and streams. She even congratulates Sajani on her improving English.
The use of extras in the film is superb. I will never forget the images of hundreds of men with lighted torches in the semi dark, who menacingly worked on the digging of the foundations for the road with such vigour.
Attention To Detail
The Moore's house reflects the style of the era perfectly as do the costumes. Nestled in the Kerala hills the mosquito nets hang over the bed encasing the sleeper in relative safety from the restless world outside. We get to see inside this house quite frequently as Mrs Moores arrives with her son from England. Here we see more of the cultural differences as Sajani cleans and cooks and serves the family, who live in relative affluence compared to the villager lives in the valley below the house.
The DVD has some extras which I found very interesting and includes an interview with Linus who spoke nothing but good about his time in India. He reflects on the wonderful director and the professionalism of the film, and the uniqueness of it all. He notes that he found himself in the minority, being one of the few in the cast or the production team to be flown in from outside India. That being said he was embraced with kindness and warmth, and he left with a teary farewell having submerged himself in the film which left him personally with a lifetime of lasting memories. This personal journey, I feel, accounts for why this film was so poignant and moving, and highlights the fact that the actors really embraced the parts they played, so much so that it was a wrench to leave the set at the end of the production.
My Final Thoughts
I don't keep many films past one watching. This one joins my special shelf of those which warrant many viewings- it has so many attributes, not least of which is the journey it takes the audience on in their minds. I have seen this film three times now, and on every occasion I come to realise by the end of the film that I have been steeped in Indian culture, history, and bathed in the mystique and hauntingly beautiful Karala landscape. The road Henry yearns to see built before the rains to transport cinnamon, cardamom and tea is not just a road, it is a winding path through a time in history when a love affair punctures a hole in an already failing infrastructure.
This is no ordinary film - it is a mystical journey into the past and for me was a film which I will never forget. Superb acting, stunningly beautiful scenery and a haunting soundtrack.
There is a website devoted to the film that is well worth looking at
http://www.beforetherains.net/ and the film can be purchased from Amazon for £2.99 with free delivery.
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278