A personal confession of bumbling around… Twice in my life I set out to watch a movie and ended up with the wrong flick. This once happened in a movie theater. I was working night shift in the bakery back then. We’d discussed two movies and I thought we’d settled on which movie we were going to see, I no longer remember what its name. Zombie like, for I’d been up the night before, I staggered in following others and we began watching what I thought was a long preview for some basketball movie. After about ten minutes, I whispered, “this is the longest preview I’ve seen.” I don’t remember the name of the movie we watched, but that was 25 years ago and I slept through part of it.
I had a similar experience recently. Having enjoyed Deepa Mehta’s movie, “Water,” I ordered from Netflix another movie within her trilogy, “Earth.” I sat aside an evening to watch it. I’d read the cover and knew that “Earth” was about the horrors along the Indian/Pakistan border during the late 40s, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. I put the DVD into the player, skipped all the trailers as I set up the ironing board, got out the spray starch, gathered hangers and hauled the recently washed shirts over to the couch. By the time I was ready to iron, the movie was on the opening page and I hit play. The film began with a skirmish in the woods; I assumed they were Muslim and Hindu partisans. It seemed like a natural beginning. Then the scene changed to that of beautiful scenery with a teenage girl singing. Was I watching an Indian “Sound of Music?” A musical about a serious subject? I didn’t think the movie was a musical and beside, the girl singing seemed older than the one the movie was suppose to be about. I kept watching and ironing. By the time I was on my second shirt, a car drove into this Indian village. It wasn’t a 1940 vintage. For a second I tried to rationalize, thinking that maybe the director was now in the present and would flash back into the past. But that only lasted for a second or two. I then accepted the fact that this wasn’t the movie I thought I was watching. I stopped the DVD, pulled out the disk, and checked. Sure enough, I was watching Roja, not Earth. Someone had placed the wrong disk into the slipcase. Since I had the time, I went ahead and watch it and am glad I did.
MY REVIEW: “Roja” is kind of hokey. I was shocked to later learn that it is based on a true story. The plot lines are predictable (except for when you are trying to make it fit into a movie about the ‘40s as seen through the eyes of a little girl). As often the case with Bollywood (and Hollywood), some of the acting is overdone (bodies doing back flips and people tumbling down the side of a glaciers). It’s also nationalistic, reminding me of some of Hollywood’s movies from World War Two. And it’s a love story. The movie suffers from too many different plots and themes, but I’m still glad I watched it. After all, I was intrigued by the concept of an Indian Nationalistic love story. Also making the movie worthwhile was incredible scenery and beautiful music (although one needs to brush up on their Tamil to fully enjoy the lyrics).
The first part of the movie is the story of Roja (Madhoo), a devout Hindu. She prays for her sister’s marriage as Rishi Kumar (Avind Swamy), a computer engineer from the city, comes to the village to be married to her sister. But her sister doesn’t want to marry him (she wants to marry her childhood friend who is the son of her father’s enemy). She persuades him to reject her. It is worked out that Roja sister will marry her lover while Rishi will marry Roja. Roja goes along with it, but isn’t taken with Rishi for she feels that he insulted her sister. Only after she learns the truth does she fall for him as she pledges to “treat him as a god.” (I fell in love with Roja at this point!)
In the second part of the movie, Rishi is sent to Kashmir to work on deciphering codes for the Indian military. Roja travels with him. They find conditions tense as terrorists wanting an independent Kashmir are active. Rishi is taken hostage and Roja does everything in her power to free him. There are a couple surreal scenes where Rishi tries to talk rationally to his captures, even appealing to their Allah, questioning if this is what their religion is all about. “Wipe away the tears of people,” he tells them, “instead of making them cry.” As with all good fairytales, Rishi eventually escapes and is reunited with his wife. The movie ends with a nationalistic song.
I recommend this movie for its wonderful scenery and music, and for its look at another nation’s nationality. By examining another national rhetoric, we may better understand how our own national ideology is seen by the rest of the world.