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A Passage to India: Film Review
A passage to India is a dramatized film of a novel of the same title by E. M. Forster that was published in 1924. The film, which was released in 1984, was written and directed by David Lean. It addresses issues that came up during the British Raj (era of colonization in India) (Phillips, 2006). It addresses issues such as British imperialism, racial tensions, evils of colonialism, misuse of the law and sexual repression of the era. Although some major issues that occurred during the colonial era are not explicit, the film clearly reflects the relationship that existed between the Britons and the locals in India (Phillips, 2006).
A Passage of India presents a story of a young woman, Ms Adela Quested and her elderly companion, Mrs. Moore who decide to move from Britain to Chandrapore to see the “real India”, which is widely perceived as a land of Mystery and a land of riches. After arriving in India, they are welcomed by Mrs. Moore’s son, Ronny, who works as British magistrate in India (Phillips, 2006). However, after arriving in India, the two are disappointed to find that there is no change from the life they led back in Britain. They find that the Britons in India have isolated themselves from the natives and are still leaving in the British culture. This image is well characterized by Ronny, who perceives the local Indians as untrustworthy. Mrs. Moore finds that her son has changed since he left Britain and he has started distrusting people (Phillips, 2006). By showing the change in behavior of Ronny, the film seeks to illustrate the effects of colonial rule on the excluded India populace and the corrupted elite (Paranjape, 2012). The film portrays a picture of how the Indians were cast outside their land during the colonial era. The distrust for educated Indians led the Britons to bar the local Indians from highest-paying positions and jobs Paranjape, 2012).
Unlike other Britons, Mrs. Moore and Ms Quested appreciated the “real India.” The two appreciate the Indians, even though the places in which they were leaving aided in isolating them from the locals (Phillips, 2006). Mrs. Moore and Ms Quested represent a small group of Britons who refused to conform to the ideas and beliefs held by majority of the Britons who did not consider India as a home during the colonial era. At some point, Ms. Quested falls in love with Aziz, a young Muslim doctor who is based in India (Sinha, 2012). Most of the Britons perceived India as a place where they have occupied in order to enrich themselves and the British economy, but not to benefit the natives. Thus, the majority of the Britons did not have interest on India’s culture.
The film also demonstrates how the Indians distrusted the Britons during the colonial era. Aziz organized a bridge party and invited both Indians and a few Britons. However, the invitation was not warmly received by Indians as most of them showed skepticism. They also disliked the fact that the party was arranged by a British official. At the same time, most of the British officials who were invited failed to attend the party (Phillips, 2006). The film reflects the historical issues that occurred during colonial era. As depicted in the film, the British colonial administrators were in India to pursue lucrative investment opportunities as well as to purse lucrative careers, as administrators and bureaucrats in fields such as police, justice, revenue, public works, education, postal and railway services and engineering. This made many British officials to move from middle to the upper class. As a result, they found it difficult to integrate with the low-class locals (Deutschmann, 2011).
An issue also arises in the film in which Mrs. Quested accuses Aziz of raping her after they visited Marabar Caves. As the case proceeds in court, Mrs. Quested reveals that she had lied to the court and that she had been assaulted by another person other than Aziz (Phillips, 2006). This issue demonstrates how the law was misused by the Britons to mistreat the locals in India during colonial era. Generally, the film reflects many of the events that occurred during colonial period in India. However, the film does not explicitly indicate some of the major issues that occurred. For instance, it does not portray how most Indians wanted the Britons to move out of their land (Deutschmann, 2011).
In conclusion, A Passage to India clearly brings the context of colonial era in India to the audience. However, the film may be boring to the audience as is set against a tumultuous Indian background. As well, the film is vast in physical scale. Despite this, it is funny and intimate and clearly moves in a manner that is controlled by the maker. Also, it is full of vivid characters; it is played in a wonderful provocative style; and it is played to near perfection.
Deutschmann, Moritz. Edward Said and the Cultural History of British Colonialism in India.
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Paranjape, Makarand R.. Making India: Colonialism, National Culture, and the Afterlife of
Indian English Authority: Colonialism, National Culture, and the Afterlife of Indian English Authority. New York: Springer, 2012
Phillips, Gene D., Beyond the Epic: The Life & Films of David Lean. Lexington: University
Press of Kentucky. 2006
Sinha, Nitin. Communication and Colonialism in Eastern India: Bihar, 1760s-1880s. Anthem