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One of the most viewed and admired movies from the recent Sydney and Melbourne film festivals was Earth, a moving passage of emotions set in post-war Lahore. The central character is eight years old Lenny (Maia Sethna), a cripple, who is from a middle class family. As a Parsee girl, she is part of a minority group and observes life around her. What surrounds her, though, is the rift between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Lenny’s beautiful Hindu nanny Shanta (Nandita Das) is the subject of romantic affections from two Muslim admirers – the caring masseur Hassan (Rahul Khanna) and an ice candy man Dil Navaz (Aamir Khan). She is a servant in the home of the wealthy Parsee Bunty Sethna (Kitu Gidwani).

The Indian-born director Deepa Mehta depicts a fun-loving Lahore community where music and joy bond the community, prior to the partitioning of territories. The painful split into independent India and Pakistan sees a warring of factions and a destructive conflict. It’s all seen by young Lenny as mass migration occurs between territories, and she sees how this affects the lives of those she loves.
It’s a very difficult subject matter for the director to burden herself with, but she depicts the courage and humaneness of the people involved in a terrible historical chapter. She discreetly mixes the romance with the politics and vividly demonstrates the profound effect that the big picture conveys on a personal tale. The effect in providing beautiful costumes and excellent cinematography is to be greatly commended, and the acting performances are impacting. Nandita Das lights up the screen in a passionate performance while Aamir Khan gives strength, particularly in the last part of the film.
Earth is definitely worth seeing as it is rich with poignant comments from the characters about the political world around them, and it’s well lit with a terrific musical score. With the sensitivity of Lenny at the forefront, it is difficult to divorce yourself from her pain and perception.