) – By its very nature, colonialism is bad karma waiting to happen.
You are a sovereign nation with weaponry and a desire for treasure. While you invade and take over a country with that treasure, it also comes with a society you don’t understand. You stir in religious dogma, native slavery and the defiling of lands and create an evil stew that’s ripe to boil over.
The country of India was a prime example of this scenario. The British got their bad karma handed back to them as depicted in the new film “Before the Rains
Set in 1937, the film begins with a British spice baron named Henry Moores (Linus Roache
) who’s surveying a mountain upon which he plans to build a road.
His right-hand man, T.K. Neelan (Rahul Bose
), is a native of the surrounding Indian territory who lends his support to the outsider project by recruiting village laborers.
At his home nearby, Moores is shown participating in a honey-gathering errand with housekeeper Sajani (Nandita Das). On this expedition, it’s revealed that the two are lovers. At the same time, though, they’re caught in the act by two boys from the village.
They are both married to other people. This starts a complication that pits the loyal T.K. against his native honor.
Asked by his friend and patron (Moores) to cover up the affair, T.K. becomes an unwilling middleman between his village, Moores’ wife and a distraught Sanjani. Her sorrow also results in an ultimate act that could bring the whole enterprise and atmosphere crashing down.
Set among the first wave of nationalism that led to India’s independence, this highly symbolic story is tautly constructed to create high-wire tension between the oh-so-white British colonialists and the traditional Indian ways.
The representation of eminent domain, blithe commerce and the appearance of firearms seemingly encapsulate the whole relationship between the countries. The power of love is also an incendiary device when thrown in among the cold material.
While Moores and Sanjani maybe never intended to fall in love, the consequence of their ardor has the capacity to cripple everything in its path. It is expertly played out in the screenplay by Cathy Rabin and Dan Verete while director Santosh Sivan creates the anxious mood of a noir thriller.
These are top-notch performances. The Brits are cast so effectively and proper, in fact, as to have stepped right out of “Mary Poppins
”. The Indian actors (especially the characters of T.K. and Sanjani) honor their ancestors with inherent portrayals by conjuring the empathy of being second-class citizens in their own land.
The story anticipates the coming of the monsoon season as the road of British commerce races to completion before the flood. How simply it can be washed away when the rains arrives just like the wave of the people of India expressing their dignity.
“Before the Rains” opens on May 16, 2008 in limited theaters. In Chicago, the film will play at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and Landmark’s Renaissance Place Cinema.
By PATRICK McDONALD
© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com