Bollywood and Bolly-beyond
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Despite the Passage of 20 years, this film still galvanizes

  • Jan 14, 2005
A PASSAGE TO INDIA was made in 1984 and was hailed as David Lean's final epic and also criticized for its stance on colonialism. Now, twenty years later, people are still viewing this film and writing about it with such polarized stances that it seems to prove at least one point: agree or disagree with the story, this film has become iconic.

Based rather faithfully on EM Forster's novel, A PASSAGE TO INDIA examines the dichotomous roles of British colonialization of India and the force of impact of the longstanding occupation on not only the Indian population, but also on the British colonists who loved India and were dismayed by the conflict of political struggle. Forster, as usual, approaches the Macro with the Micro: the underlying disparity between the British and the Indians is brought into focus by the examination of relationships between 'opposing' sides. It is finally in a courtroom that the story gels and the results of history alter.

The cast is strong with especially notable characters created by Judy Davis, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Michael Culver, and Victor Banjeree. One will never understand why Lean cast Sir Alec Guinness as the Indian Godbole when there are so many fine Indian actors who could have made the role significant. For all of Guinness' talent he simply looks foolish in his makeup and demeanor.

Maurice Jarre contributes a fine musical score and the richness of color photography is in line with Lean's other epics. The film is long, yes, and there are times when those unfamiliar with Forster's novel would fault as cumbersome. But the very fact that this film continues to spark debate about the British/Indian duplicity is, to this reviewer, an indication of how fine and important - and durable! - this film truly is. Grady Harp, January 2005

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About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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This adaptation of E.M. Forster's mysterious tale of British racism in colonial India turned out to be master director David Lean's final film. Subtle and grand at the same time, Lean's adaptation is faithful to the book, rendering its blend of the mystical and the all-too human with exquisite precision. Judy Davis plays a young British woman traveling in India with her fiancé's mother. While visiting a tourist attraction, she has a frightening moment in a cave--one that she eventually spins from an instant of mental meltdown into a tale of a physical attack that ruins several lives. Lean captures Forster's sense of awe at the kind of ageless wisdom and inexplicable phenomena to be encountered in India, as well as the British tendency to dismiss it all as savage, rather than simply different.--Marshall Fine
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DVD Release Date: March 20, 2001
Runtime: 164 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures

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