14 September 2002 | SURJYAKIRAN
Sparks Fly in Sajnani's "The Fire and The Rain"
The first major Indian motion picture to have been "showered" with praise by the American media (with raves from the New York Times and L.A. Times) is quite worthy of the acclaim it has received.
Adapted from a play, (which was derived from the Hindu epic the Mahabharata) Sajnani's film is for those who can look beyond the action on screen and deduce various ideas and philosophies from the story being told. The film is loaded with symbolism and deeper meaning, and manages to raise quite a few provocative questions about divinity and society.
The other great attraction here, besides the allegorical plot, is the cinematography. The entire film has been set to celluloid by the camera of Anil Mehta (who has previously helmed the lavish Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and the epic, Oscar nominated LAGAAN: Once Upon A Time in India). A famous and attractive historical site in India (the temple ruins of Hampi) is portrayed fantastically in the film by Mehta. His wide-angle panoramic scenes must been seen to be believed.
Other aspects of the film are just about alright. Performances are functional, but Sajnani seems to have been torn as to whether he wanted his characters to be completely melodramatic and stage-like or somewhat restrained. As a result, the actors deliver very confused expressions and dialogs throughout the film. Still, actors Jackie Shroff and Raveena Tandon manage to leave quite an impact in their roles. The show-stealer, however, is screen legend Amitabh Bachan. His 'divine' little role is the one that will linger in the cine-goers mind long after its two hour duration comes to an end. The song-and-dance sequences provide a fine break from the dramatics of the film, but one or two of the songs could have been cut. Background music is pretty well done, but the same cannot be said of the special effects.
Despite the merits of the film, I can't help but feel the film could have managed a much stronger impact if Sajnani had opted for a less linear mode of story telling. Something similar to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction could have worked wonders for the film. As it is now, the film is pretty convoluted and has some continuity and pacing issues. Editing is the film's most glaring shortcoming.
In any case, the film is a worthy effort from India and worth a watch. I would especially recommend it to those who are interested in Hindu theology or philosophy.