Heat and Dust (1983)

Heat and Dust (1983), directed by James Ivory.

A tale of two Indias: in the 1980s a women journeys there while reading the letters of her grandmother's sister, and we have the original 1920s story of that young woman as a newlywed.

The contrasts: colonial India is like a costume fantasy, when even mid-level British civil servants could live like kings. Modern India is less regal, more democratic, its tales are less fraught with social importance, more quietly personal.

The similarities: both women fall in love with Indian men. Both have to make abortion decisions: one goes one way, one goes the other. They travel to the same locations and both wind up in the snowy hills of Kashmir with the Himalayas on the horizon.

Same and different: the same locations and buildings are used for both time periods. What had been palaces and stately homes are now museums and government offices.

Our players:

This was a successful Merchant Ivory production and was well-reviewed, but then just seemed to disappear.

Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from her novel. Ivory said their company should have been called "Merchant Ivory Jhabvala". "An Indian Muslim, an American Protestant and a German Jew: we were the three-headed monster".

Available on Blu-ray from Cohen Media. The commentary track is a conversation and fond reflections by producer Ismail Merchant, Greta Scacchi and Nickolas Grace, who plays both old and young Harry, the Nawab's English secretary. The actors jibe the producer about money and paycheck problems during filming; the company had various funding disasters.

The disc has several interview extras, and another Merchant Ivory short film, Autobiography of a Princess (1975) with James Mason.

Much of this seems to have been carried forward from an earlier Criterion DVD.

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