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Film: Fire

Courtesy of Mehta-Hamilton Productions.


Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Join us for a screening of Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1996; 104 min.), the second film in her acclaimed Elemental trilogy (the first, Water, was screened on September 8).

In this film, Radha is unwavering in her devotion to her husband, Ashok, despite their sexless arranged marriage. For 15 years, she has been the consummate Indian wife, while Ashok, under the guidance of a spiritual leader, is attempting to rid himself completely of any form of desire. Meanwhile, Ashok’s brother Jatin has brought home his new wife, Sita, but is unwilling to give up his relationship with his Chinese girlfriend. Added to the mix are Biji, Ashok and Jatin’s infirm mother, who keeps a watchful eye over the family. Slowly, Sita’s presence causes the threads that held the family together to unravel.

Each member tries to hang on to a semblance of allegiance to the deeply rooted traditions of Indian family life, while at the same time seeking expression for their own personal needs and desires. Unable to woo her new husband, the young and feisty Sita is the first to question the order of things. Her doubts are contagious, and soon Radha’s devotion begins to waver, too. Deprived of their husbands’ affections, the two women draw closer together in ways neither imagined.

Director-writer Deepa Mehta has captured the shifting landscape of the entire Indian subcontinent, where both men and women are caught in the immense tension between the continuity of the extended family and the desire for greater freedom and independence. Lusciously photographed and passionately told, Fire ignites the senses and the emotions.

Jinah Kim, the Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, will provide introductory remarks.

Deepa Mehta is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose work is celebrated on an international scale. Her emotionally resonating, award-winning films have played every major film festival, and many remain audience favorites. She is best known for her Elemental trilogy: Earth, Fire, and Water. Other films include Bollywood/Hollywood, Heaven on Earth, and the epic adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize–winning novel, Midnight’s Children.

This screening is offered in conjunction with the installation Women in South Asian Art, on view in the University Teaching Gallery at the Harvard Art Museums through January 7, 2018. This installation complements Jinah Kim’s undergraduate course in Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture. The course explores images of women in South Asian art, taking a historical perspective in order to understand the politics of gender and the social status of women in today’s South Asia.

The screening will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway.

Free admission

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund.