Videsh – Heaven on Earth
Cast: Preity Zinta, Vansh Bhardwaj
Direction: Deepa Mehta
Rating: * 1/2
Rocky— Punjabi chauvinistic pig in Ke-nay-da— has problems. His possessive mother thinks nothing of gatecrashing his honeymoon, his father is a wimp, his brother is unemployed, his nephew is sullen and the family is so hard up they rent out their beds by day to workers on the night shift. And Rocky himself has severe anger management issues, to put it in psychobabble. <b1>
So what does Rocky (Vansh Bhardwaj) do when life looks up and he brings home this cute Punjabi bride Chand (Preity Zinta)? Start bashing her up— right from that honeymoon which mama interrupted. He slaps her, bruises her, beats her up and kicks her around, getting increasingly vicious with each incident. Nobody in the family raises their voice or hand to stop him. And her parents back in India seem to have distanced themselves. Broken and bewildered, Chand has nowhere to go, no one to talk to. Except a colleague at work, a Jamaican named Rosa.
So far, you’re ready to go with the director even if you’ve seen this, borne that before. Especially since Preity Zinta brings a tremulous, vulnerable grace to her portrayal of a woman living in constant fear. And the story does have its moments (all belonging to Preity).
But it all starts to collapse after this, when Rosa gives Chand a magic root that will make her husband fall in “instant love” with her. It merely knocks him out cold, but plays dangerously with her mind as she escapes into a dream world where reality, fantasy and fable start overlapping and a cobra enters her bedroom, heart and soul (yes, you read right).
Matters come to a head when Rocky suspects her of infidelity and our modern-day Sita opts for a nag pariksha, out there in the family’s rather unkempt garden in suburban Brampton.
If this sounds bizarre, well, it is an incongruous intertwining of domestic violence and alienation with the ancient tale dramatised in Girish Karnad’s Naga Mandala, in which a bride tries to woo her indifferent husband with a magic potion but succeeds instead in enchanting a cobra. Put simply, it just doesn’t work here, transposed into a Canadian context (why, why, Deepa?).
To her credit, Preity Zinta gives more than she gets as she traverses fantasy and reality seamlessly in a marvelous performance. Even if the movie doesn’t.
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