Videsh Hindi Movie Review
"Videsh", the Hindi version of "Heaven On Earth", is a film about domestic violence. It is set in Canada, but it need not be. It could have taken place anywhere in India, or rather anywhere in the world.
In this film, inspired by Girish Karnad's play Naga Mandalam, the director (Deepa Mehta) tries to show that even the most vulnerable and helpless people can muster up their inner strength to fight injustice. To explore this theme further Mehta uses a metaphor from Indian mythology that of the Shesh Nag, the powerful serpent God who can take any shape and come to the help of human beings.
The actual story takes place in the lower middle class home of an Indian joint family. The setting is a tacky overcrowded home where the thin walls afford no privacy, and where a cruel and possessive mother has a vice-like grip over her son. In fact, over the whole household. Mehta does an excellent job of bringing out the claustrophobic atmosphere bordering on the evil.
The new bride Chand (Preity Zinta) is from a village in Punjab and willingly marries a boy whom she has never seen. A boy from a strange far-away land. She regrets it soon enough as right from the start she is beaten up by her husband for no rhyme or reason. But she bears it in silence and remains meek. She is also willing to try and make "amends" to please her husband. She doesn't want to call 911 as she is advised to, and nor does want to talk to anyone about it, except perhaps her mother, whom she misses badly. But ofcourse she is not allowed to talk to her parents who live in India. Despite her patience, the love that she so desperately seeks is not given to her. In fact her husband Rocky (Vansh Bhardwaj) seems some sort of emotional retard incapable of loving anybody.
The whole family witnesses the violence, and but they seem to think that the beatings are "normal" and that Rocky is actually a "nice" guy.
Chand finds solace in quietly chanting stanzas and stories that her mother has taught her…and these words from her past call upon her to be strong. Chand also finds comfort in the Shesh Nag. It ostensibly enters into the family's home without their knowledge and almost immediately helps Chand step into some sort of fantasy land where she finds the love and comfort she needs. If it wasn't an obvious (and clumsy) metaphor one would have thought Chand is in need of serious psychiatric treatment. Anyway, snake or not, her real life gets progressively worse and worse and she has to depend on the Shesh Nag to give her strength.
The movie is one hour forty five minutes long but even this seems too long as the movie drags in parts. What saves this movie is the authentic setting, the amazingly realistic characters, and ofcourse the fine acting performance of Preity Zinta. Preity fans will like this one. Foreign audiences too could lap it up as the movie gives them a peep into the power equations in a conservative Indian joint family with an evil mother-in-law who would rather see her daughter in law dead than happy in her married life.