A Telefilm interview with Deepa Mehta. From YouTube.
Mehta's films present personal human conflicts in a naturalistic style, aided by the hypnotic rhythms of powerful soundtracks. Collaborating with composer A.R. Rahman and veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda - most notably throughout her "elements" trilogy - Mehta infuses heavy symbolism with reserved depictions of potentially hostile situations. Fire (1996), about two love-deprived sisters-in-law who find solace in each other, was the first of the trilogy to elicit public protest. Encompassing lesbianism and challenging the power imbalance between husbands and wives in contemporary India, the film drew both ire and praise.
Earth (1998), which was nominated for three GEMINI AWARDS, is a love story set among the struggles of diversely faithed friends during India's 1947 partition from Pakistan. Based on Bapsi Sidwa's novel Cracking India, it depicts the division of both country and friendships during the bloody massacres in the largest forced migration in the history of mankind.
Not shying away from controversy, Mehta's final instalment in the elements trilogy would be WATER (2005), nominated for nine GENIE awards and for an Oscar in 2006. The story of socially marginalized widows who are ostracized in conservative parts of India, the film went through a series of delays as violent protesters threatened Mehta's life and destroyed film sets in the holy city of Varanasi, where "widow houses" can still be found. The film shoot was eventually relocated to Sri Lanka under the pseudonym River Moon.
Between making Earth and Water, Mehta filmed the musical comedy Bollywood/Hollywood (2002) and an adaptation of Canadian novelist Carol Shields's The Republic of Love (2004). Mehta's film Heaven on Earth (2008) is about an Indian immigrant woman who meets with domestic abuse in Canada.
In response to audience interest in the plight of widows in India after the release of her film Water, Mehta filmed the documentary The Forgotten Women in 2008.
She also co-wrote Cooking with Stella (2009), co-starring Lisa Ray and Don MCKELLAR as a Canadian diplomatic family in India whose housekeeper supplements her income by stealing from her employers and taking kickbacks from retailers for overpriced supplies. Mehta's Midnight's Children, based on the novel written by Salman Rushdie (who also adapted it for the screen), debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. The film tells the story of two children born at the dawn of India's independence from Britain and switched at birth.
In 2009 Deepa Mehta received an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria. She was given the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S PERFORMING ARTS AWARD for Lifetime Achievement in 2012.
Although the transnationally produced elements trilogy made it through the India Censor Board without a cut, many religious and conservative-minded leaders still see Mehta as a westernized threat to Indian culture. Citing socially responsible filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ozu Yasujiro and Vittorio de Sica among those she respects, Deepa Mehta challenges cultural traditions by using drama to break down stereotypes and give a voice to the individual.
Author AMY FUNG
Devyani Saltzman, Shooting Water (2005); Janis Cole, Calling the Shots - Interviews with Female Directors (1993); Jacqueline Levitin, "Deepa Mehta as Transnational Filmmaker, or You Can't Go Home Again," in J. White and W. Beard, eds, North of Everything, English-Canadian Cinema Since 1980 (2002).
Links to Other Sites
Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards
See biographies of recipients of Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. Also, check the menu on the left for links to video clips of recipients' speeches. From the website for the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation.
Hamilton Mehta Productions
The website for Hamilton Mehta Productions, a Toronto-based independent film Production Company co-founded by director Deepa Mehta and producer David Hamilton. See their many multimedia features about Deepa Mehta's films.
A CBC review of “Water,” Deepa Mehta’s Hindi-language film that challenges traditional cultural practices in India.
A filmography for Canadian director Deepa Mehta. Also includes a list of industry awards and nominations. From the website for Directors Guild of Canada Ontario.
Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television
Check out the "Press Room" for announcements about the latest winners of the Canadian Screen Awards at the website for the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
Heaven on Earth
This site features a synopsis and video clips of Deepa Mehta's film "Heaven on Earth." From the National Film Board of Canada.
VIDEO: Deepa Mehta and Zaib Shaikh Talk Midnight's Children
A brief CBC video featuring Zaib Shaikh talking about Deepa Mehta and her film "Midnight's Children." See also a link to an interview with filmmaker Deepa Mehta.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...