Deepa Mehta, filmmaker (born at Amritsar, India). Deepa Mehta, whose father was a movie distributor, grew up watching films and began her career as a screenwriter for children's cinema.
Deepa Mehta, filmmaker (born at Amritsar, India). Deepa Mehta, whose father was a movie distributor, grew up watching films and began her career as a screenwriter for children's cinema. After receiving a master of arts degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi, she immigrated to Canada in 1973.
Deepa Mehta has received accolades on an international scale for her provocative films about universally personal subjects. Beginning with her first feature FILM, Sam and Me (1991), about an Indian immigrant who befriends an elderly Jewish man in Toronto, Mehta developed an oeuvre that represents emotion through lush imagery. Sam and Me had an $11-million budget, the highest Canadian budget a woman director had been afforded at that time. The film went on to win an honourable mention at the Cannes Film Festival and was followed by Camilla (1994), starring Bridget Fonda and Jessica TANDY. Mehta also produced and directed a string of television specials, including The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992) for George Lucas Productions.
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.
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).