This movie from India is a wonderfully realized depiction of what happens to some close friends when their country goes through a period of intense religious strife. Based on a novel titled CRACKING INDIA, it is set in 1947 during the violent period when Great Britain granted independence to India. The move to independence had long been planned by the liberal British rulers, but when it came, it awakened ancient religious hatreds between Hindus, Sikhs and Moslems. These long-simmering hatreds in recent years had led to many sectarian riots in India. They are still the source of conflict between India and Pakistan today.
EARTH tells the story of a beautiful Hindu servant and her two Muslim suitors. The beautiful Shanta is the Hindu nanny of a young crippled girl named Lenny. Lenny’s family is Parsee, a Zoroastrian sect originally from Persia. They try to remain neutral regarding the political and religious divisions among the Muslims, the Hindus and the Sikhs. Shanta often takes Lenny to the park where she has friendly conversations with her Muslim, Sikh and Hindu male friends. Two of the friends seem particularly interested in Shanta. The first is an ice candy seller named Dil. The second is a masseur named Hasan. Both Dil and Hasan are handsome-looking young men.
As Muslim Pakistan prepares to break off from India, refugees start to stream across artificial borders. Soon, violence breaks out. Muslims and Sikhs attack Hindus and Hindus attack Muslims and Sikhs. Eventually, Dil discovers his sisters have been murdered by Hindus, and Shanta decides to pick Hasan over Dil. This leads to a tragic, heartbreaking ending of brutal betrayal that irreparably damages Lenny’s life and psyche.
Unlike the movie WEST BEIRUT (also reviewed in this issue), which was also about a religious conflict in a faraway land, EARTH tries to give the audience a good understanding of the conflicts that led to violence between the various factions in India in 1947. In fact, at one point, the movie even provides a biblical reason for the brutality – it suggests that the sinfulness of man is the reason.
This insight comes from Shanta’s Muslim suitor Dil. While watching a street battle from a rooftop, Dil tells Shanta, “Inside we’re all animals, like the lion in the cage. When the cage opens, then God help us all.” Dil then asks her, “Marry me, Shanta, so that the animal inside me will be controlled.” Of course, Shanta declines his offer and decides to marry Hasan. Little does she know that her decision will be the catalyst that unleashes the animal inside Dil.
Thus, despite references to the false religions of the Muslims, the Hindus and the Sikhs, EARTH contains an undeveloped moral worldview that shows man’s inhumanity to man. It indirectly suggests that, without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, sin will eventually take control, leading to brutality.
Regrettably, the movie also indicates that the Christian minority in India was totally ineffectual as the other religious groups brutalized each other. In addition, one Christian family in the story betroths their young daughter to an older man, an event which the non-Christian characters say is a “crazy” attempt to cope with the unsettling events occurring in India. EARTH also includes a few strong obscenities, some mild profanities, disturbing scenes of violence and dead bodies, and a scene of implied fornication. Ultimately, therefore, despite its positive qualities and its insights, EARTH rates an extreme caution in moral and spiritual acceptability, even for adults.
Moral worldview of man's inhumanity to man in story involving Muslims, Hindus & Sikhs, but the movie indicates the Christian minority in India are ineffectual & one Christian family engages in a bizarre arranged marriage; 14 mild obscenities, 3 strong obscenities & 5 mild profanities such as "Good God!"; moderate violence such as street demonstrations, images of dead bodies in train, a couple beatings, riot scene in long shot includes fires set & Muslim firefighters pouring petrol on burning Hindu houses, mention of women's breasts cut off & placed in sacks, image of bloody corpse by side of road, verbal reference to rapes, man shown about to be torn in half by automobiles, men carry off woman, & boy says he found his naked mother bound to ceiling fan in mosque; implied fornication after couple partially undresses & man kisses woman's chest & belly; upper male nudity & woman with a kind of halter top shown in bed with man; alcohol use; smoking; mild historical revisionism seems to assume non-Christians in India always got along before 1947 independence; unrealized feminist subtext; and, religious strife among non-Christians leads to barbarism when Christianized colonial rulers grant independence to India.