Stormy emotions in focus | Daily News
Before the Rains

Stormy emotions in focus

Moores, Laura, Peter and T K

Based on the film ‘Red Roofs’, part of ‘The Desert Trilogy: Yellow Asphalt’ by Dany Verete, Indian director Santosh Sivan’s period piece ‘Before the Rains’ unfolds in Kerala. The screenplay is set in 1937 by Cathy Rabin who had skillfully woven the Indian touch into the story which was originally placed in Israel.

Moores is a planter aspiring to build a road to transport spices for export. His main challenge is to complete the project before the monsoon season. However he is quite confident of building the road on time since he has the villagers at his beck and call.The key behind his success is T K Neelan, his loyal and obsequious manservant, who sees no ill behind his master’s actions till it is almost too late to turn back. A part of his faith towards his master is shattered when he learns of the passionate relationship Moores shares with Sajani, his beautiful but naïve housekeeper.

First glance

Moores discards Sajani once his wife and son returns from England. Sajani is herself a married woman but she genuinely loves Moores. When her husband hears of news that she is seen locked in the arms of another man, things turn ugly at home. Sajani has no choice but to go to Moores for help only to find that he wants to send her away so that his life and family is in safety while she has to live a life of an outcast. Sentimentality does not play a major role in ‘Before the Rains’. Though you do feel pity for Sajani, you are more in awe of how power acts once threatened. Moores who seemed a worthy landlord at first glance reveals his cold hearted nature by ruthlessly exercising his prerogatives.

Interestingly T K wishes for the best of both worlds. He embodies the respect that the humble villagers show towards the British as well as dwells in the simplicity and beliefs of the rural Indians. A man who has no love for conflicts, he is at ease when he bows his head for this master and is grateful for every scrap of favour that the white man offers. This is evident in his joy of receiving a pistol for Moores as a token of gratitude for serving him well.

Culture clashes

Moores and Sajani

The film deals with themes such as culture clashes, imperialist entitlement, betrayal and a forbidden liaison between master and servant.Though the pistol later serves to be a destructive weapon, T K sees only the good side of the equipment until it falls into the wrong hands and unveils itself as a deadly weapon.

These are hackneyed ideals in a film which deals with colonialism but the freshness in which the director handles the plot keeps the audience immersed. Just when your attention seems to be withering he brings out a new angle to the story like revealing a part of the Indian tradition to fascinate the viewers. One such instance comes towards the end of the film when the villagers use an age old practice to see whether T K is lying. The spirit of nationalism too is a sub theme in the play and one which is being awakened even in T K’s mind at the climax of ‘Before the Rains’.

Emotional catastrophe

Another plus point in the film is in its visually striking locations. The waterfall near which Moores and Sajani engage in intimacy displays nature in all its beauty. Nature is also used as a symbol in certain instances.

The impending stormy weather too predicts the emotional catastrophe which will follow once the true state of affairs come to light. Similarly Moores’ son, Peter, releasing his dragonfly from its bottled prison signifies the transition of Sajani’s soul to another world. Linus Roache, Rahul Bose and Nandita Das who play the lead roles carry off their performance convincingly. Other significant characters are portrayed by Lal Paul, Jennifer Ehle, Leopold Benedict and John Standing. 

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