Date of Lecture: 1997-02-06
Deepa Mehta received a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy from the University of New Delhi. In 1973, she immigrated to Canada, beginning her cinematic career by writing scripts for children’s films. Her first feature film, Sam & Me (1991) won the Honorable Mention in the Camera D’Or category at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. In 1993, Mehta directed her second feature film, Camilla, which starred Jessica Tandy and Bridget Fonda.
Mehta wrote, directed, and produced her third feature, Fire (1996). The first part of a trilogy that was also to comprise the films Earth and Water, Fire stood as a powerful critique of patriarchal society. This story of two Indian women, who after enduring neglect and dominance by their husbands turn to each other in a lesbian relationship, sparked extreme responses in India where the film was eventually banned.
Earth, (1998) based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, Cracking India, addresses the turbulent political upheavals that occurred during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Water, which was to be filmed in 2000, would have investigated the lives of Indian widows in the 1930s who were forced to enter “widow houses” and resort to prostitution in order to survive. This film ignited such heated controversy while it was being made on location in Varanasi that production was canceled.
Mehta’s latest film, Bollywood/Hollywood is a musical, romantic comedy that bridges the cinematic sensibilities of both film centres. It premiered at the 27th Toronto International Film Festival in 2002, opening the Perspective Canada program.