Deepa Mehta's second film in a trilogy on the elements (the first was Fire) is set in Lahore, India, in 1947. Based on novelist Bapsi Sidhwa's semi-autobiography Cracking India, it depicts the tension and the ensuing violence surrounding the British division of the country into an independent India and Pakistan. With its sense-lusciousness, remarkable cinematography, and passionate music by A. R. Rahman, Earth is truly outstanding.
Eight-year-old Lenny (Maia Sethna) grows up in luxury as a member of a wealthy Parsee family, a religious group that has remained neutral during the discussions about the division of India into two countries based on the religious majorities in each area. Lenny's beautiful nanny, Shanta (Nandita Das), is a Hindu who has a lively and diverse band of admirers Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs who meet regularly in a local park. Two men are in love with her the clever Ice Candy Man (Aamir Khan), a Muslim, and Hasan (Rahul Khanna), a Hindu masseur. Despite their differences, these men get along with each other until it becomes clear that Lahore will be part of Muslim Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs will not be safe there. Fear spreads through the city, becoming the spark that sets off a conflagration of hatred and violence. News of border atrocities fans the even stronger flames of revenge.
Deepa Mehta has made a deeply profound drama about love and hate in a country where the personal and the political are deeply intertwined. Gandhi once noted that when fear takes over, the spirit is ignored and we focus all of our attention on the point of danger, thus losing the capacity to find any courage, sanity, or peace inside ourselves.
Through the eyes of Lenny, we see longstanding relationships torn apart as friends turn into enemies. The reason of individuals who advocate accommodation and reconciliation is swept aside by the mindless bloodthirstiness of mobs. With its unique amalgam of romantic love, friendship, passion, and political turmoil, Earth goes straight to the heart.