Deepa Mehta: A Cinema of Rebellion


October 19 – October 22, 2017

Istanbul Modern Cinema hosts Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta who has been nominated for numerous awards for her films since 1991. Deepa Mehta’s poignant films, which push the limits, have been presented at leading film festivals and distributed and watched all around the world. Deepa Mehta is best known for her epic Elements Trilogy. Water, the final installment of the trilogy, was nominated for the “Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film” in 2007. Shooting and screening all three films was difficult due to their critique of Indian society. Movie theaters were burned down when Fire, the first Indian film to portray the relationship of two women, was released for screening, while the film set of Earth, which depicts the 1947 India and Pakistan partition, was attacked. The shooting of Water was sabotaged in Varanasi by Hindu fundamentalists and thus postponed for five years. Despite these difficulties, Mehta maintained her courage and defiance and continued to fearlessly produce films that focus on women’s issues and challenge traditions and stereotypes. Mehta adapted Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children into an epic film, and achieved worldwide success for her films Bollywood / Hollywood and Heaven on Earth. Through its depiction of a criminal case that took place in Delhi in 2012, her latest film Anatomy of Violence critiques the caste system and fundamentalist customs of India. In addition to countless achievements throughout her career, Mehta is the winner of the Reykjavik International Film Festival’s Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement. 


In Conversation with Deepa Mehta

Date: October 21, 2017

Time: 17.00

Deepa Mehta will also be in attendance for a talk as part of the program presenting six films from her filmography. The talk will be moderated by film critic Nil Kural.

The talk is in English with simultaneous translation.

Entrance is free of charge. We ask our visitors to take their coupons from the museum ticket desk. Please note that seating capacity is limited. 



FIRE, 1996

Canada, India|DVD, Color, 104’ |English, Hindi
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Karishma Jhalani


Fire, the first film of Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy depicts the love story of two women who have been neglected by their husbands for two completely different reasons. Ashok who seeks to cleanse himself from all worldly pleasures, Radha, his wife for 15 years, Ashok’s brother Jatin, and Sita, his wife from a prearranged marriage are all living in the same house. Despite having accepted the prearranged marriage, Ashok still continues to see his Chinese lover Julie. Living under the same roof and often alone by themselves, Sita and Radha become friends who find solace in each other before their friendship turn into an intimate relationship. Fire is also celebrated as the first Indian film that critically approaches the subject of lesbianism.


EARTH, 1998

Kanada, India |DVD, Color, 110’ |English, Hindi
Cast: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna


Earth, the second installment of theElements Trilogy, tells the bloody events preceding the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 from the viewpoint of a young girl stricken with polio, and the story of a group of friends. The young girl, Lenny’s nanny Shanta is a beautiful Hindu woman admired by two Muslim friends named Hassan and Dil. Shanta, Dil and Hassan are part of a group made up of friends from various religions. Although there are some amongst the friends who believe that the political climate will have no effect on the group, the divisions within the group also intensify as the tragedy of the country on the verge of separation worsens. The partly autobiographic film, adapted from Bapsi Sidhwa’s book Cracking India depicts a tension and tragedy whose repercussions and traumas are still largely present.


WATER, 2005

Canada, India |DVD, Color, 117’ |Hindi, Sanskrit
Cast: Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Seema Biswas


Canada's official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Water follows the story of a widowed girl who was forced to marry when she was eight years old. The film takes place at an ashram that widowed women are sent to for the rest of their lives according to Indian traditions. Due to her close involvement with the women’s struggle, and as a director whose critical approach never fails to challenge patriarchy, Deepa Mehta was forced to postpone the film’s shooting and move to Sri Lanka after being attacked by fundamentalist Hindu groups when she started working on the film in 2000. Without relinquishing for five years, Mehta completed this epic film that avoids didacticism, and crisscrosses effortlessly between its romantic narrative and the spiritual journey of the women in the ashram with all their spontaneity.



Canada |DVD, Color, 106’ |English, Punjabi
Cast: Preity Zinta, Gick Grewal, Vansh Bhardwaj


Chand, who has been living with her family in Punjabi, goes to Canada to marry a man she has never met. Although she arrives the country with dreams of a new beginning and a good life, things don’t work out as planned. Responsible for also taking care of his family, Chand’s husband Rocky resorts to domestic violence as early as their honeymoon. When Chand begins working at a factory, her life changes completely after she meets the Jamaican Rosa. Heaven on Earth comes to the fore with a narrative that skillfully works political criticism into the story it illustrates.



Canada, England |DVD, Color, 146’ |English, Hindi, Urdu
Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Vansh Bhardwaj, Anupam Kher


Born on 15 August 1947, the day India gained independence from the British Empire, Saleem ve Shiva grow up to realize that they have superpowers. Saleem has the power to call out to all other children born on that night with superpowers, and Sinai has an enormous power for cruelty. In time, their lives intersect, and the two play a major role in the journey of independent India with all its victories and disasters. Adapted to the screens from the book by the award-winning author Salman Rushdie, with a screenplay also by the author, the film takes the audience on a magical journey between good and evil during the birth of modern India.



Canada, India |HDD, Color, 93’ |English, Hindi
Cast: Vansh Bhardwaj, Tia Bhatia, Janki Bisht


Following the gang rape incident that took place in New Delhi in 2012, Deepa Mehta directs a film that searches for an answer to the question: “What is it that creates monsters?” Along with twelve actors, Mehta investigates the root causes of such an outrageous atrocity. The film also seeks to find answers with regards to the life, family, dreams and hopes of one of the victims of the gang rape. Could the way society define these men as “monsters” be the very reason the issue is still superficially treated? Despite the fact that the film only tangentially responds to this question, it breaks new ground for reflecting on this horrible violence inflicted on women. 

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