Videsh: Stark and unsettling
Watching Deepa Mehta’s “Videsh” is not a very pleasant feeling. Watching a woman getting bruised and beaten up never is.
Preity Zinta plays Chand, a Ludhiana girl who is sent to Canada to get married to Rocky, a taxi driver she has never met.
Rocky lives with his family — parents, sister and her family — and Chand soon realises life as a non-resident Indian is not all it’s made out to be.
Mehta also builds a portrait of a lower middle-class NRI family — all living in cramped quarters, struggling to make ends meet and in conflict with their identities.
The abuse starts soon enough — the provocation being Rocky’s overprotective mother (who even barges in on the couple’s honeymoon).
At first, Chand tries to win over her husband but when she realises it’s futile, she turns to her only refuge in a strange country — her own imagination.
But she is soon unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
I don’t want to reveal any more for fear of ruining the plot, but Mehta uses this concept of the power of imagination to show Chand’s resilience and her ultimate victory.
Unfortunately, the plotline isn’t entirely as convincing as it should have been and at times it even seems contrived. Also, this film has some stark imagery and some fairly disturbing scenes, so be warned.
“Videsh” (or ‘Heaven on Earth’, which is its international title) is not a film for everyone, but watch it for Zinta’s nuanced performance as Chand — going from a coy bride to a hardened woman ready to fight. She is magnificent.