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“ FIRE ” ----- The Revisions of Traditions. Amber, Cathy, Enga, Grace, Wendy, Tiffany and Æ on. Introduction. Deepa Mehta Fire The controversy How Mehta sees the film Themes in Fire. Born in Amritsar , India in 1949 Major Philosophy in the University of New Delhi Married

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FIRE” -----The Revisions of Traditions

  • Amber, Cathy, Enga, Grace, Wendy, Tiffany and Æon

Introduction l.jpg

  • Deepa Mehta

  • Fire

  • The controversy

  • How Mehta sees

    the film

  • Themes in Fire

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Born in Amritsar, India in 1949

Major Philosophy in the University of New Delhi


Paul Saltzman

4. Her father was a film distributor and theater owner

Deepa Mehta

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5. ”By the time I was in university I knew I wanted to have nothing to do with film.”

6. Canadian or Indian?

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What Mehta wants to show in her film?

  • Challenge blind tradition in India

  • Break the stereotypes of India:

    a. The exotic India

    b. Mysticism

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1.1996 Toronto International Film Festival

2.New York Film Festival.

3.Vancouver International Film Festival

4.Chicago International Film Festival


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  • Shiv Sainiks: the movie isn’t worth watching

  • “ I am going to shoot you, Madam.”

  • Controversy

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How Mehta sees the film

- "For me Fire is about... fighting tradition when oppressed. My favorite dialogue in the film is when Sita tells her sister-in-law Radha that the concept of duty is over-rated."

- "The film is about desire and control and the choices we make in life. And it's about India. That is why I have used the colours of the Indian flag throughout the movie."

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I didn't make the film to do a thesis on lesbianism -- I am not interested in those things.

It is a film about loneliness.

It is a film about the hypocrisy of our society today.

It is a film about how women don't have choices in a patriarchal set-up.”

- Tradition and Revision

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Family Tree



+ +

Traditional figures in the Family:

Biji— voiceless, but possesses the great power over the family.

Ashok— patriarchal in sexuality and believes through celibacy, he

can be close to god.

Jatin—not able to break through tradition, but makes Sita as a

victim of it.

Radha—traditional wife in the family as well before the arrival of Sita.





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Dysfunction of the Family

Biji—is wizened, mute, helpless, carefully dressed and powered each day.

—carries around the room with a ridiculous little bell in her hand to indicate distress or need.

  • Biji Mundu: Biji couldn’t show her feeling toward Mundu’s selfish behavior.

  • Biji Radha & Sita: Biji knows nothing about their relationship.

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Ashok—has responsibility to carry on the family, but very patriarchal in sexuality.

Ashok Jatin: Ashok asks Jatin to do his duty as a husband.

Ashok Radha: They never communicate in sex. Ashok celibates and oppresses the sexual desire of Radha. Only took having sex with Radha as her duty.

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Jatin—victimized by tradition but also selfishly does the harm to Sita.

  • Jatin Sita: No love exists between them.

    : arranged marriage involved no love between he and Sita. Sita was also sacrificed in the relationship.

    : considered Sita as only a child-making machine.

  • Jatin Julie: Love and excitement make them together.

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Places in the Family

  • Jatin’s room

    --posters on the wall show the personality of Jatin

    --place for Sita release herself

  • Kitchen

    -- also a place Sita and Radha communicate their love.

  • Balcony

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Sita’s Influence on Radha

~by Grace Liu

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Sita’s anti-traditional charactersRadha’s changingBoth women find a way out.

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Sita’s Inner Self--


  • Open / Out-going

    ex: Sita wears Jatin’s pants and dances with pop music.

  • Active in starting a relationship with Radha

    ex: Sita kisses Radha actively.

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Sita’s Outside Behaviors--Traditional

Play a role well as a WIFE

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Sita’s Influence on Radha

  • Anti-traditional way of thinking as a WOMAN

  • Women should not be subordinate to men.

  • Women and men are equal.

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Sita and Radha’s Interactions

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Sita’s Influences

  • Sita kisses Radha actively.

  • Radha rinses Sita’s hair with oil. => intimacy

  • Sita expresses her opinion toward the queen in the mythology, which changes Radha’s traditional opinion.

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Radha’s Changes

  • Radha refuses to feed Bigi, and ask Ashok to do.

  • Both Sita and Radha refuse to make love to their own husbands.

  • Sita and Radha dress up well, and dance with pop music.

  • Radha refuses to make love to Ashok.

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  • Migration to India, Calcutta

  • 1949 – Communist


    • landowners, merchants

      and intellectuals

  • Sino-Indian War

  • Caste System

  • Economy


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Revised Tradition

  • Ashok and Jatin’s conversation

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Dinner Scene

  • Julie’s father’s attitude

  • Julie playing many roles

  • Jatin’s response

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Taj Maha




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Taj Maha:

  • The symbol of eternal love

  • Sita’s expectation toward marriage

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  • If you can’t see, don’t be sad, you can just to see without looking

  • Hope and happiness

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  • An escape from reality

  • Get touch with the living world

  • Place to share and communicate

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  • The title of the film

  • Human desire

  • Trails of fire

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Mythological Background (1) Ramayana

The Hindu epic: “Ramayana”– a saga

Rama – the avatar (the seventh incarnation of Vishnu)

Sita, wife of Rama, is doubted by Rama of her loyalty and undergoes “agnipariksha” (fire ordeal) to prove her chastity.

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The Representations of the “Agnipariksha”

The representation of Sita's Trial by Fire (from Ramayana) is being reproduced and emphasized by different means – the folk play, the telecast, and the poster of the restaurant

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Mythological Background (2)Immortal Love Legend of Radha - Krishna

  • Krishna –the eighth incarnation of Vishnu – symbolizes the soul’s intense longing and willingness for the ultimate unification with God

  • Radha – Krishna’s mistress; a typical figure whose waiting for Krishna is well-known and worshiped.

  • Radha-Krishna – a perfect union of feminine and masculine

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Revision of the Hindu mythology

  • Sita and Radha (two Hindu goddesses) become “lovers”

  • Radha undergoes the fire trial in the end of the film.

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Traditional Practice

Fast Ritual of the family: still

emphasizes on “a model of loyal

wife to her husband.”

Mundu’s revision of this legend in his fantasy

Sita and Radha’s revision pf the legend in reality

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Color and Frames

Contrast to the display of the color

Parallel between the display of the frame

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Color : Radha

A Transition (blank) from night to day

Radha is also transitional from a passive wife to an active lover

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Colors : Radha & Sita

Passionate and warm colours: the quality of fire

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The women’s relationship represents modern India itself. Radha is tradition-bound and just waiting to blossom…Sita is modern India, desiring independence over tradition (Beyond Bollywood 162).

Fire is the revision of tradition on the aspects of the awareness of women, the invasion of western culture and divine story.

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  • Change from Western Culture

    I. India is a tight community, but Julie’s father remains proud and tough as a foreigner in the solid community. (clip)

    II. Julie wants to have American-accented English and she wants to travel to Hong Kong.

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III. Social privilege of India women has transferred -

Indian middle-class women do not only consume western products but also westernization

A.. Sita dances in male costume

a. Sita dances along the music in the room (clip)

1.. Wearing pants as a way of modern liberating

2.. The combination of masculinity and femininity

b. Sita dances with Radha in the living room (clip)

1. The combination of traditional vamp and married


B. Indian women’s desire to break trough tradition and the

servant’s (Mundu ) incapability of changing (clip)

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  • Sita and Radha manage to find break through tradition strain by finding consolation from each other

    I. The role of family used to provide responsibility. Fire has given it another function, desire.

    II.Fire is different from lesbian movies because the relationship develops from domestic work

    III. Sita becomes more independent through the relationship between her and Radha (Clip)

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Fire adopts the original divine and make adaptation by finding consolation from each other

  • I. The switch of roles of Radha and Sita---

    Radha, instead of Sita, goes through the

    trial of fire

    II. Radha is proved innocent to Ashok

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Works Cited by finding consolation from each other

  • Chinese in India


  • Sino-Indian War


  • Desai, Jigna. Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film New York: Routledge, 2004.

  • Ramayana



  • Radha-Krishna


  • Woman of vision


  • Fire