A Passage to India (film)
name = A Passage to India
caption = Theatrical release poster
E.M. Forster David Lean
Judy Davis Victor Banerjee Alec Guinness Peggy Ashcroft
cinematography = Ernest Day
Home Box Office (HBO)
released = December 14, 1984 (
January 25, 1985
runtime = 163 min.
country = United Kingdom
language = English
budget = $8 million
gross = $27,187,653
imdb_id = 0087892
The film is set during the period of growing influence of the
Indian independence movementin the British Raj. It begins with the arrival in India of a British woman, Miss Adela Quested ( Judy Davis), who is joining her fiancé, a city magistratenamed Ronny Heaslop ( Nigel Havers). She and Ronny's mother, Mrs. Moore ( Peggy Ashcroft), befriend an Indian doctor, Aziz H. Ahmed ( Victor Banerjee). Dr. Aziz meets Mrs. Moore for the first time in the moonlight at an abandoned mosqueon the river Ganges, and he soon finds that Mrs. Moore possesses a sensitivity and unprejudiced attitude to native Indians which endears her to him. When Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested profess an interest in seeing "the real India" (as opposed to the Anglicised environment Ronnie and his friends have constructed for themselves), Aziz offers to host an excursion to the Marabar Caves, a local geological feature (to avoid asking them to his shabby bungalow).
Adela and Mrs. Moore agree readily, and the outing goes reasonably well until the two women begin exploring the caves. Mrs. Moore experiences an overwhelming sense of horror which completely quenches her good humor; worse, Miss Quested forms the delusion that Aziz is making sexual advances toward her. She flees the cave in a panic and is discovered running headlong down the hill, bloody and disheveled. Aziz is immediately jailed to await trial for attempted rape, and an uproar ensues between the Indians and the Colonials.
Adela is not a vindictive or even an unusually neurotic person; rather, she is suffering from an abnormal mental state brought about by various factors: the remorseless heat, the strangeness of her surroundings, her growing dismay over her future husband's small, mean character, and (perhaps) her feelings of attraction, fraught with shame, for Dr. Aziz. Even as her case becomes a
cause celebreamong the British, her mind gradually clears and she realizes she has made a mistake. There is also a subtext present in the film concerning Mrs. Moore's feelings concerning old age and her impending mortality. Though she waits bed-side with Miss Quested in support, she makes clear to Ronny that she firmly believes in Aziz's innocence. Because of her refusal to testify, and the fear by the Anglo-Indians that she would bolster the case of the defense Mrs. Moore leaves for England. She subsequently suffers a heart attack on the voyage and dies.
To the consternation of her friends, Miss Quested clears Dr. Aziz in open court. The Colonials are forced to make an ignominious retreat while the Indians carry Dr. Aziz out of the courtroom on their shoulders, cheering wildly. In the aftermath, Miss Quested breaks off her engagement and leaves India, while Dr. Aziz abandons his Western attire, dons traditional dress and withdraws completely from Anglo-Indian society, opening a clinic in Northern India at the
Himalayas. Although he remains angry and bitter for years, the final scene shows Miss Quested at home in England, reading a letter from Dr. Aziz conveying his thanks and forgiveness.
Judy Davisas Adela Quested
Alec Guinnessas Prof. Goodbole
Peggy Ashcroftas Mrs. Moore
James Foxas Richard Fielding
Victor Banerjeeas Dr. Aziz H. Ahmed
Nigel Haversas Ronny Heaslop
Michael Culveras Maj. McBryde
While the film is relatively faithful to the novel, the ending is changed. The book ends with a bitter Aziz talking about how the British must be driven out and telling his British friend that because of their nationalities they can no longer be friends; while it is implied that someday British and Indians might be friends, the book concludes that it could not happen in the present. Despite scenes invoking Aziz's anger at the injustices foisted upon him and all native Indians, and his resolution to quit British India, the film concludes with a later scene of Aziz forgiving Miss Quested. It may be argued that this waters down Forster's original act about racial tensions and Indian independence.
Alec Guinnessagreed to the role as Godbole despite having quarrelled with David Lean in the early 1960s. Lean had wanted him to play the title role in a proposed film about Gandhi(a project ultimately scrapped). According to Guinness's biography, Lean wanted him to play Gandhi because he felt "Hindus couldn't act". Guinness and Lean quarreled again on "Passage to India", as they had on most of their other collaborations, and most of Guinness's scenes were cut for timing reasons. Guinness called it the worst role he ever did, and Lean agreed, remarking that "we paid for that casting". ( Piers Paul Read, "Alec Guinness: The Authorized Biography".)
John Brabourne Victor Banerjeewas suggested by Satyajit Rayfor the role of Dr. Aziz
E.M. Forstermet Peggy Ashcroftin London in the 1960s, during the run of Santha Rama Rau's stage adaptation of "Passage to India", he told her that he hoped she would one day play Mrs. Moore. Her eventual casting in the film was largely due to lobbying by Alec Guinness. Celia Johnsonhad also been considered for the part. ( Kevin Brownlow, "David Lean: A Biography", p. 650) Saeed Jaffreyhad actually played Hamidullah in Rau's play of "India" and the BBC television version with Zia Mohyeddinas Aziz, and was asked by Lean to reprise his role. Peter O'Toolewas Lean's first choice for the part of Fielding but the role eventually went to James Fox. (Brownlow, 672-3) Nigel Hawthornewas cast as Turton but became ill and was replaced by Richard Wilson.
The "Marabar Caves" in the film and novel were based on the
Barabar Caves, some 35km north of Gaya. Lean visited the caves during pre-production but found them unphotogenic; concerns about bandits were also prevalent. Instead he used two separate hills a few miles from Bangalore, where much of the principal filming occurred, and the caves themselves were created by the production company. [http://www.mapability.com/travel/p2i/marabar.html]
"A Passage to India" did moderately well at the box office, taking in some $26 million in the US, but was not a blockbuster hit. However, the film was a critical success and revived Lean's reputation as a film maker.
*Best Actress in a Leading Role (
*Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (
John Box, Hugh Scaife)
*Best Cinematography (Ernest Day)
*Best Costume Design (Judy Moorcroft)
*Best Director (
*Best Film Editing (
*Best Picture (
John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin)
*Best Sound (Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier, Michael A. Carter, John W. Mitchell)
*Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (
The film won the
Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.
Connections with other films
According to Peter McLuskie of the
Museum of Broadcast Communications, "Passage of India" can be linked to "a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain's growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history" [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/J/htmlJ/jewelinthe/jewelinthe.htm] . McLuskie suggests that other films in this cycle include "Gandhi" (1982), " Heat and Dust" (1983), " The Far Pavilions" (1983), "The Jewel in the Crown" (1984) and "" (1985). This preoccupation extended to "escapist" fare like the James Bondadventure " Octopussy" (1983), and even the Hollywood film " Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984), which were also primarily set in India.
title=Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film
Fanny and Alexander"
The Official Story"
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