Earth (1998)




Director:  Deepa Metha. 

Starring:  Aamir Khan (Dil Navaz, the Ice Candy Man), Maia Sethna (Lenny Sethna), Nandita Das (Shanta, the Ayah), Kitu Gidwani (Bunty Sethna), Arif Zakaria (Rustom Sethna), Eric Peterson (Mr. Rogers, IG), Kulbhushan Kharbanda (Imam Din), Pavan Malhotra (Butcher), Sunil Mehra (Toto Ramji), Navtej Singh Johar (Sher Singh), Raghuvir Yadav (Hariya/Himmat Ali), Gulshan Grover (Mr. Singh), Rahul Khanna (Hassan, the Masseur), Babby Singh (Yousaf), Kabir Chowdhury (Cousin Adi).

love story set against religious violence following Indian independence in 1947


Spoiler Warning:  Below is a summary of the entire movie.

March 1947.  Lenny Sethna is just eight years old and living in Lahore, India.  She has her left leg in a leg brace and has a nanny, the servant Shanta.  Lenny has heard about the coming partition of India between Hindustan and Pakistan and is upset about what it might mean for her country.  She is a very mischievous girl and is worse when she gets together with her cousin Adi. 

At a dinner party at her house there are harsh words exchanged between two of the guests.  The British Mr. Rogers has to listen to the angry criticisms of the actions of the British over the coming independence from a Sikh man.  Mr. Rogers says that the religious division of India is imminent.  The two men nearly come to blows, but Lenny's mother and father intervene.

Shanta and Lenny sit in the park with Shanta's many male admirers.  One of her admirers is Dil Navaz who Lenny likes a great deal and who she calls the Ice Candy Man.  Another of Shanta's admirers is Lenny's physical therapist Hassan.  The talk in the park turns to discussions of the increasing religious divisions in the country.  Shanta is Hindu, Dil Navaz and Hassan are Muslim, and Lenny is Parsee. Shanta becomes upset and threatens to never come back to the park if the talk continues to be about religious politics. 

Dil Navaz spends time wooing Shanta.  They go bike riding and he teaches her how to fly a kite.  But Dil Navaz has stiff competition from Hassan.  Lenny watches as Shanta kisses Hassan.  But politics starts to intervene to make things much more difficult.  The Hindus in the neighborhood are starting to leave Lahore, which will become part of Pakistan.  Dil Navaz waits for the arrival of his sisters on a delayed train coming from Guardaspir.  When the train finally arrives, Dil Navaz sees that it is filled with the bloody dead bodies of all the passengers.  The suitor of Shanta becomes enraged at the sight and wants vengeance. 

In Lahore religious violence spreads.  There is trouble throughout the city.  Houses are burned and people are killed.  Instead of the local fire department trying to put out the flames, they spray gasoline on the houses that are already burning.  With Lenny, Shanta, Hassan and Dil Navaz watching from a roof top a man is grabbed and split apart by being tied between two police jeeps which then are driven in opposite directions.  Dil Navaz asks Shanta to marry him but she says no.  Lenny says that she will marry him. 

Back home in her bed Lenny has nightmares about the violence she saw.  Her mother comforts her.  Her father tells her mother that the family will have to be like the Swiss and be neutral between the fighting religions.  The next day it is Lenny's birthday, but everything is in such chaos that no one has remembered.  They have to hurry to throw together a party for her.  Lenny and her cousin meet a Muslim boy whose mother was brutally killed by Hindus.

Dil Navaz admits to his friends that he has lobbed grenades into the Hindu houses of people he has known all his life.  Shanta is very scared because she in Hindu.  The hatred of Dil Navaz is aggravated when he and Lenny both see Shanta and Lenny making love in a room.  Hassan tells Shanta that he wants to marry her and that he will become Hindu for her.  Shanta agrees to the marriage.  They plan to flee to Aimretsar and get married.  

One day the man Hariya and Lenny walk along the street and discover someone completely wrapped in material.  Hariya investigates and discovers that it is the dead body of Hassan.  Shanta, of course, is very upset and very scared when she learns of the death of Hassan.  She takes refuge in Lenny's house where she hides.  Muslims arrive to demand that all Hindus be turned over to them (to be killed undoubtedly).  Lenny's family and the servants try to lie to the Muslims so they will not kill any of the Hindus.  But Dil Navaz arrives and sweet talks Lenny into telling him where Shanta is.  Lenny tells him and Dil Navaz immediately tells his fellow Muslims.  Shanta is dragged out of the house and thrown into a cart and taken away.  Lenny is very upset that she revealed where Shanta was hiding.  

The now mature Lenny reflects on those days.  She says that 50 years have passed since she told Dil Navaz where Shanta was hiding.  She has heard different stories about people having seen Shanta in different places, but Lenny has not seen any trace of her in 50 years. 

Over one million people died in the religious violence in India and Pakistan.  Seven million Muslims and five million Sikhs and Hindus were uprooted and had to move. 


Good movie.  It is also a sad movie with innocents being killed on both sides of the divide between Hindus and Muslims.  Nandita Das was very beautiful as Shanta and Rahul Khanna very handsome as Hassan.  Maia Sethna as Lenny did a good job. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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