“Star Trek”: Season 2, Episode 17 (“A Piece of the Action”)

The Enterprise visits a planet that had previously been visited by the U.S.S. Horizon 100 years earlier, before the issuance of the Prime Directive. The Enterprise received an old radio-style message before that starship was lost, which reported an intelligent, developing alien species prone to imitation. The Horizon left behind a book about gangs of 1920s Chicago which became the Iotians’ bible. They are divided into a series of criminal gangs, two of which are headed by Bela Oxmyx (Anthony Caruso) and Jojo Kracko (Vic Tayback). After beaming down, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find themselves in the middle of a turf battle. Both sides take turns holding our heroes hostage and demanding “heaters” (guns) from the Federation in order to take control of the planet. Kirk must do his best to fix the wrongs of the Horizon w/o interfering too much with the development of the planet’s evolution.

This ep has one of several “parallel Earth” plots in TOS, contrived in part to save money, by avoiding “alien” sets, costumes, and makeup. Kirk and Spock get to wear flashy pin-stripe suits, hats, carry machine guns, and speak in gangster accents. Even the women wear guns on their garters (which you probably wouldn’t see in reality)! It’s esp. funny to see Spock try to fit the situation. Kirk makes up the rules of the card game “fizz bin” as he goes along. Shatner ad libbed the rules, so his pauses to think and the other actors’ confusion are genuine. The scene when Kirk puts his feet up on Krako’s table and declares that now the Federation is “taking over the whole ball of wax” is reminiscent of a scene in the gangster film Little Caesar (1931).

After filming wrapped, the studio received a letter from Caruso. “Oxmyx” thanked the crew of the Enterprise for creating the “syndicate” and noting that things were proceeding nicely on Sigma Iotia II. As he goes on in the letter, it is now the 1950s and he is sporting a crew-cut. He also mentioned wanting to visit Las Vegas which “seems like my kind of town.” LOL- what a creative guy!

[1] If you’re a fan of “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” then you’ll love this amusing episode… which plays like an eerily prescient parody of the original “Godfather.”

[2] There are great scenes as Kirk, and even more ridiculously, Spock try to mimic the dialect and nomenclature of the time. There is the priceless scene the two attempting to drive. Kirk jerks along, not quite getting the hang of the clutch, and Spock tells him he is a great captain, but a horrible, dangerous driver.

[3] I couldn’t stop laughing every time poor Scotty tries to decipher the gangster speak, with Kirk having to go from the mob language to Federation speech across the communicator to help him out.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Selected Episodes (Season 1)

Episode 2: The Man Trap

This was the first episode of the original Star Trek to air on TV. We get to see the developing chemistry between the main crew members, an alien creature, and interesting planetary scenery. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a young redshirt (Michael Zaslow, who later became a soap opera star) beam down to a planet to provide medical supplies to Dr. Crater and his wife, Nancy, a former girlfriend of McCoy’s. Oddly, each man sees Nancy as a different woman from his past. Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms and/or characters who are expendable, and often killed.

The joking banter between Kirk and McCoy shows that the captain is not just an authority figure, and the doctor has a lot of charm. We learn re: Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and his logical Vulcan personality. There is a flirty early scene between him and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); this (no doubt) inspired the romance between the characters in J.J. Abrams recent reboot movies. Uhura tried and succeeded in making Spock hot under the collar (notice the little move Nimoy does at end of the clip).

Episode 4: Where No Man Has Gone Before

The episode title was the closing phrase of the opening credits (voiced by Shatner) and has gone on to shape sci-fi and pop culture! After investigating what happened to the Valiant, the Enterprise encounters a magnetic space storm that gives Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) dangerous/godlike powers and ESP. When Mitchell, a friend of Kirk’s from Starfleet Academy, unleashes his powers on the crew, Spock suggests that he should be killed. Kirk disagrees and takes him to a remote planet, but there is more to the story.

There is action and fine acting by Lockwood and Sally Kellerman (psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner). Lockwood (a former football player and stuntman) was the star of Roddenberry’s first TV show- The Lieutenant (1963). In 1968, he was cast as the co-lead in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic sci-fi film- 2001: A Space Odyssey. You get a glimpse into humanity’s struggle for power and the corruption it breeds. Kirk knows that Mitchell didn’t ask for what happened to him; thus begins a tradition of complicated/sympathetic villains in the world of Star Trek.

Episode 5: The Naked Time

Spock and a redshirt- Tormolen- beam down to a planet (wearing funky/orange environmental suits) to investigate. They discover a frozen lab w/ 6 dead scientists. They also get exposed to a substance that strips people of their inhibitions. After beaming back aboard, Tormolen ends up killing himself (riddled w/ self-doubt). You get to see the chemistry between Bones (Kirk’s nickname for McCoy) and the captain; they’ve known each other a long time.

Riley, another young crewman, begins acting goofy (going on about being Irish and singing songs). Most famously, Sulu (George Takei), begins to parade around w/ a sword (like a musketeer). Riley ends up taking over the engineering room, and basically, the ship becomes chaos! Spock stops Sulu by applying the Vulcan nerve pinch (which Nimoy came up w/ himself, as an alternative to a violent strike). As you see in S1 E6, it was Shatner’s over the top reaction that sold this move to producers. Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) and Spock have a nice scene, and he gets infected (after she holds his hand). There is a lot of comedy, but fans also love it for Nimoy’s terrific performance. Capt. Kirk is even infected, so we hear his regret at not having a personal life.

Episode 6: The Enemy Within

Star Trek takes on Jekyll and Hyde w/ an ep focused on Kirk (and Shatner’s unique style of acting). During a survey of a new planet, a technician is exposed to a substance that alters the Enterprise’s transporter. When Kirk beams aboard the ship, he is split into two: one good, one evil. After the lustful/violent Kirk attempts to assault Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney), Spock deduces that there is an imposter aboard. The good Kirk is lacking confidence and indecisive (looking to Spock for his trusted guidance). The episode looks into the duality of human nature; the two halves need to coexist together inside one body. There is also an alien animal which is (obviously) a small dog in a furry costume w/ a horn on its head- LOL! This ep was directed by Leo Penn (father of actor Sean Penn); he went over-schedule, so was sadly not asked back to work.

Episode 11: The Corbomite Maneuver

While developing star maps of a distant region of space, the Enterprise is confronted by a box-shaped alien ship commanded by a powerful being- Balok. When he threatens to destroy the ship, Kirk comes up with a cunning bluff to convince the alien that the Enterprise is carrying a deadly substance (corbomite) which could destroying both ships. This is the first ep to show Kirk’s daring in a face-off w/ another ship in space. Kirk bends the rules for the greater good and turns a potentially fatal situation into a victory. By using his imagination instead of violence, a better outcome is achieved.

Episodes 12 &13: The Menagerie (Parts I & II)

The only 2-part episode of ST: TOS which calls back to former star dates when the Enterprise was comprised of a different crew (aside from Spock). Before Shatner was cast as Kirk, Star Trek shot a pilot (The Cage) starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike and Number One (Majel Barrett)- his female first officer. The network rejected that pilot, considering it too cerebral and thinking it too unrealistic to have a woman as senior officer. Barrett would play Nurse Chapel on the show (w/ a blonde wig) and the voice of the computer system. She married the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, in 1969.

This is a clip-show w/ Starfleet’s version of a courtroom drama. Spock abducts his former commander, the recently disabled Capt. Pike, and heads for Talos IV, where The Cage took place. The punishment for traveling to this planet is death, according to Starfleet. Spock turns himself in and presents an elaborate story in defense of his actions. We meet a beautiful/mysterious human woman (played by Susan Oliver) and the Talosians (a large-headed alien race who communicate w/ their thoughts and have the power to create illusions which look like reality).

Episode 15: Balance of Terror

At the 50th anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in August 2016, fans voted this the 8th best episode of the entire franchise! The Enterprise battles a Romulan ship suspected of destroying outposts in the Neutral Zone in this tense, intelligent, and though-provoking ep. The Romulan Bird-of-Prey has a cloaking device. Since two-way visual communications didn’t exist during the Earth-Romulan War about a 100 yrs ago, Romulans and humans have never seen one another. The Enterprise has to confront a brilliant enemy leader and also its own bigotry, as the unnamed Romulan commander (Marc Lenard, who later played Spock’s father- Sarek) resembles a Vulcan! Budget and time constraints prevented the make-up and costuming departments from dressing up each of the Romulans in Vulcan ears. They decided to give the lesser Romulans helmets, which were redressed Roman helmets from the studio’s Biblical epics of the ’50s.

Network restrictions at the time forbade the tackling of any controversial subjects (EX: Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the rise of feminism). ST: TOS, under the form of sci-fi, boldly flouted these rules! This story openly deals with the subject of racism, as reflected through Lt. Stiles’ (Paul Comi) opposition to Spock. Lenard (who worked mainly in theater until his early 40s) said: “The Romulan Commander was one of the best roles I ever had on TV. In many ways, I did enjoy that role [Sarek], but I think the more demanding role and the better acting role was the Romulan Commander.” When Nimoy held out for a better contract (after the first season), Lenard was one of the leading candidates to replace him as Spock. Nimoy (who received more fan mail than Shatner and an Emmy nom) eventually got a raise from $1,250 to $2,500 per episode.

Episode 17: The Galileo Seven

This ep features a shuttlecraft (for the first time). Spock leads a research team aboard the Galileo on a mission that begins as an investigation of a mysterious quasar-like formation. Forced to make an emergency landing on Taurus II, a fog-shrouded planet, Spock and crew face off w/ large/ape-like creatures armed w/ huge spears. These creatures pose immediate threats to the crew, but Spock also goes up against his greatest enemy– his own logic- when faced w/ decisions of command. Nimoy comes center stage (for the first time and proves that Spock can serve as the driving force of an ep). Spock’s logic is thwarted by several events. In a desperate attempt to escape the planet, Spock makes an illogical gamble!

Episode 23: Space Seed

This very famous ep introduced Star Trek‘s most popular villain: the genetically enhanced superman from the 20th century, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán). Following positive feedback from producers and the network, this was the first episode to feature a prominent role for Scotty (James Doohan). The Enterprise comes across a long-lost Earth vessel, the Botany Bay, containing a cryogenically frozen Khan and his crew. After manipulating historian Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) w/ his strong will/magnetism, Khan and his superhuman soldiers take command of the Enterprise. Carey Wilber (the scriptwriter) used the 18th c. British custom of shipping out the undesirables as a parallel for his concept of “seed ships,” used to take unwanted criminals out to space from the overpopulated Earth.

Khan is the perfect villain for Kirk to take on, as he is a mentally/physically superior being who threatens his command and crew. Montalban was always the first choice for Khan; he had been suggested by casting director Joseph D’Agosta, who was not looking to cast an actor of a particular ethnic background due to Roddenberry’s vision (of race neutrality) for the series. Montalban (born in Mexico to Spanish parents) came up in the theater, like several actors in the Star Trek franchise, and does a terrific job. The actor thought his role was “wonderful,” saying “it was well-written, it had an interesting concept and I was delighted it was offered to me.” This episode inspired two films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), in which Montalban once again played the role, and Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) w/ Benedict Cumberbatch.

Episode 25: This Side of Paradise

Was humanity meant to live in an Eden? This memorable ep explores that question when the Enterprise investigates a colony destroyed by deadly ray beams on a planet. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and some redshirts beam down to the planet’s surface to discover that Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton) and his colonists are still alive and in perfect health, enjoying a pastoral existence off the grid. The colony’s botanist, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) knew Spock 6 yrs ago and has deep feelings for him still. She leads him a flowering plant whose spores cause euphoria and loss of inhibitions. Spock declares that he loves Leila and agrees to live in the commune! As you will see in the clip below, Nimoy plays this scene totally straight (revealing that he does love Leila, but was unable to express it before).

This ep has mutiny, temptation, and comedy. Kirk struggles to maintain control over the crew members who have been exposed to the spores. McCoy starts talking more Southern (w/ a slow drawl) and looking for ingredients of a mint julep- LOL! Writer D.C. Fontana (who started as a script editor) thwarts audience expectations by putting Kirk in the intellectual lead, while Spock’s half-human side is further developed. Nimoy was initially taken aback when he was told that they were working on a love story for Spock, but said it turned out “very lovely.” Here is a (funny) clip; we also get to see Nimoy’s smile.

Episode 26: The Devil in the Dark

The Enterprise travels to the planet Janus 6 to assist a mining colony. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to the planet where Chief Engineer Vanderberg tells of a creature loose in the mine tunnels killing his men. It seems to appear out nowhere, then disappears just as quickly. Finding that the creature, a Horta, lives in a newly-opened part of the underground mining complex, Spock uses the Vulcan mind meld to determine why it is killing the miners. Nimoy said the closing banter between Spock and Kirk was one of his faves, as “it was a wonderful moment which defined the relationship and defined the whole Spock character’s existence and his attitude about himself.”

Roddenberry considered this one of the best eps, saying: “The Horta suddenly became understandable… It wasn’t just a monster- it was someone. And the audience could put themselves in the place of the Horta… identify… feel! That’s what drama is all about. And that’s it’s importance, too… if you can learn to feel for a Horta, you may also be learning to understand and feel for other humans of different colors, ways, and beliefs.” Shatner identified this as his fave ep, b/c his father died during filming and Nimoy’s delivery of the mind meld lines made him laugh. He thought it was “exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks.”

Episode 29: The City on the Edge of Forever

This ep (loved by TV critics and fans) by Harlan Ellison shows us a sympathetic tale mixed w/ elements from the best of sci-fi. This was the most expensive episode produced during the first season, and also the most expensive episode of the entire series, except the two pilots. The average cost of each S1 ep was around $190,000. Production went over schedule, resulting in 8 shooting days (not 6, as usual). Ellison won a Hugo Award and a Writer’s Guild award for best teleplay. Joseph Pevney was chosen to direct on this episode because of his experience in directing 20+ films.

After an accidental overdose which makes him temporarily insane, McCoy beams down to an alien planet. A gateway, The Guardian of Forever, sends him back to Earth during the Great Depression. He somehow alters the course of time, erasing the Federation from history! Trapped in the limbo, Kirk and Spock travel back in time to 1930 (a week before McCoy) in an attempt to correct the course of history. They meet Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), a social worker who runs a mission and has dedicated her life to the needy. Spock works on building a computer to access material on his tricorder. Kirk and Edith have a romance; there is great chemistry between Shatner and Collins. The shocking truth is revealed- in order to fix the time alteration, Edith must die! When asked whether this ep was consciously commenting on the anti-Vietnam War movement, associate producer Robert H. Justman answered (in 1992), “Of course we did.”

Ellison’s original story outline and first draft script featured a crewman named Beckwith (not McCoy), who was dealing drugs. Beckwith murdered a fellow crewman, LeBeque, who was on the verge of turning him in, escaped to the planet the ship was orbiting, and went through time and changed history. The Enterprise was gone, and a savage pirate ship was in its place, full of renegade humans. Kirk and Spock follow Beckwith through the time portal to 1930 in NYC. Kirk still falls in love w/ the young social worker. Finally, w/ the help of a disabled WWI vet- Trooper (who dies in the action)- Kirk and Spock find Beckwith. In the end, Kirk does not stop him saving Edith, but freezes and Spock prevents her rescue. In the epilogue, Spock tries to console Kirk by saying: “No other woman was offered the universe for love.” This script was unusable for different reasons, so was rewritten several times. Roddenberry objected to the idea that drugs would still be a problem in the 23rd century, and even present among starship crews. Also, the production staff was strongly against Kirk’s final inactivity. It seemed that being unable to decide and act, viewers could never be able to accept him as the strong leader in later eps. Some elements were simply impossible to create on the series’ (low) budget.

Film Noir re: Pandemics: "Panic in the Streets" & "The Killer Who Stalked New York"

Panic in the Streets (1950) starring Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance & Zero Mostel

This is a lesser-known movie from director Elia Kazan; it was made before his masterpieces: A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden. In New Orleans, an illegal immigrant feels sick and leaves a poker game while defeating the small time criminal Blackie (a young Jack Palance). He is chased by Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel- best known for Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway) and Poldi (Guy Thomajan), then shot by Blackie. His body is dumped in the sea and recovered the next morning by some beat cops.

A police surgeon notices something unusual when he cuts into the body. Lt. Cmdr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark), a family man and doctor w/ the U.S. Public Health Service, is called in to examine the body. He diagnoses a highly contagious disease- pneumonic plague- and declares that everyone who may have had contact w/ the dead man be found ASAP. The mayor supports his efforts, though some other civic leaders are doubtful. Reed estimates there are 48 hours before the disease begins to spread. He joins a gruff policeman- Capt. Tom Warren (Paul Douglas)- to find the killers.

In the scene where Palance hits Widmark on the head w/ a gun, the actors rehearsed it with a rubber gun, but when the cameras rolled, Palance substituted a real gun. Widmark, who wasn’t expecting it, was out for 20 mins! Widmark commeted: “Why did he switch? Who knows?” In an interview, Widmark recalled how Palance got into the mood of his character by beating on Zero Mostel (off-screen). Mostel had to go to the hospital after his first week on the movie!

…a simple story, but it is still effective and with a great villain. The engaging plot has not become dated… Jack Palance performs a despicable scum in his debut, and the camera work while he tries to escape with Zero Mostel is still very impressive.

You can feel, see and smell the New Orleans of 1950, thanks to Kazan, his cast and script.

The great thing about this movie is the Oscar winning script. The dialog in this movie is also absolutely magnificent and gives the movie a feel of reality and credibility.

Kazan’s work offers a contrast between the confusion, sickness and immorality of the streets with the modest, calm home life of the Reeds. Despite all the danger, ultimately he returns back to the bosom of his family justified and satisfied. The implication being that social balance has been restored, at least for the moment by his professionalism and curative skills.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

The Killer Who Stalked New York (1950) starring Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, William Bishop, & Dorothy Malone

Columbia Pictures paid director/producer Allen H. Miner $40,000 for the rights to this story (based on a smallpox outbreak in NYC in 1947). Millions of New Yorkers were vaccinated against the disease. Robert Osborne (TCM) said that Columbia had to sit on the movie for about 6 months in order to let the similarly-plotted Panic in the Streets to leave the theaters. Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) returns to NYC from Cuba carrying $40,000 worth of smuggled diamonds – and smallpox, which could start a devastating epidemic. A treasury agent loses her, but keeps on the trail, while Public Health doctor Dr. Ben Wood searches for the unknown person spreading the deadly disease. Sheila is concerned only with her husband Matt, who plans to run off w/ the diamonds… and maybe also Shelia’s younger sister!

Keyes (a prolific actress best known as Scarlett’s younger sister- Suellen- in Gone with the Wind) thought that studio head (Harry Cohn) cast her in this (un-glamorous) role as payback for rejecting his advances. She sued Cohn and the studio, settled out of court, and was released from her contract. Keyes’ hair was bleached blond and she had on unflattering makeup (making her look older than her 34 yrs.)

With the country presently in the mist of a viral outbreak that has the entire state under quarantine and the country on full alert, The Killer that Stalked New York is as pertinent today as it was when it was released in 1950.

What we have then is a gritty, somewhat newsreel sounding (and looking) film whose narrator walks us through all the ironies of modern urban epidemiology.

The anthrax attacks of 2001, the fears of weaponized smallpox being used by terrorists, the concerns about vaccinations and the amount and safety of vaccines, the inability of governmental agencies to work together and share information effectively all come to mind when one watches this film.

The biggest problem is the direction, which is also all over the place. With a story like this you’d expect some sort of tension or suspense but none never happens. Keyes is pretty good in her role but the screenplay really doesn’t do her any justice as our feelings for her character are never really made clear.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Mangal Pandey: The Rising” (2005) starring Aamir Khan, Toby Stephens, Rani Mukherji, & Ameesha Patel

Aamir Khan plays Mangal Pandey passionately with a complete conviction. All the scenes between Aamir and Toby are a delight to watch. Toby doesn’t fail to impress with his acting or his Hindi-speaking lines.

Stephens’ brief speeches about the ruthlessness of a private corporation pillaging a country seem all too relevant to our own time… The film is wildly entertaining, filled with the color and beauty of Bollywood- superb cinematography, epic sets and crowd scenes, music-and-dance numbers that pop out of nowhere, and a love story…

-Excerpts from reviews on Amazon.com

This is an epic set against the backdrop of what the British called the Sepoy Mutiny; for the Indians, it was the First War of Independence. It took two years to complete this film b/c of the research that went into its production. “Company Raj” (the British East India Company) had been plundering the country, treating the locals unjustly, and causing widespread resentment. During battle in one of the Afghan wars in the mid-1800s, Mangal Pandey (Aamir Khan), an Indian sepoy, saves the life of his commanding officer, Capt. William Gordon (Toby Stephens- son of Dame Maggie Smith). He is indebted, even giving Mangal his pistol. The first act is focused on the friendship; historians have pointed out that this was unlikely. A few years later, the Company introduces the Enfield rifle, which comes w/ a new cartridge rumored to be coated w/ grease from cow and pig fat. This cartridge has to be bitten before it is loaded, which ignites resentment and anger among the sepoys; the cow is sacred to Hindus and the pig is forbidden for Muslims.

The film was offered to Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan, but he declined (thank goodness). Director Ketan Mehta first thought of making this film in 1988 w/ Amitabh Bachchan. Hugh Jackman turned down the role of Gordon; this required Stephens to speak w/ a Scottish accent and also in Hindi. A very young Kiera Knightley was considered for the role of Emily Kent, who is new to India and develops a crush on Gordon. After Aishwarya Rai turned down the part of Jwala (due to contract issues), Rani Mukerji was given the script to consider taking the part. Mukherji, however, liked the character of Heera and asked if she could play her instead. Khan requested to cast Ameesha Patel as the young widow, Jwala, after he saw her on a BBC game show. Patel wears no make-up; this was Khan’s suggestion.

We only sell our bodies; you sell your souls. -Heera explains to Mangal re: the difference between her girls and the sepoys

The BJP wanted to ban the film, as it showed Pandey visiting a prostitute (though their scenes are platonic in the movie). As Lol Bibi (veteran actress Kiron Kher) points out, her house is only for white men (mainly the British officers). Though this is not a “typical” Bollywood film, it contains songs and dances. One number by Heera and other nautch (dancing) girls, Main Vari Vari, created controversy due to Mukherji’s outfit (where her cleavage was covered by transparent fabric). This song serves a dual purposes- to entice the British officers and to show how conflicted Mangal feels re: trusting Gordon (and biting the new bullet). A.R. Rahman was the music director on this movie; the music flows w/ the story. My favorite song is below- Rasiya.

In your Ramayana there was one villain “Ravana” who had ten heads, company has a hundred heads and they’re all joined by the glue of greed. -Gordon replies when Mangal asks re: the Company

I think this movie is a must-see, though it is uneven (particularly when it comes to editing). The narration (in Hindi) done by veteran actor Om Puri is repetitive; I think it was used to appeal to Hindi speakers who may not be fluent in English. There is a mix of English and Hindi spoken in this film, which I’m sure was accurate for the period. The bromance is much more stronger than both the romances. The relationship between Mangal and Heera was underdeveloped, but I could see the chemistry between the actors. I liked the wrestling scene and hand-to-hand combat between Mangal and Gordon. The sepoys and villagers confronting the British one night w/ their torches stood out to me. However, the scene where Gordon stops the sati (bride burning) looks disorganized. Mangal Pandey: The Rising was shown at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The screenwriter is British of Parsi heritage- Farrukh Dandy- associated w/ black (as in minority in UK) and left-wing intellectuals and activists.

You have tasted a black man’s loyalty – now taste his fury! -Mangal declares to Gordon

On second viewing, I noticed how colonialism was compared to slavery (which we may associate w/ the American South and West Indies). Hewson beats a waiter and insults him w/ “kalla kutta” (“black dog”). One of the villagers near the cantonment, Kamla, works as a wet nurse for one of the British officer’s wives. When she gets home, there is no milk left for her baby. Perhaps the most direct correlation to slavery is made in the market scene; Emily is appalled to see an auction of men and women (incl. Heera). It turns out that the Company buys girls, too!

“Water” (2005) starring Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, & John Abraham

[1] The film is lovely in the way Satyajit Ray’s films are lovely and the best elements of Water involve the young girl and the experiences seen through her eyes. – Rogert Ebert (The Chicago Sun-Times)

[2] Not a dry eye in the house by the time the film ends! Unforgettable and grand in my view; a fabulous achievement for all involved!

[3] The beauty of this movie is the incredible acting. The performances are so touching and so eloquent that you are drawn into the story and the feelings of the women.

-Comments from viewers on Amazon

[1] Despite the bleak conditions portrayed in the movie, there are moments of wonder and comedy and great love. 

[2] The script articulates the tragedy and hypocrisy these women must bare, but it also illustrates the quiet revolution we must all experience in order to grow, in order to change. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Water (shot in both Hindi and English) was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 79th Annual Academy Awards. The Vancouver Film Critics Circle named Deepa Mehta (an immigrant from India) the Best Canadian Director of 2006. Many viewers have praised the look of the film. The natural beauty of the setting is captured by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, a Brit who won an Oscar for his work on Hell or High Water; he worked with w/ Mehta on her other trilogy films: Fire and Earth. The music (which adds to the story) was composed by A.R. Rahman; the lyrics were written by Sukhwinder Singh.

I would prefer to be known as a storyteller. I don’t set out to provoke reactions. I don’t even feel vindicated, but the irony does not escape me. It is like my father used to say: the two things you could never predict were the day of your death and the success of a movie. -Deepa Mehta (on Water‘s success)

Filming began on Water in 2000 with Akshay Kumar and two actresses who worked w/ Mehta before- Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das. This film was stalled due to protests in India; sets were vandalized (in organized attacks from Hindu nationalists) and Mehta’s life and those of the actors was threatened. Production was restarted in 2004 in Sri Lanka w/ model-turned-actor John Abraham (before he hit it big in Bollywood), Seema Biswas (an indie/theater actress), and Canadian actress Lisa Ray (who was in Bollywood/Hollywood– also directed by Mehta). Ray studied to improve her Hindi, as it is not her first language; her mother is Anglo-Canadian and her father is an Indian immigrant to Canada.

The unknown girl who plays Chuyia (Sarala Karlyawasam) didn’t speak Hindi; she is Sri Lankan and never acted before this film! She does a great job, as everything comes across as natural and believable. Chuyia (only 9 y.o.) is a catalyst for change and the viewer’s entry into this ashram of widows; she doesn’t know what to expect either. There is a hierarchy among the women who live humble lives of poverty. Chuyia finds a mother-figure in the spiritual Shakuntala (Biswas); she tries to help the child adjust to this bleak life. Chuyia forms a friendship w/ the beautiful young widow, Kalyani (Ray). By chance, Kalyani meets a handsome young man, Narayan (Abraham), who is another change-agent. Chuiyia upsets the order of things w/ her spirited personality; Narayan brings in revolutionary ideas from Gandhi (incl. that widows should be allowed to remarry).