Set in colonial India against Gandhi's rise to power, it's the story of 8-year-old Chuyia, who is widowed and sent to a home to live in penitence; once there, Chuyia's feisty presence deeply affects the lives of the other residents.
It's 1947 and the borderlines between India and Pakistan are being drawn. A young girl witnesses tragedy as her ayah (nanny) is caught between the love of two men and the rising tide of political and religious violence.
Ludiana-based Chand gets married to Brampton-based Rocky Singh Dhillon and re-locates to Canada, to live with him and his extended family, consisting of his mom and dad; brother Baldev and his wife, Aman, and two children, Kabir and Loveleen. From the honeymoon stage itself, Chand gets physically abused by Rocky, and despite of bringing in $20K in dowry, she is immediately hired as a laborer even though she is a graduate and her wages are paid to her husband, and is not even permitted to call back home. Tenants occupy the house during the daytime, and the entire Dhillon family usually stay put in a shopping mall. Things only get worse after Rocky brutally assaults her in everyone's presence after she gets into a physical altercation with her mother-in-law. She manages to call back home wanting to return back, only to face discouragement, as her family want Rocky to sponsor her brother, Gurpreet. Things change dramatically after she claims she spotted Sheshnaag in the backyard, while ...Written by
The main complaint about 'Heaven on Earth' seems to be in regard with its slow pace. I was quite engaged by the film and the pacing did not bother me at all. It only made it better that Mehta took her time to unfold Chand's character more. Many have stated that Chand lacked development and this I disagree with. The film centers around Chand's struggle with her new life and her character is excellently written. The mother-in-law was portrayed as one-dimensional.
Speaking of writing, I think Mehta did a very good job with the story and I loved the Chand's beautiful monologues. Her use of symbolism and mythology is effective. The film is delicately shot mostly with hand-held camera. I like how Mehta distinguishes the private moments of the characters with black and white. The washed out colours only stress on the tense atmosphere. In terms of execution, 'Heaven on Earth' is on par with 'Water' (which was also stunningly filmed) but I think the former ranks as her best.
Preity Zinta delivers one of the finest performances of her career. She is like one has never seen before. Her portrayal of Chand is subtle, nuanced, heartbreaking and strong. I used to admire Zinta a lot during her pre-'Kal Ho Na Ho' days and saw a very promising actress in her. However, I almost gave up on her when she limited herself on doing movies with the Khans and Yashraj. Now I am glad to see her back on track and hope she keeps doing great work. In my humble opinion, Mehta's 'Heaven on Earth' is a winner and definitely miles better than the not-even-good-enough-for-TV types like 'Provoked'.
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