Review & Synopsis: Earth (1998). Analyzing the Character of Dil Nawaz

British left India in 1947. The dawn of August 14 saw the creation of a new nation, Pakistan, and the midnight of August 15 welcomed an independent nation, India. What follows these grand events is a sad tale of inhumanity, ingenuity and violence on the both sides of the border.

Review & Synopsis

Based on Bapsi Sidhwa‘s novel “Cracking India,” Earth explores the lives of the greater inhabitants of Lahore during and after the partition of 1947. Shown from the perspective of an 8 years old Parsi girl, it makes a contrasting analysis of lives before and after the partition.

Cover of Earth (1998)

Earth (1998)

Lenny Sethna or Lenny baby is a polio stricken 8 years old Parsi girl residing in the Lahore (In Pakistan) region of British India. Her everyday life revolves around her nanny Shanta, a Hindu woman, staffs of her house and the friends of Shanta; Dil Nawaz, Hassan and others. Her parents are well-known and respected in the society and they are known throughout the events for remaining neutral between the brawl of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

In span of few months, Britishers leave the unruly subcontinent to the  ill-prepared and zealous statesmen. The insurgence of equal share in running the nation by Hindus and Muslims creates a rift among the community, working class men and political parties. The removal of British insignia creates a communal tension between the Muslims and Hindus. As a result, the entire northwestern and eastern regions are demarcated from the modern day India, hence, giving birth to Pakistan. What follows is communal tension, bashful pride, malevolence, hatred and massacre.

Hassan is the protagonist, so are Shanta and Lenny baby, while Dil Nawaz is the antihero or primarily the antagonist of the story.

Dil Nawaz’s sisters migrating from the Gurdaspur region of India are massacred by the Sikhs. In fit of rage, Dil looses his temper and turns into a killer. A once charming, non-violent and reasonable man is now a bloodthirsty war-mongering brat, killing everyone who tend to differ. In fit of jealousy, he kills his own friend, Hassan, the Sikh members and assist in raping the love of his life, Shanta.

Lenny baby is still young to make anything of the events. Still naive in reasoning, she partakes in the defeat of Shanta, her nanny. The ripple effect of violence and ethnic cleansing manages to swipe entire regions near Pakistan and Indian border, hence, killing millions.

Deepa Mehta’s approach in adopting the story by Sidhwa is to take on the darker side of modern civilization. Though, based on a micro scale of interpreting lives of a small community of Lahore, the subject overwhelmingly grabs the toll of violent outtakes occurred during and after the partition.

Religion and demographic dominance of Muslims over Hindus and Sikhs in Lahore culminates into massacre of innocents. The inhabitants are forced to leave town and migrate to Hindu-majority state of India, and so do the Muslims from the neighboring India to Pakistan.

Once friends, the people turn against each other and kill for the sake of religion. What British left behind becomes the reason for war and autocracy.

It also sheds light on the fact that the ruination of greater India wasn’t because of British but the selfish reasons of fellow countrymen. The want for a separate nation and bureaucratic privileges created a reason for the breakage of greater India. The trickery of politicians and selfishness over patriotism/nationalism was the precursor of the partition. The takers took the power and fame while the poor and insignificant class of society suffered the major losses. The two nations turned foes.

Following the success of Fire (1996), Mehta gave a similar expression of unconventional take on the subject matters for films. Packed with some subtle performances and linear story-line, Earth is an example of greater film-making.

★★★★★/5

Analyzing the Character of Dil Nawaz

Dil Nawaz is an antihero. A once suave, reasonable and delectable man turned into a war-mongering citizen. Grown with an astute belief of non-violence, love, cooperation and joy, Nawaz shines as a messiah till the first half of the movie. He puts a smokey mascara, Soorma, and dons a Taqiyah.

Aamir Khan as Dil Nawaz

Aamir Khan as Dil Nawaz

He loves Shanta but Shanta loves his friend Hassan. He catches them making love. The added tragedy of the rape and brutal murder of his sisters arriving to Pakistan from India after the partition enrages his fury and drives him into madness. Out of jealousy and revenge, he avenges the death of his siblings by killing innocent people of other sects. He even kills his friend, Hassan, and assists in raping Shanta.

He’s quite a reasonable man. He brings smiles by quoting his romantic couplets and selling delicious ice-cream, however, the turn of the eventscreates a villain out of him.

The portrayal of Dil Nawaz by Aamir Khan (Actor) is immensely likable.  He can charm the audiences with his wit and also grow hatred in them with his volatile attitude. His prolonging silence, deafening stares, mute between the dialogues, innocent looking face, slightly hunched posture and grim and tenacious gesture gives life to the character of Dil Nawaz. His demeanor of betraying and relishing the violence adds a multifaceted and multidimensional qualities to his overalls.

All in all, Aamir shines in the entire movie.


Earth (1998)

Directed by Deepa Mehta, Written by Deepa Mehta and Bapsi Sidhwa, Produced by Anne Mason and Deepa Mehta, Starring: Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna, Maia Sethna and others

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