'Heaven On Earth' about hundreds of migrant wives: Deepa Mehta


By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, March 26 (IANS) Deepa Mehta had a problem on her hands when a woman, on whose life her "Heaven on Earth" is partly based, demanded that she be given more prominence in the film's publicity. The filmmaker finally succeeded in telling her that it was not just her story, but that of hundreds of NRI wives.

Amandeep Kaur, a woman from Punjab who became a victim of spousal abuse after getting married to a man settled in Toronto, demanded that she get more visibility just months ahead of the movie's release.

Aghast at the turn of events, Mehta knocked off all mention of Amandeep from the film on domestic violence that has Preity Zinta in the lead role. But the two did succeed in making peace after a long chat.

"We decided to sit and talk about our problems. Matters have been sorted out with Amandeep. She's back being a proud part of our project. My problem with Amandeep's claim was that 'Heaven On Earth' is not only her story. It's also the story of another abused wife, Mona Gill," said Mehta.

"Amandeep refused to accept that 'Heaven On Earth' was any other woman's story. She claimed it's entirely her story. That was nonsense. How could she claim the entire plot to be hers when half the film is based on Girish Karnad's play 'Naag Mandala'? 'Heaven On Earth' is also the story of hundreds of migrant wives who step into marriages with NRIs without knowing what's in store," the filmmaker explained.

Mehta said she got quite a few emotional reactions from worried parents who saw her film.

"After a private screening in Kolkata, a father came up to me and said, 'How can we be sure that when our daughter marries and goes to another home in the same town she won't be treated the same way that Preity Zinta is in your film?'," she said.

"While the plight of women in my 'Water' was seen as being too distant from contemporary lifestyles, 'Heaven On Earth' is ghar ghar ki kahani (the story of every house). Domestic violence is not peculiar to any era or culture," Mehta added.

" 'Heaven On Earth' is also about the importance of mythology to our culture. I didn't want it to be another film about domestic violence. You know the 'Don't hit me, don't hit me' and then, 'I'll hit you back' kind of 'liberating' experience," Mehta quipped.