Deepa Mehta's 'Heaven on Earth' premieres at Toronto fest

Toronto, Sep 7 (IANS) Canada-based Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's "Heaven on Earth", her Punjabi production about domestic violence in the immigrant community here, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Mehta was in attendance with her whole cast, including Preity Zinta for the screening Saturday. Before the start of the film, she introduced the cast to the audience and also said that the theme was dear to her heart.

Mehta praised Preity for playing her role with aplomb.

Set in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, "Heaven in Earth" is the story of a Ludhiana girl Chand (Preity Zinta) who moves here after marrying Rocky Grewal (Vansh Bhardwaj) only to find herself locked in a loveless marriage, and a life of beatings and torture by her husband and in-laws.

Chand's journey into hell begins the moment the naïve girl lands in Canada (considered heaven in Punjab). The awkwardness of their relationship is captured brilliantly, with the newly married couple not knowing how to consummate their relationship.

Then they go on honeymoon only to be intruded upon by Rocky's mother and brother on their very first night.

Soon, Rocky's Punjabi male instinct to dominate overtakes, and he starts subjecting Chand to verbal abuse and beatings at the slightest pretext.

Like a typically overbearing Indian mother-in-law, Chand's mom-in-law too begins very demanding. The newly arrived Chand snaps one day when her mother-in-law holds up a chapatti to tell her how badly prepared it was.

When Chand floors her with a violent push, all hell breaks loose and she gets the beating of her life.

After this, she is subjected to beatings almost daily, suspected of infidelity and forced to go through 'agni pariksha' (test by fire) to prove her innocence.

And like most immigrant women, Chand is also sent to work in a factory. But she cannot collect her salary because it goes directly to her husband.

As her misery deepens, Chand calls her family in Ludhiana to plead with them to send her an air ticket so that she could escape. Which, of course, she does in the end by walking out on her husband.

In between, Mehta brilliantly brings out what most Punjabi families seeking 'phoren' (NRI) grooms for their daughters covet: sponsorship for them also to settle abroad.

Chand's parents too want Rocky to sponsor their son Gurpreet.

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