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Before the Rains

(2008) ** Pg-13
98 min. Roadside Attractions, Merchant/Ivory Productions. Director: Santosh Sivan. Cast: Linus Roache, Nandita Das, Rahul Bose, Jennifer Ehle, John Standing.

/content/films/3071/1.jpgThe colorful and picturesque Before the Rains is presented by Merchant Ivory Films, but it's the work of director Santosh Sivan (Mistress of Spices). In 1937 India, English spice trader Henry Moores (Linus Roache) proclaims, "Today, tea; tomorrow, cinnamon." Moore's backer constantly asks him if he's sure he can get the requisite jungle road built well enough and on time, each question an escalating indicator to the audience that the answer will be "no." Moores' indiscreet affair with his housemaid Sajani (Nandita Das) has serious consequences for all involved, including Moores' innocent guy Friday T.K. (Rahul Bose). While solidly stolid, it's all very familiar, a poor man's rehash of A Passage to India in its dramatization of the blithe wrong-headedness and misunderstandings of British colonialism in India. Also problematic is the film's shifting focus, resulting in an awkward lack of a consistent and relatable protagonist.

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