Deepa Mehta (born 1950 in Amritsar, India) is an Indian born Canadian film director and screenwriter, based in Toronto.
She graduated from the University of Delhi with a degree in philosophy before emigrating to Canada in 1973.
She embarked on her film career as a screenwriter for children's films. In 1991 she made her feature-film directorial debut with Sam & Me (starring Om Puri), a story of the relationship between a young Muslim boy and an elderly Jewish gentleman in the Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale. It won First Honorable Mention in the Camera d'Or category of the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. Mehta followed up with Camilla starring Bridget Fonda and Jessica Tandy in 1994.
She is best known for her elements trilogy, all of which were filmed in India. Fire (1996) was set in contemporary India. It was a controversial film due to its explorations of gender, marriage, and sexuality.
Earth (1998) (released in India as 1947: Earth) tells the story of the partition of India in 1947 from the vantage point of a young Parsi girl and is based on the novel Cracking India by author Bapsi Sidhwa.
The final film in the trilogy, Water (2005) was released in the fall of 2005. Bapsi Sidhwa has been asked to write a book based on Mehta's film script. It is set in the 1930s and focuses upon the lives of a group of widows.
Deepa Mehta is currently working on her next project, Kamagata Maru which stars Amitabh Bachchan and John Abraham. The movie is apparently based on the Komagata Maru incident that occurred in Canada.
I was first exposed to Mehta's work when my ex took me to see Fire at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA. I knew that the movie had inspired riots in Indiabecause of the lesbian themes in the movie. It was probably one of the most moving films I had ever seen up until that point. Earth was epic. Completely epic.
After having seen both of those films I anxiously awaited the release of Water, the third in Mehta's trilogy. For the longest time, I thought that I had just missed it somehow... That it was burried on some back shelf at my local video store. According to wikipedia:
Mehta originally intended to direct Water in February, 2000, with a different cast that included Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das and Akshay Kumar. The day before filming was due to begin, the crew was informed that there were complications with gaining location permits. The following day, they learned that 2,000 protesters had stormed the ghats, destroying the main film set, burning and throwing it into the Ganges in protest at the film's criticism of Hindu rites.
In an attempt at compromise, Mehta reluctantly made changes to her script, but to no avail; the Indian government was inclined toward supporting the protesters because the RSS, a strong political party across the country, was attempting to show publicly the strength it had over the local government, and used Mehta as an example.
Mehta eventually gave up on making the film in India and shot the film secretly with a different cast in Sri Lanka, under the title River Moon in 2003. The film was finally completed and debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2005.
Links on Mehta: