Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Om Puri, James Fox, Jimi Mistry, Aasif Mandvi, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ayesha Dharker
Director: Ismail Merchant
It’s 1954 in Trinidad and Ganesh Ransumair (Aasif Mandvi) is working as a school teacher in the capital city, Port of Spain. A frustrated writer, Ganesh the school master dreams of writing tomes which will one day weigh down shelves in every respectable library in the world. Following the death of his father Ganesh returns to his home village and with the support of neighbours, his beautiful, young wife (Ayesha Dharker) and interfering father-in-law (Om Puri) attempts to realise his dream. Hard up for cash, like most young writers starting out, Ganesh is encouraged to moonlight as a healer – a mystic masseur – like his father before him. And it is this skill that propels him to become one of the leading pundits on the island.
Based on Nobel Prize Winner V S Naipaul’s first novel of the same name (Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932) the film is an Ismail Merchant production and has much of the colour and cinemagraphic opulence we’ve come to associate with the director. Unfortunately it never quite comes together and comic cameo appearances by James Fox add to the rather jumbled plot and confusing narrative structure.