Scripted from her own novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust intercuts the stories of two women and of India past and present. The device is sometimes irritating in its jumps but ultimately successful in conveying the essential immutability of India’s mystic character and ambivalent appeal.
Julie Christie, as a distinctly modern Englishwoman researching and to some extent reliving the Indian past of a late great aunt, is the top name in a fine and well-matched Anglo-Indian cast. But the principal impact, partly by virtue of role, is supplied by British newcomer Greta Scacchi. Portraying the great aunt as a young bride of scandalous behavior in colonial India, she creates an impressive study of classic underplayed well-bred English turmoil as her affections oscillate between loyal husband and an Indian potentate.