You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Heaven & Hell on Earth

Potently integrating a family saga with the tragic 2002 riots in Ahmedabad, India, Rahul Dholakia's searing "Heaven & Hell on Earth" dramatizes one family's quest for a missing son. Expatriate helmer Dholakia sustains a wide range of moods while eliciting one of the most textured perfs of Naseeruddin Shah's distinguished career.

With: Naseeruddin Shah, Corin Nemec, Sarika, Parzan Dastur, Pearl Barsiwalla, Sheeba Chadda, Raj Zutshi, Aasif Basra. (English, Hindi dialogue)

Potently integrating a family saga with the tragic 2002 riots in Ahmedabad, India, Rahul Dholakia’s searing “Heaven & Hell on Earth” dramatizes one family’s quest for a missing son. Expatriate helmer Dholakia (comedy “Kehtaa hai dil baar baar”) sustains a wide range of moods while eliciting one of the most textured perfs of Naseeruddin Shah’s distinguished career. Largely English-language, intimate epic is sure to spark heated debate in India (where release is still not set) as well as in the non-resident Indian community, and pic’s even-handed approach and emotional grip will draw strong fest and commercial interest.

As members of the small but well-tolerated Parsi community — whose roots are in ancient Persia — cinema projectionist Cyrus (Shah) and wife Shernaz (Sarika, returning to the screen after a 16-year absence) live happily in their humble Ahmedabad home with their two lively kids. Son Parzan (Parzan Dastur) is mad about cricket, and loves to escape to his imaginary world of candy and chocolate buildings he dubs “Parzania.” Younger sis Dilshad (Pearl Barsiwalla) completes a circle of genuine familial affection.

Alan (Corin Nemec), the American friend of a family acquaintance, arrives from Los Angeles to complete his graduate thesis on Mahatma Gandhi. Cyrus gets to know the foul-mouthed and scruffy Alan, whose family history of violence led him to drug addiction and an interest in Gandhi.

With Yank screenwriter David N. Donihue, Dholakia leisurely introduces these characters in pic’s first third, while somewhat intrusively cutting away to glimpses of Hindu and Muslim conflict on the city’s streets. Nevertheless, when TV reports reveal the torching of a train carrying hundreds of Hindu passengers, there’s little hint of the rage about to explode in Ahmedabad.

Dholakia and vet action director Sham Kaushal create a stunning 20-minute sequence of frenzied rioting, torching and mass destruction as a group of Hindu radicals goes on a bloodthirsty rampage that targets anyone who isn’t of their faith.

This includes Parsis such as the members of Cyrus’ family, who find themselves in the midst of the conflagration. Parzan gets separated from the others, and, as the ashes cool and the full measure of the human carnage is measured by the camera, Cyrus’ relentless search for Parzan begins to define pic as a fine humanist document.

Both Shah and Sarika have scenes that bring out their best acting instincts; Shah’s slow-burn characterization is mastery in action, and Sarika’s final plea before a human rights commission is a striking look at a mother’s pain. Nemec hams it up from time to time, particularly after the riot sequence, while little Dastur leaves a charming impression.

Synch-sound work, somewhat unusual in Indian cinema, is first-rate, and overall production package is extremely sharp. Master musician Zakir Hussain contributes an exceptional score, incorporating Eastern and Western motifs.

Heaven & Hell on Earth

India - U.S.

Production: A Circles Motion Pictures presentation. (International sales: Circles Motion Pictures, Hillsborough, Calif.) Produced by K.B. Sareen, Kamal Patel, Rahul Dholakia. Executive producers, Ken Greenblatt, Munna Rizvi. Directed by Rahul Dholakia. Screenplay, David N. Donihue, Dholakia.

Crew: Camera (Prasad Cine Labs color), Robert Eras; editor, Aarif Sheikh; music, Zakir Hussain; production designers, Tapan Roy, Prosinjit Chanda; costume designer, Shanaz Vahanvaty; sound, Manoj Sikka; sound designer, Sikka; action director, Sham Kaushal; associate producers, Corin Nemec, Mihir Desai, Sumit Khanna. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (World Cinema Now), Jan. 8, 2006. (Also in Pusan Film Festival.) Running time: 122 MIN.

With: With: Naseeruddin Shah, Corin Nemec, Sarika, Parzan Dastur, Pearl Barsiwalla, Sheeba Chadda, Raj Zutshi, Aasif Basra. (English, Hindi dialogue)

More Film

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' Review: Abdellatif

    Cannes Film Review: 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

    A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon [...]

  • Crown Vic

    Thomas Jane's Police Thriller 'Crown Vic' Sells to Screen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

    Screen Media has bought North American rights to writer-director Joel Souza’s police crime-thriller “Crown Vic,” starring Thomas Jane and Luke Kleintank. The distributor closed terms during the Cannes Film Festival amid a competitive bidding situation between seven other suitors. Screen Media plans to release the pic this fall. “Crown Vic” premiered in April at the [...]

  • Colleen Bell

    Colleen Bell Replaces Amy Lemisch as California Film Commission Director

    Veteran entertainment executive and ambassador Colleen Bell will replace Amy Lemisch as director of the California Film Commission. Bell, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, has worked as a consultant since 2017. She was the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2014 to 2017. She held several positions at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, including [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content