Fire | Chicago Reader

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Two sisters-in-law feel trapped by tradition in unhappy marriages. Radha (Shabana Azmi) has allowed herself to be ignored and exploited for years by a man who's obsessed with celibacy the way some people are with sex. Sita (Nandita Das), who's been married only a few days, struggles to resign herself to misery until she finds the inspiration to question the social values requiring her to be a dutiful and self-effacing wife. Writer-director Deepa Mehta fuses the soap-opera elements of her plot—which reveals one sexual secret after another of the variously betrayed, selfish, and self-actualizing members of the two couples' New Delhi household—into profound drama. Sita and Radha are stunningly persuasive embodiments of issues and personalities—characters so deeply infused with consciousness that when they discuss the ideas their behavior represents, they intensify the impact of these ideas instead of just drawing attention to their exposition (1996).

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