BEFORE THE RAINS Directed by Santosh Sivan. Starring Linus Roache, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das, Lal Paul, Jennifer Ehle, Leopold Benedict
Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 min ‘ONE must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it,” Chekhov famously wrote to a friend. Before the Rains, a steamy Merchant Ivory production set in the dying days of the Raj, is certainly a film that plays by the rules. When, therefore, Linus Roache’s British landowner hands a revolver to his Indian protege (Rahul Bose), we can be pretty sure that it will be discharged before the credits roll.
Indeed, every aspect of the film’s somewhat clunky opening act points towards a looming catastrophe. Shortly after the incident with the handgun, Roache’s memsahib (Jennifer Ehle) arrives from the home country and he finds himself compelled to dump the local woman (Nandita Das) with whom he has been having an affair. A crisis results that engulfs the whole village and causes Bose’s conflicted factotum to chose between the colonisers and the growing independence movement.
Directed by Santosh Sivan, whose The Terrorist turned heads in 1999, Before the Rains drips with balmy good intentions. Roache has the right sort of face for tragedy and Bose makes something believable of his emblematic personal dilemma. This is, however, the type of mid-budget production in which the clothes all look too crisply unworn and the blood looks too much like ketchup.
Working hard with dialogue that has the functional quality you’d expect to find in a legal contract, the strong cast does inject some energy into proceedings, but Before the Rains never quite rises above the level of a modestly ambitious TV movie. You would be as well to wait for the DVD.
The cad and the kept woman: Roache and Das