Two women, related but separated by one generation and 60 years, have parallel experiences in the evocative mystical environment of India in this period drama from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory. Although a little slow-paced for some, and slightly confusing because the stories of the two women are intercut, the scenery and script evoke a time and place that mesmerize. Based on the 1975 novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a long-time collaborator in Merchant-Ivory Productions, the story begins with Ann (Julie Christie) who discovers some letters written by her grandfather's first wife Olivia (Greta Scacchi) that open up a whole new world as Ann travels to India to continue researching her grandmother's past. The letters reveal that when she was young, the free-spirited grandmother fell in love with an Indian nobleman (Shashi Kapoor) and left her husband -- an administrator in the British colonial government -- for her lover. After Ann arrives in India, her life and the modern rush of cars and people are played off against flashbacks to Olivia's life in a colonial setting. When the environment of each woman is compared and the nature of their momentous decisions placed side-by-side, their rites of passage and the society that dominated their choices stand out in high relief. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won "Best Adapted Screenplay" at the 1983 British Academy Awards for her script of Heat And Dust.
by Eleanor Mannikka synopsis