About this book
Fire: A Queer Film Classic delves into the controversial 1996 lesbian
love story by Indian-born director Deepa
Mehta. Set in a contemporary middle-class
Hindu household in the heart of Delhi, Fire is the story of Radha and Sita, the wives of two
brothers, who fall in love with one another.
Crisis overtakes the extended family when a
servant discovers the relationship and tells one
of the husbands; overcoming both a literal and
allegorical "trial by fire," the two women leave
their marriages to make a life together.
The film premiered to great acclaim in 1996, and travelled the international circuit before being
finally released in India in 1999. The consequences
of the film's Indian premiere were both
profound and provocative: outraged by the film's
explicit depiction of a lesbian relationship, protesters went on a rampage, tearing down posters, vandalizing cinemas showing the film, and
disrupting screenings in Delhi and Bombay,
setting off a maelstrom of public discourse on
issues such as homosexuality and freedom of
speech in India. Director Deepa Mehta and the
two leading actresses were targeted for attack and
harassment by extremists of the Hindu Right.
This book examines the controversy that divided a nation, but which ultimately led to counterprotests among the film's supporters, resulting in its successful and uninterrupted run in Indian theaters. The book also considers Fire's scathing attack on both heterosexism and Hindu practices in India that oppress and marginalize women, as well as its revolutionary treatment of female characters, whose traditional duties are imbued with an unprecedented sensuality.
The QUEER FILM CLASSICS series, begun in
2009, consists of critical yet populist monographs
on classic films of interest to LGBT audiences
written by esteemed film scholars and critics. The series is edited by authors Thomas Waugh (Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed) and Matthew
Hays (The View from Here).
Arsenal Pulp Press's Queer Film Classic series has established itself as the premiere source of critical acumen about queer film. This year's titles - three inaugurated the series in 2009 - combine scholarship with cultural context, assessing the films sometimes almost scene-by-scene and always with an eye as to what makes the movies relevant both historically and contemporaneously.
Richard Labonte, Book Marks