|Keywords||Body Self-Image, Children, Colonialism, Cross-Cultural Issues, Disability, Disease and Health, Family Relationships, Father-Son Relationship, Human Worth, Humor and Illness/Disability, Illness and the Family, Individuality, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues, Love, Marital Discord, Mother-Son Relationship, Patient Experience, Sexuality, Suicide, Survival|
Living in Bombay, India, Sera (Souad Faress) and Sam (Khodas Wadia), a beautiful Parsee couple who adore dancing, have a son (Firdaus Kanga) who will never grow and never walk because he has osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). They name him Brit, for his bones. As narrator, Brit says that Sera suffers from the "Parsee disease of anglophilia." But she accepts Brit’s disability.
His father, however, does not; and he continuously appeals to magic, folklore, and religious healers, hoping to find a cure. He professes love for his son, but is never able to forge a confident bond. Brit does not fail to criticize. Sam’s quest leads to a woman scholar who nurtures the boy’s intelligence and encourages him to write a diary and short stories.
Brit’s older sister is his staunchest ally and best friend, but she eventually must leave for a marriage in America. Sam escorts his daughter to America, where he commits suicide on Fifth Avenue. Brit and his mother come to rely heavily on a widow friend and her deaf daughter, "promised" to Brit in childhood.
But the girl is soon spirited away on a wave of romanticism into a life of prostitution. They take a boarder, Cyrus, a gifted and handsome law student who offers Brit a new world of night life, action, dancing, and physical affection; his love leads Brit to like and accept his own body. When his mother dies, Brit becomes a writer and finds a new life and a new lover.
A powerful semi-autobiographical story of "growing" up--without the physical change. Big issues of deformity, disability, loyalty, grief, sexual awakening, and love are handled with a sparkling lightness of touch and a gentle, teasing humor that swells with maturity and irony in the darkest of moments.
The wonderfully articulate Kanga stars in the film, which is based on his screenplay and his own book. At intervals, he also faces the camera to narrate, analyze, and foreshadow the plot. Easily carried by his sister, he has a normal-sized head, but a twisted thorax, few teeth, and pitifully short, thin legs--features that disturb at first. By the end of the film, however, viewers have grown fond of his deep, expressive eyes and warm smile. In an elegant bit of casting, he plays himself as a little child (with shorter legs) as well as a "grown" man.
Musical and literary references abound, underscoring the jarring cultural blend of postcolonial India. Sera’s unquestioning anglophilia makes a fascinating subtheme--truly a disease that perversely leads to her husband’s misery and her own accidental death. Her Sixth Happiness (a reference to Pearl Buck) was Brit himself.
|Leading Actors||Souad Faress, Firdaus Kanga, Khodas Wadia|
|Studio||Kennedy Mellor Production with BBC and BFI|
|Running Time||97 minutes|
|Video Source||Mongrel Media|
|Miscellaneous||Based on the novel, Trying to Grow, by Firdaus Kanga.|
|Annotated by||Duffin, Jacalyn|
|Date of Entry||09/09/99|