I met Deepa Mehta in a suburban mall in Brampton, a city in greater Toronto with a substantial Indian settlement. She was in the production phase of her latest film, Heaven on Earth about the spousal abuse rampant amongst Punjabi families living in Canada. Some of the scenes were being shot amidst the city's hustle and bustle, with regular shoppers stopping to see what the fuss was about, and Mehta's assistant, Dusty Mancinelli, graciously permitting me to film from a distance. Other scenes would take place in a makeshift Canadian classroom that had been created by Hamilton-Mehta Productions in a dilapidated part of the mall. While waiting for Mehta to get free, my aunt, a local, pointed out that Brampton isn't the most upscale part of Toronto, being notorious for ethnic ghettoes and sub-standard public health care. I figured Mehta's latest narrative, this time about diasporic Indians rather than those based in the homeland, fit right into the socio-economic landscape of desi1 Toronto. Would it get rave reviews from western critics, like her elements trilogy (comprising Fire, Earth, and the Oscar-nominated Water), and receive the indifference or condemnation of the mother country? Did she care about these reviews? Was Deepa Mehta the pet hate-figure of Hindu fundamentalists as fearless and formidable as Deepa Mehta the on-set filmmaker? I couldn't wait to find out.
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