The plot in Before The Rains almost begs to be defined as a cliche. And yet, there lies the beauty of this fragile love triangle about the beauty and the Brits and the native beauty's silent lover whose eyes say it all, and who must do a hasty cover-up job for his lord and master after he leaves his trail of lust(or was it love?) and blood behind.
Sivan's skills behind the camera are so densely poetic you end up wondering if he made this uncommonly-common love story so he could re-visit the vibrant verdancy of Kerala to create poetry out of Nature. He shoots Nandita Das like Smita Patil in G Arvindan's Chidambaram as an enigmatic creature of the dark whose next move is a mystery her. The greenery is so captivating that the central passion-play often becomes subservient. That, perhaps, is the subtext of the plot. You often find monstrous emotional disturbances tucked away in the non-judgmental folds of the illimitable beauty of Nature.
Not for the first time, Nandita Das, so under-used by our cinema, reminds us of the late Smita Patel's dusky seductiveness. Nandita is often shot in caressing close-ups that accentuate her aquiline nose and cupid lips in curves and bends that signify the peril of feminine beauty. Miraculously her chemistry with Linus Roache (stern yet vulnerable) works just fine. We see two people utterly mismatched in their cultural and emotional graphs coming together in a doomed clasp.
Cathy Rabin's screenplay never makes the mistake of portraying the colonist-lover as a villain. In Before The Rains Henry Moores (Roache) is as much a victim of cruel fate as the fatally ill-fated Sajni (Das). They meet, make love and are ruined by their mutual passion. Santosh Sivan's camera takes us through the luscious labyrinth of love lust and loss in no time at all.
The film seems much longer than it actually is. And that's not a fatal flaw but a fabulous homage to the silences and pauses that punctuate life's inevitable progression into the unknown. Sivan is as adept at showing the cross-cultural love relationship as he is in depicting local rites and rituals in Kerala that make adultery a grave crime. Nandita Das's eyes convey a hemisphere of mystique and passion. Rahul Bose as the colonist's right-hand man, whose loyalty to heart and country comes under the scanner, gets the complexities of his character in place.
Before The Rains is a far more accomplished piece of cinema than its routine theme suggests. Carefully crafted and narrated in soft silken tones designed for aesthetic comfort the film shows us how the thin line between passion and tragedy is crossed.