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Fire - A Queer Film Classic


A Queer Film Classic

By Shohini Ghosh
Series edited by Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hays
Categories: LGBTQ+, Lesbian Literature, BIPOC, Asian Literature, Film & Media, Women's Literature
Series: Queer Film Classics
Paperback : 9781551523637, 176 pages, 2010


Fire: A Queer Film Classic delves into the controversial 1996 lesbianlove story by Indian-born director DeepaMehta. Set in a contemporary middle-classHindu household in the heart of Delhi, Fire is the story of Radha and Sita, the wives of twobrothers, who fall in love with one another. Crisis overtakes the extended family when aservant discovers the relationship and tells oneof the husbands; overcoming both a literal andallegorical "trial by fire," the two women leavetheir marriages to make a life together.

The film premiered to great acclaim in 1996, and travelled the international circuit before beingfinally released in India in 1999. The consequencesof the film's Indian premiere were bothprofound and provocative: outraged by the film'sexplicit depiction of a lesbian relationship, protesters went on a rampage, tearing down posters, vandalizing cinemas showing the film, anddisrupting screenings in Delhi and Bombay,setting off a maelstrom of public discourse onissues such as homosexuality and freedom ofspeech in India. Director Deepa Mehta and thetwo leading actresses were targeted for attack andharassment 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 in2009, consists of critical yet populist monographson classic films of interest to LGBT audienceswritten by esteemed film scholars and critics. The series is edited by authors Thomas Waugh (Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed) and MatthewHays (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

- Book Marks