Throughout its history, India has always been a mysterious and confusing country for the Western man. Its traditions, cultural beliefs and way of life have seemed strange, unclear and even bizarre for the Europeans and Americans. With the elimination of the boundaries between states, the necessity for familiarization with other nations’ cultures and traditions has become vital for promoting tolerance and mutual understanding all over the world. With the purpose to show the reality and inside of modern India, the local director, Deepa Mehta, has produced the worldwide famous Elements Trilogy. Three films Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005) have been created to introduce the country to wide public and to tell the world about the complexities and limitations Indian people meet every day. These movies are one of the best ways to understand the native residents as well as realize the importance of humanities for the development of the third world countries. Furthermore, these motion pictures put people up to the purpose of humanities education in such countries as India that is to evaluate the present education process in the country and to create appropriate conditions for knowledge transfer among individuals and societies.
Each film of the trilogy deals with its own cultural or social issue. Fire tells about gender inequality and the problem of sexual identification in the Indian society. The main point of the movie is that Indian people cannot clearly talk about sex and mention homosexual relationships since “there's no word in our language for what we are, how we feel for each other”. As for the Earth, it talks about the rivalries in the country after England had given it “freedom” not considering how the state would fight the internal problems. The film gives a perspective from the inside of these events by presenting a viewpoint of a little girl and making the audience to experience the evens on the screen as if they are there. Finally, Water again considers the gender problem. It shows the faith of widows keeping to ashram and how they are treated in this extremely religious society.
The films are said to describe the modern India. Instead, the majority of action is happening at the beginning and middle of the 20th century. At first, I was confused by such a nonconcurrence. However, subsequently, I have got to the director’s point. Mehta considers actions that happened such a long time ago to highlight that what was in process then, is still taking place now. In other words, the country has not changed, and the events on the screen are in fact the depiction of the modern India. These movies opened my eyes at the “age” of difficulties people experience in the contemporary India.
After watching these films, I have understood the importance of humanities in the new light. With regards to the Elements Trilogy, I consider the purpose of humanities education is the creation of distinct evaluation criteria for the adequacy of the educational process itself. In other words, Indian people, seen in the movies, are not well-educated in terms of humanities and, thus, live with outdated standards. I do not say they are not book-wise or have a lack of knowledge. What I mean is that they demonstrate the insufficient amount of humanities knowledge necessary for perceiving the modern world conditions and social beliefs. Humanities tend to help to understand, investigate and analyze the state of things. Evaluating the situation in the educational field in India and basing on the movies, I can infer that Indian people do not familiarize with the current tendencies in religion and social development. Furthermore, they do not understand the need of Indian society for changes and do not consider the historical events for improving the life conditions in the country.
There is one phrase from the Fire that forms my overall impression of the trilogy. It states that “Indians don't talk about sex, a country of a billion people, and they don't talk about sex”. I have remembered it because it reflects the desire of Indians not to talk about their realities. However, there is one thing that seems complex, but yet sympathetic position for me. It is the adherence of this nation to its ancient traditions and religious beliefs. I agree that such compliance is exaggerated to some extent. I also believe that such strict religious and social rules are outdated not appropriate in terms of simplification and globalization. However, on the other side, in these conditions of globalization and simplification, I admire Indian people for keeping to their ancient traditions and staying unique despite years of English rule and modern social pressure on the country. Such cultural uniqueness stands for the nation’s ability to withstand the pressure of the Western world and remain mysterious and confusing country for the rest of the nations. The word “confusing” in this case is used not in the negative, but in the positive meaning and expresses the ability of the country to surprise the world by its endowments and character.
Summing up, I can say that the Elements Trilogy has turned my impression of India upside down as well as made me rethink the role of humanities in the modern world. In my opinion, dramas, tragedies and real life events from the films have helped me better understand Indian people, as well as the state of their modern society. I consider them a little uneducated in terms of humanities. Nevertheless, they deserve respect for keeping to strict, absurd and cruel, but ancient and unique traditions.