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146 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHEN EAST AND WEST COLLIDE...
This is a magnificent and exquisitely wrought film, well nuanced and faithful in its adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel of the same name. Director David Lean, who had previously directed such cinematic triumphs as "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia", outdid himself with this film, which was nominated for eleven Academy Awards...
Published on December 30, 2001 by Lawyeraau

22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment from Lean, and not Forster's Novel
David Lean has made some of the best films of all time (incl. "Dr. Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia"), and E. M. Forster is a delightful writer (esp. "Howards End" and "Room with a View"). This film adaptation, however, turns out to be a disappointment. It lacks the incisiveness and subtlety of the novel, and it does not match up...
Published on March 24, 2003 by Yaakov Ben Shalom

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146 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHEN EAST AND WEST COLLIDE..., December 30, 2001
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
This is a magnificent and exquisitely wrought film, well nuanced and faithful in its adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel of the same name. Director David Lean, who had previously directed such cinematic triumphs as "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia", outdid himself with this film, which was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and for which Peggy Ashcroft won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as did Maurice Jarre for Best Score.
Set in 1928 colonial India, it is a story about racism and love. A headstrong and adventurous Englishwoman, Adela Quested (Judy Davis) travels to India to meet her fiance. She is accompanied on her journey by her fiance's elderly mother, Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), a lovely and kindly woman who, upon reaching India, is appalled at the treatment of the native Indian populace by her own countrymen. She eventually makes the acquaintance of a very nice Indian man, Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who is surprised at being treated as a sentient human being by this Englishwoman. During a social ocassion, in which the usual class boundaries were set aside, he again meets the delightful Mrs. Moore and is introduced to Adela Quested. Enthused by being treated as an equal, he gets carried away and invites them to be his guests on an excursion he can ill afford to a well known, but remote tourist spot, the Marabar caves.
It is a hot day and a long journey to these mysterious caves, and Dr. Aziz and Ms. Quested are thrown together more than they ordinarily would have been, setting the stage for a fateful and strange turn of events, one that would have great personal, as well as political, impact on the parties concerned. It is a collision of East and West and makes for a definitive statement about the nature of the relationship between the native Indian population and the British colonialists. It is a relationship that makes itself most manifest during the telling courtroom scenes, making it a film to be remembered.
This is a very well acted and compelling film, a sterling tribute to David Lean's directorial talents. In this, his last cinematic triumph, Lean leaves a legacy to be remembered, having exacted wonderful performances from the star studded cast, including James Fox, Alec Guinness, and Nigel Havers. Victor Banerjee is especially compelling as the put upon, well meaning Dr. Aziz, while Peggy Ashcroft gives a sensitive and well nuanced performance as the humane and soft hearted Mrs. Moore. Judy Davis is excellent as the conflicted Ms. Quested.
The DVD itself is first rate, offering crystal clear visuals that do justice to the breathtaking cinematography. Coupled with crisp sound, this DVD ensures one's viewing pleasure. It is one well worth having in one's collection.
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79 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quiet, Delicate Beauty, December 26, 2001
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
When David Lean's "A Passage to India" opened in 1984, some saw it as a showdown between the glory days of literate epic filmmaking and the "feel-good" ethos of the Lucas/Spielberg popcorn juggernauts. Who better than the director of "Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago" and "Bridge on the River Kwai" to show the film school grads how to make a movie? As always, anything burdened by such mythic expectations is bound to fail ("Phantom Menace" anyone?) Sadly, I joined the chorus of detractors lamenting "Passage" as a poor shadow of the "Leanscapes" that catapulted "Lawrence" and "Zhivago" into film history.
Amazing how age softens perspective. A fresh viewing of "Passage," courtesy of Columbia TriStar Home Video's new DVD, reveals an eloquent adaptation of E.M. Forster's complex novel about British colonialism in 1928 India and the cultural and sensual abysses that separate men and women, English and Indian, sensualist and ascetic.

"Passage" tells the story of Adela Quested (Judy Davis) en route to India to visit her fiancé, Ronny Heslop (Nigel Havers). Traveling with Heslop's mother, Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft, in an Oscar-winning performance), Adela arrives in the city of Chandrapore to find an alien environment, yet evocative in a way she cannot fathom. Mrs. Moore is similarly captivated by India, but is less than admiring of the treatment of the Indians by their colonial masters, i.e. her peers. One night, Mrs. Moore visits an abandoned mosque. There, she encounters local physician Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee). At first he charges her with blasphemy, entering a holy place improperly. When she assures him that she showed due respect by removing her shoes before entering, the two strike a friendship that might signal some understanding between the two cultures.
At a lunch party given by British teacher Richard Fielding (James Fox), who does not share his countrymen's disrespect for India, Adela meets Aziz for the first time while Mrs. Moore and Fielding converse about metaphysics with Professor Godbole (Alec Guinness, donning yet another disguise for Lean), a Brahmin mystic. Adela is fascinated by Aziz's juggling of their two societies. In an effort to impress Adela and fit in as more of an Englishman, Aziz impulsively calls for an expedition to the mysterious Marabar caves outside town.

What at first seems (to both sides) a breach of etiquette turns sinister when Aziz is accused by Adela of attempting to rape her during a visit to one of the caves. Now seen as a political tool by both sides, Aziz's trial threatens to escalate resentment into outright bloodshed. As everyone tries to solve the riddle of what really happened, Aziz and Adela must find some way to break away from the societal and cultural maelstroms threatening their freedom.
Adhering closely to the Forster novel, Lean's screenplay adaptation finds greater interest (and rightly so) in the circumstances that led to the incident as well as the aftermath. Davis' Adela is repressed and cloistered comfortably within British society. Both Aziz and India arouses her, awakening sensual feelings capable of enlightenment...or destruction. Lean visualizes this conflict with a scene not in the book. When Adela goes bicycling outside the city (Chapter 8), she comes across the ruins of an ancient temple. Almost voyeur-like, she spies the numerous statues of couples having sex. Adela herself almost reaches a fever pitch when wild monkeys literally expel her from their feral sanctuary. The lack of respect that Adela showed in her judgment is a direct contrast to Mrs. Moore's deference when she enters the mosque and meets Aziz. Yet Lean gave us the conflict in purely visual terms, no less grand than the match-to-sunrise jump cut in "Lawrence" or the endless icy tundras of "Zhivago. "Passage" proved a worthy valediction to Lean's career. Between directing, scripting and editing the film, we see Lean in complete command in his storytelling faculties. Even the final scene, straight out of the book, works better in the film than on the page.

The transfer also succeeds on every level. The 1.85 anamorphic image is rock solid and sharp throughout the presentation. (Politics at the time forced Lean to shoot the film in the more TV-friendly 1.85 aspect ratio instead of the wider 2.35 Cinemascope format. Back in 1984, this compromise seemed outrageous. Again, after watching the film, I found Lean's "flat" framing just as carefully composed as anything on his ultra-wide canvas.) The source materials are in terrific shape, as there are no blemishes and defects visible. Colors are rich and vivid but natural. Deep blacks and careful contrast control provide excellent detail delineation. Digital and compression artifacts are completely absent.
The Dolby Surround audio plays adequately; to be expected as the sound mix is not particularly flashy to begin with. Maurice Jarre's score, which weaves Hindu music with Cole Porter-esque rhythm, never overpowers the dialogue or sound effects. Surround channel activity is relegated primarily to music fill. French and Spanish mono tracks are also available on the disc.
The main perk of the special features is a section entitled "Reflections on David Lean." While the title implies a testimonial to David by his peers, it's actually an eight-minute collection of soundbites, shot on video, from David about the making of "Passage" and some thoughts about such collaborators as William Holden and Alec Guinness. There's no identification of the source or circumstances of the observations, but he's never less than fascinating when talking about the difficulties of shooting in India or how Forster wouldn't let grant the movie rights because he "distrusted filmmaking."

Trailers from "Lawrence of Arabia," "Bridge on the River Kwai," and "Guns of Navarone" appear on the disc, mirroring the same trailers available on the "Lawrence" DVD. Again, no "Passage" trailer (Did Columbia not create one back in '84?) The trailers are letterboxed with decent audio and video.
Check out "A Passage to India." A thoughtful, quiet gem awaits you.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars well crafted prose postcard, January 26, 2002
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
Very interesting examination of English and Indian attitudes about themselves and each other in 1920's India. The English that reside in India may start off as decent folk with the feeling that they are in the business of improving India and some are. Most however merely see the India venture as an employment opportunity and once there merely carry on being English and force their English ways and rules on Indians whom they demean in the process. Lean presents the stereotypical English administrators and their wives as a rather unappealing bunch of snobs who only become more prejudice the longer they stay on. India is seen by them to be a muddle in need of their administrative and civilizing skills. The Indians of course see things quite differently. British snobbery and decorum prevents any social mixing with the Indians they rule so its no surprise they don't understand the people whose country they are in.
Judy Davis and her fiances mother arrive in India and find the stringent social norms to be revolting. They immediately want to meet Indians and learn about the place they are in from the Indians whom they treat like polite hosts. When they do begin socializing with the Indians however trouble follows. The incident in the Marabar caves is brought on by the uneasy combination of English repression and Indian sensuality which is everywhere on display in the temples and statuary. The "incident" is the central mystery to the movie and I won't spoil it for you but during the trial that follows the true nature of the relationship between the ruling English and the subject race is made painstakingly clear to all. Excellent and competent and compressed presentation of the Forster novel which also relies on a stage version of the book. Many ripe lines throughout that stay in your mind and crystallise each characters personality as well as the overall situation quite succinctly. And as always with Lean great views from every window. Judy Davis is especially impressive as she can go from pale and mousy to red lipped seductress with just a slight change of expression and posture. Alec Guinnes plays "the inscrutable Brahmin" but the only thing inscrutable about him is that he is English and cast as a holy Indian, a misstep that wouldn't fly in todays politicized world. Other than that great cast. James Fox especially likable as the good teacher Fielding.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Culture, race, and one thing you may not notice., November 24, 2005
J. Alec West (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
Sometimes, what you don't see can be of equal importance to what you do see in a film. David Lean's film is no exception ... but more on that later.

A film of epic quality, it follows two travelers on their journey from England to India during the Raj colonial period of the 1920s. For Adela Quested, it's her first time out of England to anywhere. For Mrs. Moore, it's a chance to visit her son, Ronny, who is expected to marry Adela during the visit. But, their visit is not without incident.

What both Adela and Mrs. Moore discover is an India ruled by British bureaucrats (Ronny being one of them, a city magistrate) who exude personal and cultural superiority over Indians. This was a shock to them since they both expected to find Indians and Britons meeting socially and on friendly terms. The only exception to that rule appears to be Fielding, principal of a college.

Through Fielding, Adela is introduced to Professor Godbole (a Hindu holy man) and Dr. Aziz (a Muslim physician) socially. Mrs. Moore met Aziz in a previous scene but had not yet met Godbole until that moment. One note on that (a film flaw). During that mosque scene where Mrs. Moore meets Dr. Aziz, Aziz never once mentions his name to her ... yet later, Adela knows his name as mentioned to her by Mrs. Moore. Perhaps his name was mentioned in a brief scene that ended up on the cutting-room floor. But, that omission is trivial and in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the film.

During this social introduction, Aziz invites Mrs. Moore and Adela on a journey to the Marabar caves, a tourist destination. On the trip, and tired from all the activity, Mrs. Moore stays at the encampment near the lower caves and encourages Aziz and Adela to explore the higher caves alone.

Then, something happened ... and I won't tell you what (grin). Suffice it to say that Aziz finds himself in police custody. A court trial ensues that pits culture against culture, race against race, and clearly demonstrates the differences in attitudes between resident British citizens and Indians. But the trial's climax isn't the most moving part of the film. Lean has risen the film's denouement to a higher level ... one that leaves you smiling and crying at the same time. But what Lean does NOT mention in the film is equally interesting.

In today's world, India is beset by inter-sect angst between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and persons of other faiths. In theory, this inter-sect rivalry has been around since before India became a British colony. But, this rivalry was not mentioned once in the film. It is perhaps a testament to the novelist (E.M. Forster) and Lean to realize a potent underlying force in the story ... that British colonial rule held these rivalries in abeyance ... uniting Indians of all faiths into a common bond that eventually forced colonialism to end in India.

The film is a masterpiece on every level and remains one of my favorites of all time.

P.S. Closing comment to those (like me) who own region-free DVD players that render both PAL and NTSC DVDs. For some reason unknown to me, it's over $10 cheaper to buy the DVD from than it is from ... even after overseas shipping is added in. That's where I ordered mine (from the UK).
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Lean's Beautiful Swan Song, April 4, 2001
R. Williams (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
"Passage to India" was one of the greatest films produced in the Reagan era. It also happens to be the final film of one of cinema's most honered craftsmen, Sir David Lean, who is considered by many to be the greatest British director of all-time. This film may not be on the level of his other 70mm epics such as "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia" in terms of sweeping scope, but it more than holds its own. Produced in an era where apartheid in South Africa was the hot political issue, this film deals realistically with the occupation of the english in India. Not so much the political occupation, but how the two culture relate to each other through the eyes of the films two lead characters beautifully played by Judy Davis and Victor Banerjee. A film which does not give you the answers, but encourages you to draw your own conclusion in regards to the charcters (espeically Davis' Adela Quested) motivations. Now how does the DVD look? The transfer is beautiful, the best I've ever seen this film presented since it opened back in Dec, 1984. There are no distracting compression artifacts or nasty layer switches. The dolby stereo surround track is clear and ambient with no drop-outs, so a 5.1 upgrade would've been unnecessary for this film. If you enjoy striking visuals and English literature brought to vivid life through film, Passage is a must-have. My highest recommendation.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Lean's Last Film One of His Best, November 10, 2006
Elias Eliadis (West Palm Beach FL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
Being a fan of David Lean's work, I have always been rather bemused by the vicious critical drubbing and public indifference that greeted his 1970 work RYAN'S DAUGHTER. Lean was so upset by this that it would take him 14 years to complete another film, which would be his last, A PASSAGE TO INDIA. If the word comeback ever had a truer meaning I cannot think of it. INDIA was greeted with raves, very good boxoffice and 11 Academy Award nominations.

The story, taken from the marvelous E.M. Forster book I read in college, is the tale of Miss Quested , newly arrived from England, and her companion and prospective future mother in law Mrs. Moore. Neither wants to be constrained by the British Raj way of doing things which leads to their undoing-a sure sign of a Lean epic.

Lean manages to capture the full flavor and atmosphere of the period at a fraction of the cost of his other "big" pictures. The weirdness factor is very high in this film which is another of the director's trademarks.

The scene in which Judy Davis as the confused Miss Quested is at first confronted and then chased by a horde of wild monkeys in the midst of the ruins of some ancient temple dedicated to sex is deliciously creepy. It's relatively early in the picture so it sets the tone for what will follow.

David Lean, for an Englishman, took pains to dump on the English as a race which I've always found fascinating. Recognizing foiables in your own group takes courage and someone who is not afraid of the darker impulses in human nature. In other words, the characters here are intimately detailed, again against the backdrop of history and social upheaval that were hallmarks of Lean's films.

The late Dame Peggy Ashcroft won the oscar for her portryal of Mrs. Moore, a woman at odds with those of her own class in the midst of the dying Raj. She is wonderful as is Judy Davis (now more famous for playing judy Garland) who received a nomination for playing Miss Quested. The film is so enigmatic it may take the dvd viewer more than one screening to appreciate all the subtle Lean nuances, but it is worth your time, and I would also say you may want to purchase the soundtrack of Maurice Jarre's (Lean's composer of choice on four films) marvelous score.

I never met a Jarre score I didn't like.

While INDIA may not be another KWAI or ZHIVAGO it must always be treasured for the artistry that Lean lent to all of his films-the culmination as it were-of his various techniques and trademarks. Because it took so long for Lean to get another picture completed it must also be regarded as not only the great man's last film, but as the final period on a body of work too long delayed. We are left wondering what may have been in between his last two pictures.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Imperialism in crisis, July 21, 2006
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
The mid-1980s were banner years for E.M. Forster fans, like me. Two of his novels were successfully, brilliantly adapted for the big screen: "A Room with a View" and this, "A Passage to India".

In this remarkable film, David Lean has captured the beauty of India, the problems of British Imperialism of the time, the fragility of friendship, and the pursuit of justice and truth. Tough issues to tackle, but, as most directors will admit, when you have the perfect cast, the rest is easy. The cast here is marvelous: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, James Fox, Peggy Ashcroft and, of course, Alec Guinness turn in nothing less than inspired performances. This left Lean free to luxuriate on the lush countryside of India and, when needed, to turn on the heat during the intense courtroom dramas and the other intrigues surrounding it.

As if the movie itself wasn't enough to recommend it, the transfer to dvd is remarkably good. This is a first-rate product.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "India" Just Got Smaller, April 25, 2008
This review is from: A Passage To India (2-Disc Collector's Edition) (DVD)
There's been a lot of debate about this new 2008 Special Edition of A PASSAGE TO INDIA, and I own both DVD versions, so this is what I've found. First, my 5-star review pertains to the film itself, which is very close to perfect. E. M. Forster's novel would have been difficult to film under any circumstances, and David Lean managed to remain mostly faithful to the book while creating one of his finest works. His script, direction, and editing are matched by Ernest Day's cinematography, John Box's production design, Maurice Jarre's score, and the amazing cast of actors. Adela Quested's quest, her "passage" from dreamy, sheltered virgin to disillusioned spinster is everything a fan could wish for, and more. And they made the whole thing for about $18 million, which is a feat in itself, even in 1984. It looks as if it cost 3 times that amount.

Now, about the 2 DVD versions: The new 2008 release is not--repeat, *not*--the whole picture. In the process of digitally remastering in High Definition, they've lost about 10% of the original frame. The film's original theatrical aspect ratio is 1.85:1, and that's the version available in the perfectly good DVD release from 2000, which also has the original theatrical 2-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack. The new print (2008) has an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (not 1.77:1, as reported in Amazon's product description). So, the frames are noticeably "tighter," especially in the crowd scenes and wide vistas. If you own both versions, compare the parade at the beginning, the Marabar Caves sequence, the final scenes with James Fox and Victor Banerjee saying goodbye, and any shots of trains or boats. You'll see a marked difference in the scope of the picture. In the new version, they've shaved approximately 5.1% from each side of the frame, a total of approximately 10.2% of the original image.

The good news about the new release is that the picture, though smaller, is much sharper and clearer if viewed on a new TV with HDTV equipment. And the newly remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is more lush and resonant than the original, especially if you have a fancy home sound system and/or headphones.

So it's your choice--the original David Lean version from 2000 or the new, souped-up picture and soundtrack (2008). I prefer Lean's original framing. Either way, it's one of Lean's finest films, which means it's one of the finest films, period. Enjoy.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER CLASSIC IN THE LEAN (AND FORSTER) CANON., July 6, 2000
RALPH PETERS (CLOVIS, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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In his brilliant exploration of the question he ultimately posed in HOWARDS END (who shall inherit England?), E. M. Forster gifted us with A PASSAGE TO INDIA. The novel, and the movie, provide deceptively simple characters to carry Forster's views along...the arrogance of a British-dominated culture meddling where it once again does not belong; the impossible melding of certain classes and/or temperaments; and the ultimate sacrifice or tragedy that must occur in order for the madness to cease. Into the mix Forster adds (as he did with Ruth Wilcox in HOWARDS END) the mysterious female entity (the enigmatic Mrs Moore) who seems to be in touch with all elements, earthly and spiritual. Director David Lean could not have done better in casting Dame Peggy Ashcroft as this luminous woman; she becomes the movie's triumphant center, its moral conscience and all-seeing eyes, and at the same time leaves us with one of the most memorable performances in recent cinema. Excellent support also comes from the brilliant Judy Davis (in a nearly impossible part to play, Davis succeeds almost frighteningly well) as the hysterical Miss Quested, dashing Victor Banerjee as the harried Dr Aziz, and James Fox as the character caught between two clashing worlds (much the same way Margaret Schlegel was in HOWARDS END).
David Lean has created so many memorable films and setpieces it seems almost redundant to objectify them, but let it be said the sequence here with the visit to the ominous Marabar Caves is one of his best--beautifully choreographed, perfectly timed, and with just enough mystery to inspire as much discussion as the novel. How often does that happen?
It may not be a rousing action epic, but it will leave the discerning viewer with much to think about and should inspire several viewings to take in all the levels of meaning. A most rewarding film experience.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultures clash in British India. And a fine story too., November 2, 2002
This review is from: A Passage to India (DVD)
This ambitious film, adapted from the E.M. Forster novel by David Lean, was nominated for 11 academy awards in 1984. It's a sweeping epic, with a huge cast of extras, set in British Colonial India in the 1920s. It's a good story too, about a young English woman who travels to India to marry her fiancé. While there, she meets an Indian Moslem physician and, along with her future mother-in-law and an entourage of people, they take a day trip to explore the Marabar Caves. Something happens there and the Indian physician is accused of attempting a violent assault on the young woman.
The acting is uniformly good, but special mention must go to Peggy Ashcroft, who won an academy award for her role as the elderly mother of the young woman's fiancé. She's the voice of reason in a place where injustice reigns and the expressions on her face tell it all. Victor Banerjee is the Indian doctor. He's exceptionally good in a role in which he changes from making elaborate gestures of subservience to British authority to a strong-willed Indian nationalist. Judy Davis, a young Australian actress, is cast at the young woman. This is a very demanding role in which we see her coming to terms with her own awakenings, and she does a fine job. James Fox is cast as a Brit who befriends the doctor. It's a good role as it shows how disturbed he is disturbed by the prejudice around him. Alec Guinness plays a small part too, but he is cast as a Hindu guru. Because he is so familiar to me, every time he had any screen time, I was distracted because I knew who he was.
I enjoyed the film and even missed watching one of my favorite TV programs because I was too intrigued with the story to turn it off. It's 164 minutes long, but it held my interest the whole time. There's a short special feature in which the aging David Lean, the director, talks about not just this film but all the films he had made, but this feature didn't really have as much depth as I would have liked.
"Passage to India" is a good film and I heartedly recommend it. It takes the viewer right into the heart of an India that doesn't exist any more. And it's easy to understand why.
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