A Passage to India (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Passage to India (1984)



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A Passage to India, director David Lean's final film (for which he also received editing credit), breaks no new ground cinematically, but remains an exquisitely assembled harkback to such earlier Lean epics as Doctor Zhivago and Ryan's Daughter. Based on the novel by E. M. Forster, the film is set in colonial India in 1924. Adela Quested (Judy Davis), a sheltered, well-educated British woman, arrives in the town of Chandrapore, where she hopes to experience "the real India". Here she meets and befriends Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who, despite longstanding racial and social taboos, moves with relative ease and freedom amongst highborn British circles. Feeling comfortable with Adela, Aziz invites her to accompany him on a visit to the Marabar caves. Adela has previously exhibited bizarre, almost mystical behavior during other ventures into the Indian wilderness: this time, she emerges from the caves showing signs of injury and ill usage. To Aziz' horror, he is accused by Adela of raping her. Typically, the British ruling class rallies to Adela's defense, virtually convicting Aziz before the trial ever begins. Though he is eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence (in fact, director Lean never shows us what really happened), Aziz is ruined in the eyes of both the British and his own people-as is Adela. Woven into these proceedings is a subplot involving Adela's elderly travelling companion Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), who through a series of plot twists too complex to describe here becomes a heroine of the Indian Independence movement. A Passage to India was nominated for several Academy Awards, scoring wins in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Ashcroft) and Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre). A theatrical version of A Passage to India, written by Santha Rama Rau, was previously adapted for television by the BBC in the mid-1970s.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Santha Rama Rau, David Lean
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 20, 2001
Sony Pictures Entertainment


Judy Davis
as Adela Quested
Peggy Ashcroft
as Mrs. Moore
James Fox
as Richard Fielding
Nigel Havers
as Ronny Healsop
Antonia Pemberton
as Mrs. Turton
Art Malik
as Mahmoud Ali
Saeed Jaffrey
as Hamidullah
Clive Swift
as Maj. Callendar
Ann Firbank
as Mrs. Callendar
Roshan Seth
as Amritrao
Z.H. Khan
as Dr. Pana Lal
Phyllis Bose
as Mrs. Leslie
Dina Pathak
as Begum Hamidullah
Ishaq Bux
as Selim
Paul Anil
as Clerk of the Court
Adam Blackwood
as Mr. Hadley
Mellan Mitchell
as Indian Businessman
Peter Hughes
as P & O Manager
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for A Passage to India

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (5)

David Lean's studied, plodding, overanalytic direction manages to kill most of the meaning in E.M. Forster's haunting novel of cultural collision in colonial India.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

An impeccably faithful, beautifully played and occasionally languorous adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Top Critic

Not for literary purists, but if you like your entertainment well tailored, then feel the quality and the width.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Forster's novel is one of the literary landmarks of this century, and now David Lean has made it into one of the greatest screen adaptations I have ever seen.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The film is very much 'a full theatrical meal,' and one that conveys a lot of 'the multiplicity of life' one seldom sees on the screen these days.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Regardless of what one thinks of David Lean and his old fashioned style, the results here - save perhaps for the casting of Alec Guinness as a Hindu professor - are exquisite.

Full Review… | April 24, 2008
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for A Passage to India

Beautiful cinematography.

Christian C

Super Reviewer


In an India seething with anti-colonial fervor versus colonial superiority and "duty", a young Englishwoman accuses an Indian doctor of "the worst". David Lean does everything but star and score the music, in this his final bow. Beyond the obvious politics and racism he leaves us with a human story, one of hopes and aspirations for a better world ... and then he casts a white man as an Indian brahmin. Revealing hypocrisy.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

The first half of the movie was relatively watchable but the second half was appalling. Why would a woman accuse someone of raping her, and why in God's name would she withdraw it only when she's called to the witness box, is beyond me. Okay, it's because she's honest and she couldn't accept someone being unjustly crucified for a crime that was never committed. So she withdraws everything only and only when she's called to the witness box. Applause for the lady's courage!!! I can understand that she may have made such an accusation because she wasn't well when she made it and might have done so under someone's influence. But at least after recovery, she could have taken back the false charges. Her conscience was probably on leave during the earlier proceedings of the court. The range of my imagination is quite poor at times. I know that such a dramatization is essential to create a greater effect for the movie, but the way this particular part was executed was very poor. Anyway, I liked the way characters were developed and the interactions between them. I'd also like to mention that except for that idiotic part in the movie, I found the rest of the movie well done. Victor Banerjee sucked as Dr. Aziz while Alec Guinness excelled as Godbole, a veteran with foresight and better understanding of the human life.

familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

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