A Passage to India (film)

A Passage to India (film)

Infobox Film
name = A Passage to India

caption = Theatrical release poster
director = David Lean
producer = John Brabourne
writer = E.M. Forster
David Lean
starring = Judy Davis
Victor Banerjee
Alec Guinness
Peggy Ashcroft
music = Maurice Jarre
cinematography = Ernest Day
editing = David Lean
distributor = Columbia Pictures
Home Box Office (HBO)
EMI Films
released = December 14, 1984 (New York)
January 25, 1985
runtime = 163 min.
country = United Kingdom
United States
language = English
budget = $8 million
gross = $27,187,653
imdb_id = 0087892

"A Passage to India" is a 1984 adventure-drama film directed by David Lean, based on the novel of the same name by E. M. Forster.


The film is set during the period of growing influence of the Indian independence movement in the British Raj. It begins with the arrival in India of a British woman, Miss Adela Quested (Judy Davis), who is joining her fiancé, a city magistrate named Ronny Heaslop (Nigel Havers). She and Ronny's mother, Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft), befriend an Indian doctor, Aziz H. Ahmed (Victor Banerjee). Dr. Aziz meets Mrs. Moore for the first time in the moonlight at an abandoned mosque on the river Ganges, and he soon finds that Mrs. Moore possesses a sensitivity and unprejudiced attitude to native Indians which endears her to him. When Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested profess an interest in seeing "the real India" (as opposed to the Anglicised environment Ronnie and his friends have constructed for themselves), Aziz offers to host an excursion to the Marabar Caves, a local geological feature (to avoid asking them to his shabby bungalow).

Adela and Mrs. Moore agree readily, and the outing goes reasonably well until the two women begin exploring the caves. Mrs. Moore experiences an overwhelming sense of horror which completely quenches her good humor; worse, Miss Quested forms the delusion that Aziz is making sexual advances toward her. She flees the cave in a panic and is discovered running headlong down the hill, bloody and disheveled. Aziz is immediately jailed to await trial for attempted rape, and an uproar ensues between the Indians and the Colonials.

Adela is not a vindictive or even an unusually neurotic person; rather, she is suffering from an abnormal mental state brought about by various factors: the remorseless heat, the strangeness of her surroundings, her growing dismay over her future husband's small, mean character, and (perhaps) her feelings of attraction, fraught with shame, for Dr. Aziz. Even as her case becomes a cause celebre among the British, her mind gradually clears and she realizes she has made a mistake. There is also a subtext present in the film concerning Mrs. Moore's feelings concerning old age and her impending mortality. Though she waits bed-side with Miss Quested in support, she makes clear to Ronny that she firmly believes in Aziz's innocence. Because of her refusal to testify, and the fear by the Anglo-Indians that she would bolster the case of the defense Mrs. Moore leaves for England. She subsequently suffers a heart attack on the voyage and dies.

To the consternation of her friends, Miss Quested clears Dr. Aziz in open court. The Colonials are forced to make an ignominious retreat while the Indians carry Dr. Aziz out of the courtroom on their shoulders, cheering wildly. In the aftermath, Miss Quested breaks off her engagement and leaves India, while Dr. Aziz abandons his Western attire, dons traditional dress and withdraws completely from Anglo-Indian society, opening a clinic in Northern India at the Himalayas. Although he remains angry and bitter for years, the final scene shows Miss Quested at home in England, reading a letter from Dr. Aziz conveying his thanks and forgiveness.


* Judy Davis as Adela Quested
* Alec Guinness as Prof. Goodbole
* Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs. Moore
* James Fox as Richard Fielding
* Victor Banerjee as Dr. Aziz H. Ahmed
* Nigel Havers as Ronny Heaslop
* Michael Culver as Maj. McBryde


While the film is relatively faithful to the novel, the ending is changed. The book ends with a bitter Aziz talking about how the British must be driven out and telling his British friend that because of their nationalities they can no longer be friends; while it is implied that someday British and Indians might be friends, the book concludes that it could not happen in the present. Despite scenes invoking Aziz's anger at the injustices foisted upon him and all native Indians, and his resolution to quit British India, the film concludes with a later scene of Aziz forgiving Miss Quested. It may be argued that this waters down Forster's original act about racial tensions and Indian independence.



Alec Guinness agreed to the role as Godbole despite having quarrelled with David Lean in the early 1960s. Lean had wanted him to play the title role in a proposed film about Gandhi (a project ultimately scrapped). According to Guinness's biography, Lean wanted him to play Gandhi because he felt "Hindus couldn't act". Guinness and Lean quarreled again on "Passage to India", as they had on most of their other collaborations, and most of Guinness's scenes were cut for timing reasons. Guinness called it the worst role he ever did, and Lean agreed, remarking that "we paid for that casting". (Piers Paul Read, "Alec Guinness: The Authorized Biography".)

As per John Brabourne Victor Banerjee was suggested by Satyajit Ray for the role of Dr. Aziz

When E.M. Forster met Peggy Ashcroft in London in the 1960s, during the run of Santha Rama Rau's stage adaptation of "Passage to India", he told her that he hoped she would one day play Mrs. Moore. Her eventual casting in the film was largely due to lobbying by Alec Guinness. Celia Johnson had also been considered for the part. (Kevin Brownlow, "David Lean: A Biography", p. 650)

Saeed Jaffrey had actually played Hamidullah in Rau's play of "India" and the BBC television version with Zia Mohyeddin as Aziz, and was asked by Lean to reprise his role.

Peter O'Toole was Lean's first choice for the part of Fielding but the role eventually went to James Fox. (Brownlow, 672-3) Nigel Hawthorne was cast as Turton but became ill and was replaced by Richard Wilson.


The "Marabar Caves" in the film and novel were based on the Barabar Caves, some 35km north of Gaya. Lean visited the caves during pre-production but found them unphotogenic; concerns about bandits were also prevalent. Instead he used two separate hills a few miles from Bangalore, where much of the principal filming occurred, and the caves themselves were created by the production company. [http://www.mapability.com/travel/p2i/marabar.html]


"A Passage to India" did moderately well at the box office, taking in some $26 million in the US, but was not a blockbuster hit. However, the film was a critical success and revived Lean's reputation as a film maker.


Academy Awards

*Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Peggy Ashcroft)
*Best Music, Original Score (Maurice Jarre)

*Best Actress in a Leading Role (Judy Davis)
*Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Box, Hugh Scaife)
*Best Cinematography (Ernest Day)
*Best Costume Design (Judy Moorcroft)
*Best Director (David Lean)
*Best Film Editing (David Lean)
*Best Picture (John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin)
*Best Sound (Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier, Michael A. Carter, John W. Mitchell)
*Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (David Lean)

Golden Globes

The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.

Connections with other films

According to Peter McLuskie of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, "Passage of India" can be linked to "a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain's growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history" [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/J/htmlJ/jewelinthe/jewelinthe.htm] . McLuskie suggests that other films in this cycle include "Gandhi" (1982), "Heat and Dust" (1983), "The Far Pavilions" (1983), "The Jewel in the Crown" (1984) and "" (1985). This preoccupation extended to "escapist" fare like the James Bond adventure "Octopussy" (1983), and even the Hollywood film "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984), which were also primarily set in India.

External links


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title=Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film
before="Fanny and Alexander"
after="The Official Story"

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