It’s 1937 in Kerala, India. English spicemonger Henry Moores (Roache) is building a new road to a treasure trove of spice. Local villagers T.K. (Bose) and Sajani (Das) find work as Moores’ foreman and housekeeper. But while T.K.’s success brings him a Westernized state of mind, Sajani’s only brings tragedy.
The fact that Moores and Sajani are both married doesn’t stop them from sneaking away for romantic romps in the rain forest. And although adultery is frowned upon in English society, in Sajani’s Indian tribe, it’s a crime that comes with a death sentence.
When the affair leads to Sajani’s demise, T.K. is forced to choose between loyalty to his livelihood and loyalty to his heritage.
It’s a tale of forbidden love, cultural differences and the meaning of honor—all three riveting elements. Like many Indian films, Before the Rains packs in a lot of story, sometimes at the expense of momentum. But patient viewers will be rewarded with the careful construction of the plot. Like a game of Jenga, each scene builds upon the last, bringing the audience one step closer to the film’s satisfying conclusion. Thankfully, the information is meted out in such an elegantly subtle way that one never feels overwhelmed with story.
Even more impressive than the writing is the acting. The characters are vivid and varied, providing a panoply of personas with which to identify. Whether Moores is choosing between his business and his honor, T.K. is choosing between his work and his people or Sajani is choosing between her life and her love, the decision is never a simple one. This complexity infuses the story with welcome realism and keeps audiences guessing until the end.