A village grocer allies his daughter to the rising star of Ganesh, the hack poet-turned-mystical messiah, who's been thrilling the masses.
Adapted from the novel by V. S. Naipaul and markedly less precious than Ismail Merchant's previous directorial outings, this is a timely study of how a charismatic individual can exploit the cult of personality for his own ends.
However, the book's subtle insights into charlatanry are blown up into broad satire at the expense of the masses, whose poverty and repression leaves them little option but to cling to the brightest hope.
Merchant-Ivory addicts will lap up the exotic Trinidadian locations, but those seeking a considered assessment of colonial methods and manners will be disappointed. As will the growing legion of Om Puri fans, as he settles for caricature in his depiction of the village grocer who allies his daughter (Dharker) to the rising star of Ganesh (Mandvi), the hack poet-turned-mystical messiah.
Luscious location shooting pays off and the widening of the social satire is welcome, but the characterisation is a bit heavy-handed.