The Memsahib
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Grace Roberts (Emily Hamiton) arrives in 19th-century India as a memsahib, a European woman in a position of authority. Though she was just a simple schoolteacher back home in England, she’s now the wife of Jayant Rathod (Parvin Dabas), a highly favored rajah and her childhood friend. Though other rajahs are opposed to the British presence in their country, Jayant is a progressive leader who wants to join with the British in an attempt to modernize India.

On her arrival in India, Grace is met with resistance and prejudice. And although she’s often told how she’s expected to behave, the naïve new bride befriends an outcast who teaches the local children. Determined to help her new country and its people, Grace decides that she, too, wants to teach the local children—as opposed to setting up a school for privileged children, as her husband suggests.

But after Jayant is poisoned and killed one night, Grace has to face the traditions and expectations of her new country and decide what she should do.

The film then jumps ahead to present-day India, with a British student, Asha (also Hamilton), who visits the run-down palace owned by her friend and professor, Neil (Denzil Smith). There she meets its mysterious caretaker, Vijay (also Dabas), who seems to know her from somewhere.

The Memsahib may take place in India, but it’s an American film, which means two things: first, it’s almost entirely in English, and second, it doesn’t have the drama and music that you’d get with a Bollywood film. Although the scenery is beautiful and the costumes are bright and colorful, the story isn’t as magical as I’d hoped it would be. In the beginning, it’s needlessly complex, going into all kinds of details that aren’t actually vital to the story. Hamilton’s acting—is stiff and overdone, which makes the story feel silly and melodramatic. She and Dabas also have very little chemistry, and the screenplay makes Grace seem like a bit of a renegade who doesn’t heed her new country’s traditions—making it difficult to believe that she’s the devoted Indian wife that she’s supposed to be.

In the first part, the story is at least somewhat interesting, but even that falls apart when it gets to the second, present-day part. Hamilton trades her stiff overacting for flighty overacting as the film switches gears to a strange yet still cliché reincarnation story. And while it may seem like the movie’s coming to an end when the story switches to the present day, it isn’t. As the second part of the movie droned on, I began to lose interest at an alarming rate. It’s much longer than necessary—in fact, it’s not really necessary at all, and it actually detracts from the beauty of the rest of the film. Had the filmmaker stuck to the 19th-century story, the result might have been a film worth checking out—but after sitting through the perplexing and drawn-out second part, I was relieved to see the credits roll.

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