Rated: PG-13 For adult content. Reviewed by: Frank and Chris Release date: April 15, 1992 Released by: Columbia TriStar
It's amazing how much the human spirit can endure, and no place better demonstrates this than Calcutta, India.
Patrick Swayze plays Dr. Max Lowe, a Texas physician, who after a child dies on his operating table, quits and goes to India to seek "enlightenment."
After losing his passport, he's forced to stay for a few weeks in a hell hole called, ironically, the City of Joy.
When Max is beaten and robbed, a rickshaw puller, Hasari Pal (Om Puri) brings him to the local dispensary, headed by an optimistic nurse played by Pauline Collins. While bandaging him, she tries to recruit Max into service by saying there are three things he can do, "run, spectate or commit." He gives his all to the makeshift hospital for the next nine weeks.
The town is run by a man they call the Godfather, a slimy fat cat who owns rickshaws and properties. He raises rents at will and demands the rickshaw pullers kowtow to him. He's surrounded by a group of thugs, headed by his bully son.
Director Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields and The Mission) likes to tell his message with a big, sweeping story. This is not an easy film to watch. The screen is filled with bodies ravaged by leprosy, hunger and dire poverty. The people own nothing and have nothing to look forward to.
Hasari ekes out a paltry living for himself, his wife and three children. They live in a hovel, have little to eat and live in fear of losing what little they have. Yet, he works long, tiring hours to be able to give his daughter a dowry. To him losing face would be worse than losing his life. The people have the strongest sense of dignity and honor.
Swayze was an unusual casting choice, but he does a good job as the doctor who finally commits, and all the Indian actors, especially Puri, are excellent,
Hasari sums it up when he says to Max, after a particularly difficult day, "the gods haven't made it easy to be a human being". He should have added, "Especially in the City of Joy."
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