Mystic Masseur

Ismail Merchant, usually the producing partner of director James Ivory, directs this adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul’s first novel. Set amid the large Indian community in Trinidad during the middle of the 20th century, it concerns the ambitious young writer Ganesh (Aasif Mandvi), who turns to massage when his philosophical treatises fail to sell. He soon becomes the village healer and attracts a huge following as something of a guru. Political power follows as Ganesh tries to sort out what is truly important in life. The sultry beauty Ayesha Dharker co-stars as Ganesh’s supportive wife and the great actor Om Puri appears as his father-in-law. Although its setting—the Hindu cultural milieu the West Indies—differs from those of other Merchant Ivory films such as The Remains of the Day and A Room With a View, The Mystic Masseur shares with those works rich characterizations and a quest for personal meaning. Warning: its earnestness may put off more cynical filmgoers.

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