When people come to know I'm an Indian feminist (from India even! That, somehow, is always an extra bonus), after a quick round of, "What do you think about child marriage/sex-selective abortions/sati?" inevitably the question of the film Fire comes up. Hilariously, people are offended that I don't quite have an opinion or any interest in assessing whether Fire is "really" queer or if it's simply a story about loneliness (anyone who has ever been a token feminist knows what a blasphemy it is to not have an opinion on the 0.3 topics your opinion is demanded on), and that I'd rather talk about the events the film spurred on.
Toronto-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, India in 1949. Because her father was a film distributor and theater owner, she was exposed to film at a very early age. She grew up watching commercial Indian cinema, and realized the emotional power of cinema when she was just thirteen.
She went to the University of Delhi, where she received a degree in philosophy. With no formal training in filmmaking, she began her career after graduation when she joined a company making documentaries. She moved to Toronto at the age of 23, where she began to create films that would soon establish her as a talented and controversial filmmaker.
Mehta describes herself as "a citizen filmmaker of the world. Or at least one that has one foot in India and one in Canada." She initially moved to Toronto with plans to move back to India, but ended up staying and becoming a Canadian citizen. Her films, however, are mostly set in India, and they challenge traditional beliefs prevalent in Indian culture. As a result of her controversial subject matter, her films have been fiercely protested by various Hindu fundamentalist groups. Because of this, Mehta is often accompanied by armed bodyguards when traveling in India.