The movie Heat and Dust follows a pair of intertwined stories about two Englishwomen living in India more than fifty years apart. In 1923, Olivia (Greta Scacchi) shares an uninspired marriage with Douglas Rivers (Christopher Cazenove), an English civil servant in the colonial India of the 1920s, which leads to her embarking on an affair with Nawab of Khatm (Shashi Kapoor), a romantic but decadent minor Indian prince.
In 1982, Anne (Julie Christie), Olivia’s grand-niece, travels to India to unravel the mystery of Olivia’s life, which her family regarded as “something dark and terrible.” While there, Anne discovers—and then seems to repeat—the scandal that her independent-minded ancestor caused two generations before, prompting Anne to re-assert her own independence five decades later.
Cross-cutting between two generations, James Ivory’s sprawling epic of self-discovery is also a lush evocation of the prismatic and sensuous beauty of India. As she searches for answers to the mystery surrounding a long-ago affair between her aunt Olivia (Greta Scacchi) and an Indian prince (Shashi Kapoor), Anne (Julie Christie) becomes immersed in the local culture, the pull of the past simultaneously leading her into a clearer view of her own future. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s screenplay adapts her own novel to great effect, and Richard Robbins provides the haunting score. The film earned the Merchant Ivory team 9 BAFTA nominations and a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes for director James Ivory.
Heat and Dust was originally released in 1983 and received a 4K restoration from the original camera negative and magnetic soundtrack held at the archive of the George Eastman Museum.