Is the Anglo-Indian title character in Cotton Mary so nicknamed because of her snobbish preference for English cotton coming unraveled under the strain of Euro envy in 1954 India? Or does her crack-up allow her to display a wound of history otherwise covered up by good manners? Either way, actress and well-known cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey turns on the histrionics as a hospital nurse going mad who, nevertheless, insinuates herself into a position of responsibility in a household presided over by an overwhelmed Englishwoman (Greta Scacchi), and wrecks the lives of everyone around her.
The settings are pretty, the allusions are broad: The mistress of the house is frantic because she can't produce milk for her newborn, and Mary sneaks the baby off to be fed by her wheelchair-bound sister; the master (James Wilby) has eyes for Mary's niece (Jaffrey's daughter, Sakina Jaffrey). But, this being a Merchant-Ivory film (directed by Merchant, who usually produces), nothing is expressed directly; only the curtains move, blowing in the subcontinent wind. C