Fire(1996), Earth(1998), and Water(2005) are three films by Deepa Mehta. They are referred to as a trilogy, but actually don't share characters or storylines, just themes and a few actors. All three of them focus on taboo subjects in Indian society, and specifically on the ways in which women get fucked over in India. These are beautifully shot and well-acted movies, dealing with interesting, important subjects. They're also incredibly hard to watch and don't leave as much room for hope or redemption as the viewer would like.
The first of the films, "Fire," is set in modern-day New Dehli and deals with the blossoming of a love affair between two sisters-in-law, Sita and Radha. Both Sita and Radha are in bad marriages, treated poorly by their husbands. Over the course of the film, young, newly-married Sita draws Radha out of the shell of a life she has created in her lengthy unfufilling marriage, and the two fall in love. This is a particularly taboo subject for an Indian film, as homosexuality is looked down upon to the point of not being acknowledged in Indian culture (one of the film's characters points out that there is no word in their language for what Sita and Radha are to each other). Taking on the subjects of lesbian relationships and how poorly Indian wives can be treated, Mehta's objectives in this film are bold, and they were met with a lot of resistance in India and Pakistan, where the film was banned for being anti-religious.
The second film, "Earth," is not much less controversial than the first, and it's much sadder. It takes place in 1947, as the British are leaving India, after dividing it arbitrarily into two countries (now India and Pakistan). The story centers around a little Parsee girl, Lenny, her nanny, Shanta, a Hindu woman, and the group of men attempting to court Shanta. The men are Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. As the story unfolds, ethnic/religious tensions grow, as do potential romances between Shanta and two of her suitors, both Muslim. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that it's heartbreaking.
The final movie, which is in theaters currently, is "Water." Water is set in mid-1930s India, and it tells the story of women living in a Brahmin widows colony. It begins with a child bride who is widowed at seven and sent to live at the colony, then details her relationships with the women who already live there. The film is very critical of the cloistering of widows, and again it ends tragically.
All three of these films take a lot out of you. They are hard to watch, heartbreaking, and infuriating. The male characters are nearly all bad, and the female characters are nearly all in terrible situations. It's not light viewing. Still, it's worth doing, both because of the amazing cinematography and the ruthless way in which Mehta has the nerve to look at these taboo subjects.