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 Publicity Stills of "Water"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Drama
Director: Deepa Mehta
Cast: John Abraham, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and Sarala
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: GVP
Rating: NC-16
Official Website: http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/water/

Opening Day: 21 December 2006

Synopsis :

Set in 1938 Colonial India, against Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, the story begins when eight-year-old Chuyia is widowed and sent to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. Chuyia’s feisty presence affects the lives of the other residents, including a young widow, who falls for a Gandhian idealist.

Movie Review:

Water, perhaps one of the most powerful and brilliant films this year, completes director Deepa Mehta’s trilogy of commentary films about India’s social, cultural and political idiosyncrasies. Though deeply thought provoking and masterfully emotional, the film possesses a strong yet subdued charm.

Though Water specifically focuses on Hinduism, I felt that there was a broader message about any patriarchal religion. Does faith require a sense of blindness? Should we dare question religion, which is supposedly absolute? What do we do when what our faith dictates, conflicts with our conscience?

Commenting on religious fundamentalism is always a treacherous and dangerous path to tread. Making such a film that shames a terrible practice and calling attention to centuries of blind adherence can only be construed as suicide. Even worse and more damning is the reference to aspects of life that masquerade as religion to oppress others for the selfish benefit of a few. Rumours about its 2000 production in India sent religious fundamentalists on a rampage, rioting, destroying and burning sets and equipment. Mehta was forced to recast and film in Sri Lanka. It would take another agonising six years before Water was completed. It is a pity this film will never legally step foot in India.

Mehta’s Water revolves around an Ashram. These ‘widow houses’ are meant for Hindu women of all ages who have lost their husbands. Religion dictates that they be outcast and isolated from society, forever to live their lives in penitence. It is a tale of three widows cleverly weaved into a single narrative, Chuiya (Sarala), a feisty 8-year old girl who cannot even remember her own marriage; Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who is prostituted for the Ashram’s income and her ‘illegal’ romance with a Gandhian Nationalist; as well as middle-aged conscience and faith conflicted Shakantula who is played by the magnificent Seema Biswas, whose every line, every facial expression and every movement is nothing short of perfection.

Set amidst this compelling, at times humourous, emotive and evocative drama is a backdrop of gorgeous colours, beautiful scenes and landscapes that tell another story – the story of water and most importantly, its association to Indian life and society; the giver of life, quencher of thirst and cleansing of the physical and spiritual. Truly a wonderful and splendid visual treat!

Perhaps the only ‘weak point’ of Water is to be found in the doomed courtship of Kalyani and Narayan (Jon Abraham). It is here that the audience gets distracted. The writing seemed to lose its flow, and pales in comparison when placed side by side with the other superior aspects of the film. Though it is realised that it has a profound impact on the overall message, I found it to be a bit tiring, over-emphasised and slightly forced.

Nonetheless, every moment in this film, as with all great works of Art, does serve its purpose. Its events and emotions build and snowball and the audience is powerless to stop the insanity, unable to help. Yet this very disability empowers its viewers in a finale that culminates in one of the most stirring and powerful final scenes that will reduce the entire theatre to tears.

Movie Rating:

(A most superb and powerful film. A must see.)

Review by Darren Sim


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