Director: Deepa Mehta
Cast: John Abraham, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: GVP
Official Website: http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/water/
Day: 21 December 2006
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
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.
most superb and powerful film. A must see.)
Review by Darren Sim